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NATO Cracking Serb Army, Police Morale

4/13/99- By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service

By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- Eroding Serb army and police morale is leading to more desertions as NATO continues its air campaign in Yugoslavia, Defense Secretary William Cohen said April 12 at a news conference at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

"We are systematically choking off the Yugoslav army and security forces in Kosovo by cutting their supply lines," Cohen said. "As we isolate and weaken the Serb forces in Kosovo, we are launching aggressive attacks against troops on the ground by hitting staging areas, headquarters and forces in the field."

He said NATO forces have gained tactical advantage over Yugoslav air defenses. "This allows us to fly where we want and when we want with acceptable risk," he said, adding NATO attacks will continue and intensify as more aircraft deploy to the area.

The NATO campaign is showing significant progress and results in crippling Yugoslav military mobility and eroding morale. Two important signs of sinking morale, he said, are reports of desertions from combat units in Kosovo and a growing effort by young Yugoslavs to evade reserve call-ups.

Cohen said NATO intends to continue the air campaign, and it should despite some calls in public for putting NATO ground troops in Kosovo. "We have many more sorties, many more missions to carry out," he said. Further, U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's top military officer and commander of Operation Allied Force, has neither indicated a need for ground troops nor requested them, he said.

Cohen said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's "murder machine" has failed in its first goal of eliminating the Kosovo Liberation Army. "Although it is weakened, the KLA continues to fight and its ranks are increasing," he said.