93. These plans undoubtedly contributed to anti-Albanian
sentiment amongst the Serbian population, and to the idea that
one way of dealing with the Kosovo Albanian 'problem' was to displace
large number of Albanians. The plans also gave rise to the use
of the term "horseshoe" in this context. It has also
been alleged that Milosevic was following a long organised plan
of ethnic cleansing during the military campaign in Kosovo. On
9 April 1999, the German Ministry of Defence published a document
which was alleged to describe a Serbian plan known as Operation
This document does not in fact refer specifically to "cantonisation,"
but only to the "destruction and neutralisation of the UCK
[KLA]." The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, was
also quoted as saying that the Serbs had set in motion a plan
called Operation Horseshoe, which aimed at expelling Kosovo's
ethnic Albanian population.
The Foreign Secretary told us that "it has been reported
in the press (and I can confirm it is true) that there was a plan
developed in Belgrade known as Operation Horseshoe which was for
the cleansing of Kosovo of its Kosovo population. That plan has
been around for some time."
During the campaign and since, it has become established currency
in the media that German intelligence had discovered this alleged
plan, and that NATO's leaders should have been aware of the plan
Some of NATO's leaders (in particular in Germany) used the existence
of the plan to illustrate Milosevic's character, and to prove
that the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo was not triggered by the NATO
bombing, thereby justifying the NATO campaign. A retired German
brigadier-general has since alleged that the German Defence Ministry
turned a vague report from Bulgarian intelligence into a "plan,"
coining the term "Horseshoe." Ironically the originator
of the report confused the Croatian word for a horseshoe with
the Serbian word. The brigadier-general also argues that German
politicians subsequently misquoted the original Bulgarian report
by arguing that the report demonstrated that the goal of the Serbian
military was to expel the entire Kosovo Albanian population, rather
than destroying the KLA.
94. Regardless of whether Operation Horseshoe
really existed, and what it consisted of, the evidence of the
OSCE's report, Kosovo/Kosova As Seen, As Told,based
on the observations of the OSCE observer team in Kosovo and then
upon extensive interviews conducted with refugees after the bombing
had startedis that the Serb military campaign did not appear
to be oriented towards "cantonisation.". A number of
factors point to this conclusion. The Serb military campaign before
the start of the bombing consisted of:
there was KLA activity, and wherever it was suspected there were
efforts to control the main communication
with the approach of the bombing, securing
Once the bombing had started, "expulsions took
place in practically every municipality."
As Dr Woodward told us, "I think also that once the bombing
began then it was a different objective, it was no longer a campaign
against the KLA but a campaign with strong historical roots."
It is also the case that "over 90 per cent of the Kosovo
Albanian population was displaced in 1999."
Almost half of the Kosovo Albanian population were refugeesas
opposed to internally displacedby 9 June 1999. According
to the OSCE "the majority of refugee statements indicate
that documents...were routinely taken from Kosovo Albanians by
police. This indicates that it was intended that the refugees
should not return. Expulsions on this scale do not appear to be
part of a "cantonisation" plan, but a more ambitious
effort to rid Kosovo of the majority of its Kosovo Albanian population.
Of course, once Kosovo had been cleared of most of its Albanians,
it may have been Milosevic's intention to implement a cantonisation
plan, but we do not know this.
95. On the other hand, the OSCE report also casts
light on the questiondistinct from that raised by Operation
Horseshoeof whether the campaign against the Kosovo Albanians
was planned, or the result of a spontaneous outburst of anger
following the launching of air strikes. The first large scale
movement of refugees69,500left Kosovo on 23 March,
one day before air strikes were actually launched, and three days
after the departure of OSCE monitors (although of course there
were large number of internally displaced people and refugees
before thenthe point here is that there was a rapid acceleration
at this time, particularly in refugees). In the first eight days
of the campaign, 307,500 refugees left Kosovo. As the OSCE report
argues, "the arrival of such large numbers so soon after
the departure of the OSCE-KVM would appear to indicate pre-planning
of the operations."
96. Another indicator that the campaign was organised
and planned before the launch of air strikes is the use of trains,
and buses, with two policemen per bus.
The OSCE records an incident on 27 March when police made villagers
of Randubrava of Prizren municipality board buses which took them
to Zur, from where they had to walk to Albania.
The UNHCR record that on 31 March, two trains carrying 3,000 people
reached the Macedonian border. On the next day, two trains carrying
5,000 people arrived.
To organise this number of people on to buses and trains requires
considerable planning. The Foreign Secretary was clear that "what
we have witnessed in Kosovo has not been spontaneous emotional
anger by random servicemen; what we are witnessing has been a
deliberate co-ordinated programme of deportation."
Of course, not all the refugees created by Serb action in Kosovo
were actually herded onto buses or trains, or sent across the
border at gun-point: many fled of their own volition, aware of
the consequences of staying behind.
97. The fact that elements of the campaign against
the Kosovo Albanians were planned does not mean that, overall,
the campaign was smoothly directed and well organised. Different
elements of the Serb security apparatus appear to have had different
agendas. One source quoted by Tim Judah states that "there
were differences between the police and the army. The police were
in favour of the expulsions because they could steal money from
people. The intelligence guys were against it...the worst were
the paramilitaries and the locals."
The OSCE also records that "paramilitaries appear to have
meted out particularly savage treatment" and, by way of contrast,
reports an incident where a young Serb soldier helped a wheelchair-bound
Kosovo Albanian women, returning her documents after paramilitaries
had seized them, and subsequently organising food, water and medicine
for a mosque where villagers were sheltering.
98. The picture is one of generalised violence
against the Kosovo Albanians, with some elements organised from
Belgrade, but much of the violence was not carefully orchestrated.
This picture is consistent with a confidential memorandum provided
to us by the FCO. We conclude that, regardless of the accuracy
of reports of "Operation Horseshoe," there were orchestrated
elements to the campaign of expulsions, which could be described
as a plan. Outside observers could have been aware of this plan
as it would have required significant preparation. We also conclude
that the withdrawal of OSCE monitors together with the international
media and the start of NATO's bombing campaign encouraged Milosevic
to implement this plan.
WAS THERE AN INTELLIGENCE FAILURE?
99. It is well established that Belgrade was
planning an offensive in spring 1999: an offensive had been conducted
during the spring of 1998, and in the three week hiatus between
Rambouillet and Kleber, "Belgrade had just about deployed
double the forces permitted under the Holbrooke terms."
The FCO records that "by 19 March there were reports that
the offensive against the KLA and ethnic Albanian civilians had
intensified significantly, driving thousands of Kosovo Albanians
from their homes, carrying out summary executions and destroying
100. An FCO spokesman was quoted in The Sunday
Telegraph of 4 April 1999 as saying that "We did not
expect Slobodan Milosevic to move the levels of population that
he is movingperhaps that was a failure of imagination."
The Foreign Secretary told us that this statement "was not
one which he would support"
but that "we anticipated...the spring offensive [and] that
it would be accompanied by ethnic cleansing; we did not have any
intelligence to suggest he was going to load up whole trains and
run a shuttle train deportation from Pristina to the Macedonian
border and I think, in fairness, for all decent people, that would
be beyond imagination."
Dr Jones Parry gave us a slightly different perspective from that
of the Foreign Secretary that "there was one piece of information
that alluded to this sort of activity [organised ethnic cleansing].
There was no corroboration for it and we had masses of conflicting
information which conformed more to what we had seen and what
we reasonably expected."
He also told us that "what we expected...was more of the
same, people being driven out of their homes and on to the hill
tops. We had no grounds for believing in making a judgment that
we could have expected the sorts of events that then took place
However, the director of the CIA told the US Congress in early
February 1999 that the Serbs were preparing a spring offensive
that probably would produce "huge" refugee flows.
Thus even if the FCO had not been aware of plans for an acceleration
of ethnic cleansing, it should have been aware that the Serb offensive
would produce large numbers of refugees.
101. The UNHCR records that "just before
the air strikes started on 24 March, the office of population
and refugee affairs in the Department of State started asking
persistent questions regarding UNHCR's preparedness in case of
large refugee outflows. The communications had an urgent tone
and a formal classification that suggested this was not routine
It does seem, therefore, that there were pieces of information
which were available to the USAand if United Kingdom-US
intelligence co-operation remains strong, which should have been
available to the United Kingdomthat indicated that the
internally displaced in Kosovo were about to become refugees.
If only a few pieces of information indicated that there were
likely to be large numbers of refugees created, amongst a raft
of information indicating something else, it is unreasonable to
expect these pieces of information to have been given particular
weight. On the basis of the information available to us, it appears
that there are some grounds for criticising the assessment
of intelligence in this case. A separate question is why there
were so few pieces of intelligence which pointed in the right
directionthat is, why there was a failure of intelligence
collection. In mitigation, it is presumably the case that
penetrating Milosevic's inner circle is, to say the least, a challenge.
We do not know the answer to these questions because, as we refer
to above, we were prevented from taking evidence from the Chairman
of the JIC and CDI.
102. Leaving aside intelligence questions, there
is the matter of whether specific intelligence was required to
predict how Milosevic would react to the withdrawal of OSCE monitors
and the start of bombing. Dr Jones Parry told us that "perhaps
we are open to the charge that we addressed this through a view
which said that that sort of activity was not something that in
the late 1990s we could have expected. I am afraid we were wrong
While we appreciate Dr Jones Parry's candour, we believe that
the FCO should have been able to anticipate Belgrade's reaction
to the bombing campaign. In the light of the widespread ethnic
cleansing which occurred in Bosnia, orchestrated and aided by
Milosevic, it is not clear why it was so difficult to imagine
him planning mass ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, particularly in
view of the long-standing enmity between the Serbs and Kosovo
Albanians, and of what we note above about the tendency of war
to create the conditions for ethnic cleansing.
Dr Gow, otherwise very supportive of the United Kingdom's role
in the Kosovo crisis, wrote that "it is hard to follow how
the FCO, with the Secretary of State in the forefront, and HMG
as a whole could have been taken by surprise by Belgrade's ethnic
cleansing campaign when so much energy and so many resources had
been put into trying to avert that campaign...of particular pertinence
here is the fact that the logistical means for wholesale and rapid
ethnic cleansing were ready in situas with other
aspects of military preparation, this takes weeks and months and
does not come spontaneously over night."
103. The Secretary of State for International
Development, Clare Short, told the House on 31 March 1999 that:
"I reject absolutely suggestions that we should have been
prepared in advance for a movement of population on this scale.
It would have been an appalling act of complicity in ethnic cleansing
to set up in advance a network of camps to await the Albanian
population of Kosovo. That would only have assisted Milosevic's
We do not accept this. Dame Pauline Neville-Jones told us that
the bombing campaign presented the "opportunity...to get
a greater grip on [Kosovo], i.e. to drive the KLA out definitively,
and if that meant actually that you drove the populations out
and drove the villagers out, because you had not got the time
to distinguish, in any case why should you bother, they were all
in it ultimately, he went ahead and did that."
On this basis, it is difficult to believe that Milosevic was interested
in whether there were camps waiting to receive the expelled Kosovo
Albanians, or not. And given that one of the aims of the bombing
campaign was to permit the refugees to return home, it should
have been clear that the early provision of camps would have been
a significant humanitarian measure, rather than an "appalling
act of complicity in ethnic cleansing."
104. The Foreign Secretary put a more convincing
argument to us that in order to plan for the arrival of refugees,
"we would have needed the co-operation of neighbouring countries
and those neighbouring countries had difficulty contemplating
the scale of the population's displacement which came their way."
Macedonia's reluctance to admit Kosovo Albanian refugees stemmed
from the Macedonian government's view that the ethnic balance
within Macedonia was delicate (up to a third of its population
may be ethnic Albanianssee below).
On 3 April, the Macedonian government closed the border, so that
65,000 refugees were stuck in appalling conditions in a makeshift
camp in the no-man's land between Kosovo and Macedonia for several
105. Macedonia was eventually persuaded to allow
large numbers of refugees on to their territory, and NATO's 8,000
troops, already deployed in Macedonia, conducted a highly effective
operation to build camps.
However, had the effort to win over the Macedonian government
started earlier, it is just possible that Macedonia would have
been willing to open its border earlier. Of course, we cannot
know this, as the alliance did not start to try to convince them
until the exodus had actually startedbecause there was
a failure to anticipate that there would be an exodus. UNHCR too
was unprepared, having "received no advance warning from
any government or other source."
The failure to predict Milosevic's reaction meant that adequate
preparations were not made for the greatest movement of refugees
in Europe since the Second World War. The UNHCR estimates that
862,979 refugees left Kosovo from 23 March to 9 June 1999.
We believe a very serious misjudgement was made when it was
assumed that the bombing would not lead to the dramatic escalation
in the displacement and expulsion of the Kosovo Albanian population.
Although we accept that the government could not have established
refugee camps before NATO action started, for fear of giving tacit
encouragement to expulsion of refugees, equipment and supplies
could have been stockpiled so that the refugees could have been
housed more speedily once the exodus occurred. We are confident
that NATO has undertaken an assessment of the reasons for its
failure to predict Milosevic's response. We believe that this
issue is of such over-riding public interest that the Government
should make its conclusions available to Parliament for scrutiny.
213 This section draws upon Vickers, pp.127-129, as
well as an FCO memorandum, Ev. p. 178. Back
Ev. p. 178. Back
Ev. p. 178. Back
See para 25. Back
HC Deb 8 March 2000, col 686W. Back
Judah, p. 240, quoting RFE/RL Newsline, 7 April 1999, www.rferl.org/newsline/1999/04/4see/see070499.html Back
See for example, RFE/RL Newsline, 14 May 1999, www.rferl.org/newsline/1999/05/140599.html Back
The Times, 2 April 2000. See also Le Monde 11 April
OSCE Report. Back
OSCE Report, p. 100. Back
OSCE Report, p. 98. Back
OSCE Report, p. 98. Back
OSCE Report, p. 110. Back
OSCE Report, p. 110. Back
Judah, p. 241, quoting Braca Grubacic. Back
OSCE Report, p. 105. Back
Weller, p. 291. Back
Ev. pp. 9-10. Back
Cited in The New York Times, 18 April 1999. Back
Para 87, report available on www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/ch2.htm. Back
See para 7. Back
See para 91, and para 89. Back
Ev. p. 368. Back
HC Deb, 31 March 1999, col 1089. Back
See para 242. Back
Judah, p. 252. Back
UNHCR submission to inquiry by International Development Committee,
Fourth Special Report, 1998-99, 27 July 1999 (HC 795), para 13.
Available on www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmselect/cmintdev/795/79505.htm.
A further assessment of UNHCR's response is available on its web
site: www.unhcr.ch/evaluate/kosovo/toc.htm. Back
The second largest exodus was that of 150,000 Serbs from Krajina
in Croatia in 1995. See, for example, Glenny, p. 650. Back