World / Fri Jul 02 1999 18:45:01 GMT+0200 (SAST) /
Pristina - The tally of Yugoslav tanks and other military hardware destroyed by Nato during its air campaign against Yugoslavia is lower than the alliance claimed, according to experts in Kosovo and Paris.
The US army's general staff claimed Nato had destroyed 122 tanks and more than 220 troop transporters during the 79-day campaign.
A military expert in Paris, who declined to be named, said: "I do not believe these figures at all. I think that in strictly military terms, the effect of the strikes was very limited. Very disappointing."
He said Nato's planes were flying at too high an altitude to be effective.
"If we had smashed as many tanks as Nato said, we would see them. They did not have the time or the means to evacuate them. Transporting a damaged armoured vehicle is a logistical nightmare, which takes time and effort."
He said the French army itself only had 142 tank transporters.
US Colonel Jeffrey Schloesser said in Pristina that US and other Nato military commanders would have to take a "hard look" at the use of decoy targets in their review of the air campaign.
"As we analyse the air war we're going to take a hard look at the number of decoys that we actually engaged versus the other weapons of war out there," Schloesser said.
Dozens, maybe hundreds of decoys, some of which were rudimentary wooden frames with plastic sheeting designed to look like tanks, were found when Nato troops moved into Kosovo.
Schloesser, who commands US pilots giving air support to KFOR troops, said: "Finding an entirely destroyed tank or artillery piece is not exactly rare but it doesn't happen every day."
Lieutenant-Colonel Dietmar Jeserick, spokesman for the German peacekeeping forces in in the southern town of Prizren, told the New York Times recently: "There is nothing here. We found positions, and bomb damage to these positions, but no vehicles or tanks."
The Yugoslav forces evacuated at least 220 tanks and more than 300 armoured vehicles during their orderly pull-out from Kosovo last month, which was monitored by dozens of western observers.
All the vehicles were in good working order.
On the outskirts of the central town of Klina, two tanks had clearly been hit by fighter-bombers: one had its gun cleanly sliced off while the other stood on the rim of a bomb crater a dozen metres wide.
Two other armoured vehicles, dating from the 1950s, appeared to have been towed there after having broken down.
Witnesses in the provincial capital Pristina said that the Yugoslav army had been entrenched in bunkers strewn among the population, leaving unused vehicles on roads as easy targets for Nato.
The Serbs also effectively used decoys. One resembled a tank crossing a bridge near the airport, but on closer inspection the road proved to be black plastic sheets leading to a fake bridge, while the tank was made of wood and pipes covered with tarpaulin.
US General Wesley Clark, commander of Nato's forces in Europe, recently admitted that the Yugoslavs "did skilfully deploy lots of decoys". - Sapa-AFP