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Kosovo Air Operations: Need to Maintain Alliance Cohesion Resulted in Doctrinal Departures

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We identified seven significant departures from U.S. military doctrine during Operation Allied Force. These departures ranged from not having clear and attainable objectives to not following various principles associated with conducting an air campaign to not having a fully functional command structure. These doctrinal departures were largely the result of the NATO alliances desire to maintain alliance cohesion. To maintain cohesion, the alliance initially adopted an operation of limited scope and duration with vague objectives, and it emphasized avoiding collateral damage and alliance force casualties. The vague and less decisive objectives were not easily attainable through military means as recommended in doctrine. Limiting the scope of the campaign prevented the military from targeting as called for in doctrine. In addition, concern about collateral damage did not allow the military to strike vital targets in as decisive a manner as recommended in doctrine. The alliances desire to avoid casualties led it to exclude the use of alliance ground forces. Without alliance ground forces to draw out enemy forces, finding, identifying, and targeting Yugoslavian ground forces from the air in a doctrinal manner were more difficult tasks. Finally, the belief that the operation would be of short duration led to a joint task force that was not formed according to doctrine. The NATO alliance members remained united throughout the operation, perhaps because of these doctrinal departures. However, many U.S. participants in the operation believed that these departures resulted in a longer campaign, more damage to Yugoslavia, and greater risk to alliance forces than likely would have occurred if doctrine had been followed.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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