Now Reading:

A decade since Operation Allied Force launched

world news

A decade since Operation Allied Force launched


On the 24th March 1999 the first bombers in NATO’s Operation Allied Force took-off with Serbia in their sights. It took 78 days of pounding to persuade Serb forces to leave Kosovo. Ten years on, and there is still a bitter taste in Belgrade.

The Serbian defence minister Dragan Sutanovac said: “At the crossroads of two millennia and of two centuries it was absolutely unnatural that one country was bombed. I think that NATO’s goals could have been achieved with less energy, and citizens could be spared from what happened.” After 11 weeks of bombardment, Operation Allied Force achieved its goal. Serb troops began pulling out of Kosovo after Russian and EU envoys got an agreement from Slobodan Milosevic. The UN reckoned more than a million people, Kosovan Albanians and Serbs, had fled their homes. Milivoje Mihajlovic, a Kosovan-Serb refugee, said: “It’s a terrible feeling, when you have a couple of hours to decide what to do and where to go and how to break through the so called barricades, the only things you can take from home in a plastic bag. It’s a terrible experience that I wouldn’t like anybody to have,” In Kosovo, Serbian forces and the Albanian rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army were at war. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were being forced into exile. In January ’99, the killings of 45 Albanians helped spur NATO into action against Serbia, even though serious doubts have since been cast on whether the events at Racak ever amounted to a massacre by Serbs. A month later, Germany, America, France, Britain and Russia tried talks at Rambouillet in France. But the KLA wanted more than just autonomy, and Belgrade rejected any international role in governing the province it saw as its own. As reports of a widespread Serb programme of ethnic cleansing gained momentum, NATO decided to act. Initially they wanted to hit high-value Serb military targets and destroy its air defences. But sometimes they missed. 500 civilians were killed, and today Belgrade still bears the scars. 10 years after, military buildings in the heart of the city remain shattered. NATO launched 38,000 combat flying missions before Serb forces were dislodged from Kosovo. Belgrade still believes the province belongs to Serbia.

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

Next Article