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Operational Leadership in Kosovo

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Final rept.

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On the night of 24 March 1999, NATO warplanes streaked across the European skies and struck targets in Kosovo and Serbia in an attempt to coerce Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to end his campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians. This event marked the beginning of Operation ALLIED FORCE, a 78-day bombing campaign that, to this day, remains the only conflict that NATO has fought as an organization. While an abundance of literature has been published focusing on how this clash was fought and many of the decisions made as it unfolded, this paper will concentrate on operational leadership in particular how it shaped the pre-conflict negotiations, planning, the major operation itself, and finally how it was demonstrated during campaign termination. This examination will begin with an overview of the leadership challenges faced by the commanders which will serve as the backdrop on which these examples of operational leadership will unfurl. I will then briefly review the tenets of operational leadership and the traits of an operational commander. The analysis itself will center on three of the central figures involved in the battle Supreme Allied Commander, Europe SACEUR and Commander-in-Chief, U.S. European Command CINCUSEUR, GEN Wesley Clark Commander-in- Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe CINCSOUTH and Commander-in- Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe CINCUSNAVEUR, ADM James Ellis and finally Commander, Air Forces Southern Europe COMAIRSOUTH and Commander, U.S. i6 Air Force 16 AFCC, LGEN Michael Short. The study concludes with a synopsis of the takeaways and a discussion of how to improve in future situations.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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