invasion plans

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Thu Apr 15 20:56:29 PDT 1999

MARCH ON BELGRADE NEEDS 200,000 Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON - NATO has detailed plans on how to invade all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo.

Military and political leaders still hope round-the-clock air strikes will force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept peace. But if not, NATO may be forced to adopt another plan — as yet unapproved — for sending thousands of soldiers to fight their way into Yugoslavia.

It would take a minimum of six to eight weeks to assemble enough tanks and troops to launch a full-scale invasion. One plan calls for a force of up to 200,000 troops, according to a senior military official who asked not to be named.

Current and former military officers no longer believe it practical to fight only for Kosovo. If NATO puts a single soldier into combat, they argue, NATO would have to fight its way all the way to Belgrade.

"There would be no point in just taking Kosovo," said one military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "You'd have to take the whole country down."

NATO last year drew up plans to drive into Yugoslavia on the ground. In one scenario, with considerable help from the air, NATO envisioned doing the job with 140,000 troops. In another, facing fierce resistance, NATO needed 200,000 soldiers.

There are three possible axes of attack: north from Albania and Macedonia, where NATO peacekeepers are assembling; up through the small Yugoslav republic of Montenegro; and south out of Hungary, the route taken by Germans in the Second World War.

Macedonia has the best roads, but its government has opposed an invasion, and Greece, whose ports are vital to move forces into Macedonia, has balked at letting NATO land more troops.

Albania offers few routes over the mountains into Kosovo. Montenegro is part of Yugoslavia and so resistance from Belgrade's 2nd Army would be likely.

Hungary, which borders the plains of northern Serbia and just joined NATO, offers the best option.

'The fastest way to Belgrade is from Budapest," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, who led U.S. peacekeeping troops into Bosnia in 1995.

Hitler's Wehrmacht, however, thought the same but Yugoslav guerrillas tied down 30 German divisions.

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