The term Kosovo War or Kosovo Conflict is often used to describe two sequential and at times parallel armed conflicts in Kosovo:
Tensions between the two communities had been simmering throughout the 20th century and had occasionally erupted into major violence, particularly during the First Balkan War, World War I and World War II. The Socialist government of Josip Broz Tito systematically repressed nationalist manifestations throughout Yugoslavia, seeking to ensure that no Yugoslav republic or nationality gained dominance over the others. In particular, the power of Serbia—the largest and most populous republic—was diluted by the establishment of autonomous governments in the province of Vojvodina in the north of Serbia and Kosovo in the south. Kosovo's borders did not precisely match the areas of ethnic Albanian settlement in Yugoslavia (significant numbers of Albanians were left in the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, while the far north of Kosovo remained largely ethnic Serbian). Nonetheless, the majority of its inhabitants since at least the 1921 census were Albanian.
Kosovo's formal autonomy, established under the 1945 Yugoslav constitution, initially meant relatively little in practice. Tito's secret police cracked down hard on nationalists. In 1956, a number of [Albanians] were put on trial in Kosovo on charges of espionage and subversion. The threat of separatism was in fact minimal, as the few underground groups aiming for union with Albania were politically insignificant. Their long-term impact was substantial, though, as some—particularly the Revolutionary Movement for Albanian Unity, founded by Adem Demaci—were much later to form the political core of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Demaci himself was imprisoned in 1964 along with many of his followers.
Yugoslavia underwent a period of economic and political crisis in 1969, as a massive government program of economic reform widened the gap between the rich north and poor south of the country. Student demonstrations and riots in Belgrade in June 1968 spread to Kosovo in November the same year, but were put down by the Yugoslav security forces. However, some of the students' demands—particularly for real representative powers for Albanians on both Serbian and Yugoslav state bodies, and better recognition of the Albanian language—were conceded by Tito. University of Priština was established as an independent institution in 1970, ending a long period when the institution had been run as an outpost of Belgrade University. The Albanianisation of education in Kosovo was hampered by the lack of Albanian-language educational materials in Yugoslavia, so an agreement was struck with Albania itself to supply textbooks.
In 1974, Kosovo's political status was improved still further when a new Yugoslav constitution granted an expanded set of political rights. Along with Vojvodina, it was declared a province and gained many of the powers of a fully-fledged republic: a seat on the federal presidency and its own assembly, police force and national bank. Power was still exercised by the Communist Party, but it was now devolved mainly to ethnic Albanian communists.
Tito's death on May 4, 1980 ushered in a long period of political instability, worsened by growing economic crisis and nationalist unrest. The first major outbreak occurred in Kosovo's main city, Pristina, in March 1981 when Albanian students rioted over long queues in their university canteen. This seemingly trivial dispute rapidly spread throughout Kosovo and took on the character of a national revolt, with massive popular demonstrations in many Kosovo towns.. The protesters demanded that Kosovo should become the seventh republic of Yugoslavia. However, this was politically unacceptable to Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia. Some Serbs (and possibly some Albanian nationalists as well) saw the demands as being a prelude to a "Greater Albania" which could encompass parts of Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo itself. The Communist Yugoslav presidency quelled the disturbances by sending in riot police and the army and proclaiming a state of emergency, although it did not repeal the province's autonomy as some Serbian Communists demanded. The Yugoslav press reported that about 11 people had been killed (although others claimed a death toll as high as 1,000) and another 4,200 were imprisoned.
Kosovo's Communist Party also suffered purges, with several key figures (including its president) expelled. Hardliners instituted a fierce crackdown on nationalism of all kinds, Albanian and Serbian alike. Kosovo endured a heavy secret police presence throughout most of the 1980s that ruthlessly suppressed any unauthorised nationalist manifestations, both Albanian and Serbian. According to a report quoted by Mark Thompson, as many as 580,000 inhabitants of Kosovo were arrested, interrogated, interned or reprimanded. Thousands of these lost their jobs or were expelled from their educational establishments.
During this time, tension between the Albanian and Serbian communities continued to escalate. In 1969, the Serbian Orthodox Church had ordered its clergy to compile data on the ongoing problems of Serbs in Kosovo, seeking to pressure the government in Belgrade to do more to protect the Serbian faithful. In February 1982, a group of priests from Serbia proper petitioned their bishops to ask "why the Serbian Church is silent" and why it did not campaign against "the destruction, arson and sacrilege of the holy shrines of Kosovo". Such concerns did attract interest in Belgrade. Stories appeared from time to time in the Belgrade media claiming that Serbs and Montenegrins were being persecuted. There was a genuine perception among Serbian nationalists in particular that Serbs were being driven out of Kosovo. A significant fact contributing to fear and instability was large-scale drug trafficking by mafias of Kosovar Albanians.
An additional factor was the worsening state of Kosovo's economy, which made the province a poor choice for Serbs seeking work. Albanians, as well as Serbs tended to favour their compatriots when employing new recruits, but the number of jobs was in any case too few for the population. To that end, it is believed that a large number of those declaring Albanian ethnicity are in fact from the Roma community who happen to be of Islamic faith. Kosovo was the poorest part of Yugoslavia: in 1979 the average per capita income was $795, compared with the national average of $2,635 (and $5,315 in Slovenia)...
It was against this tense background that the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU, from its Serbian initials, САНУ) conducted a survey under Serbs who had left Kosovo in 1985/1986. The report concluded that a considerable part of those who had left had been under pressure by Albanians to do so.
Sixteen prominent members of the SANU began work in June 1985 on a draft document that was leaked to the public in September 1986. The SANU Memorandum, as it has become known, was hugely controversial. It focused on the political difficulties facing Serbs in Yugoslavia, pointing to Tito's deliberate hobbling of Serbia's power and the difficulties faced by Serbs outside Serbia proper.
The Memorandum paid special attention to Kosovo, arguing that the province's Serbs were being subjected to "physical, political, legal and cultural genocide" in an "open and total war" that had been ongoing since the spring of 1981. It claimed that Kosovo's status in 1986 was a worse historical defeat for the Serbs than any event since liberation from the Ottomans in 1804, thus ranking it above such catastrophes as the Nazi occupation or the First World War occupation of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarians. The Memorandum's authors claimed that 200,000 Serbs had moved out of the province over the previous twenty years and warned that there would soon be none left "unless things change radically." The remedy, according to the Memorandum, was for "genuine security and unambiguous equality for all peoples living in Kosovo and Metohija [to be] established" and "objective and permanent conditions for the return of the expelled [Serbian] nation [to be] created." It concluded that "Serbia must not be passive and wait and see what the others will say, as it has done so often in the past."
The SANU Memorandum met with many different reactions. The Albanians saw it as a call for Serbian supremacism at a local level. They claimed that all Serb emigrants had left Kosovo for economic reasons. Other Yugoslav nationalities—notably the Slovenes and Croats—saw a threat in the call for a more assertive Serbia. Serbs themselves were divided: many welcomed it, while the Communist old guard strongly attacked its message. One of those who denounced it was a Serbian Communist Party official named Slobodan Milošević.
In November 1988, Kosovo's head of the provincial committee was arrested. In March 1989, Milošević announced an "anti-bureaucratic revolution" in Kosovo and Vojvodina, curtailing their autonomy and imposing a curfew and a state of emergency in Kosovo due to violent demonstrations, resulting in 24 deaths (including two policemen). Milošević and his government claimed that the constitutional changes were necessary to protect Kosovo's remaining Serbs against harassment from the Albanian majority.
The impact on Kosovo was drastic. The reduction of its autonomy was accompanied by the abolition of its political institutions (including the League of Communists of Kosovo), with its assembly and government being formally disbanded. As most of Kosovo's industry was state-owned, the changes brought a wholesale change of corporate cadres. Technically, few were sacked outright: their companies required them to sign loyalty pledges, which most Albanians would not sign, although a few did and remained employed in Serbian state companies right up to 1999.
Albanian cultural autonomy was also drastically reduced. The only Albanian-language newspaper, Ridilin, was banned and TV and radio broadcasts in Albanian ceased. Albanian was no longer an official language of the province. University of Prishtina, seen as a hotbed of Albanian nationalism, was purged: 800 lecturers at Pristina University were sacked and 22,500 of the 23,000 students expelled. Some 40,000 Yugoslav troops and police replaced the original Albanian-run security forces. A punitive regime was imposed that was harshly condemned as a "police state". Poverty and unemployment reached catastrophic levels, with about 80% of Kosovo's population becoming unemployed. As many as a third of adult male Albanians chose to go abroad (particularly to Germany and Switzerland) to find work.
With Kosovo's Communist Party effectively broken up by Milošević's crackdown, the dominant Albanian political party position passed to the Democratic League of Kosovo, led by the writer Ibrahim Rugova. It responded to the abolition of Kosovo's autonomy by pursuing a policy of peaceful resistance. Rugova took the very practical line that armed resistance would be futile given Serbia's military strength and would lead only to a bloodbath in the province. He called on the Albanian populace to boycott the Yugoslav and Serbian states by not participating in any elections, by ignoring the military draft (compulsory in Yugoslavia) and most important by not paying any taxes or duties to the State. He also called for the creation of parallel Albanian schools, clinics and hospitals. In September 1991, the shadow Kosovo Assembly organized a referendum on independence for Kosovo. Despite widespread harassment and violence by Serbian security forces, the referendum achieved a reported 90% turnout among the province's Albanians, and a 98% vote—nearly a million votes in all—which approved the creation of an independent "Republic of Kosovo". In May 1992, a second referendum elected Rugova as President of Kosovo. The Serbian government declared that both referendums were illegal and their results null and void.
Continuing Serbian repression had radicalized many Albanians, some of whom decided that only armed resistance would affect a change in the situation. On April 22 1996, four attacks on Serbian security personnel were carried out virtually simultaneously in several parts of Kosovo. A hitherto unknown organization calling itself the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) subsequently claimed responsibility. The nature of the KLA was at first highly mysterious. In fact, it was initially a small, mainly clan-based but not very well organised group of radicalised Albanians, many of whom came from the Drenica region of western Kosovo. The KLA at this stage consisted mainly of local farmers and displaced and unemployed workers.
It is widely believed that the KLA received financial and material support from the Kosovo Albanian diaspora, and from Albanian drug lords established elsewhere in Europe. In early 1997, Albania collapsed into chaos following the fall of President Sali Berisha. Military stockpiles were looted with impunity by criminal gangs, with much of the hardware ending up in western Kosovo and so boosting the growing KLA arsenal. Bujar Bukoshi, shadow Prime Minister in exile (in Zürich, Switzerland), created a group called FARK (Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova) which was reported to have been disbanded and absorbed by the KLA in 1998.
Most Albanians saw the KLA as legitimate "freedom fighters" whilst the Yugoslav government labelled them as "terrorists" attacking police and civilians.
In 1998, the U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, and in 1999 the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate expressed its troubles with the "effective alliance" of the Clinton administration with the KLA due to "numerous reports from reputable unofficial sources (...) that the KLA is closely involved with: the extensive Albanian crime network (...) [and with] terrorist organizations motivated by the ideology of radical Islam, including assets of Iran and of the notorious Osama Bin Laden (...)".
The U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard referred to the KLA as terrorists. Responding to criticism, he later clarified to the House Committee on International Relations that "while it has committed 'terrorist acts,' it has 'not been classified legally by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.'" On June 1998, he held talks with two men who claim they are political leaders.
It should also be noted that neither the United States nor the other influential powers made any serious effort to stop money or weapons being channeled into Kosovo.
Meanwhile, the U.S. held an "outer wall of sanctions" on Yugoslavia which had been tied to a series of issues, Kosovo being one of them. These were maintained despite the agreement at Dayton to end all sanctions. The Clinton administration claimed that Dayton bound Yugoslavia to hold discussions with Rugova over Kosovo.
The crisis escalated in December 1997 at the Peace Implementation Council meeting in Bonn, where the International Community (as defined in the Dayton Agreement) agreed to give the High Representative in Bosnia sweeping powers, including the right to dismiss elected leaders. At the same time, Western diplomats insisted that Kosovo be discussed, and that Serbia and Yugoslavia be responsive to Albanian demands there. The delegation from Serbia stormed out of the meetings in protest.
This was followed by the return of the Contact Group that oversaw the last phases of the Bosnian conflict and declarations from European powers demanding that Serbia solve the problem in Kosovo.
KLA attacks had suddenly intensified, centered on the Drenica valley area, with the compound of one Adem Jashari being a particular focal point. Days after Robert Gelbard described the KLA as a terrorist group, Serbian police responded to the KLA attacks in the Likosane area, and pursued some of the KLA to Cirez, resulting in the deaths of 30 Albanian civilians and four Serbian policemen. The first serious action of the war had begun.
Despite some accusations of summary executions and killings of civilians, condemnations from Western capitals were not as voluble as they would become later. Serb police began to pursue Jashari and his followers in the village of Donje Prekaz. A massive firefight at the Jashari compound led to the killing of a further 60 Albanians, of which eighteen were women and ten were under the age of sixteen. This March 5 event provoked massive condemnation from the western capitals. Madeleine Albright stated that "this crisis is not an internal affair of the FRY".
On the 24th of March, Serbian forces surrounded the village of Glodjane, in the Dukagjin operational zone, and attacked a rebel compound there. Despite their superior firepower, the Serbian forces failed to destroy the KLA unit which had been their objective. Although there were deaths and severe injuries on the Albanian side, the insurgency in Glodjane was far from stamped out. It was in fact to become one of the strongest centers of resistance in the upcoming war.
Another centre of KLA activity was a part of northern Albania near the border, centered in the town of Tropoje. Following the 1997 Albanian civil conflict, parts of Albania ended up beyond the reach of national authorities. Moreover, the Albanian army's armories were looted. Many of these looted weapons ended up in the hands of the KLA whilst the KLA took over the border area. This was a staging ground for attacks and for shipping weapons to the Drenica stronghold. The path between these areas crossed Djakovica, the plains of Metohija, and to the Klina opstina, and were those areas hardest hit by KLA activity in the beginning.
The KLA's first goal was thus to merge its Drenica stronghold with their stronghold in Albania proper, and this would shape the first few months of the fighting. It also appealed for support from the Western and Islamic worlds, including from mujahedin.
The Serbs also continued their efforts at diplomacy, attempting to arrange talks with Ibrahim Rugova's staff (talks which Rugova and his staff refused to attend). After several failed meetings, Ratko Marković, chairman of the Serbian delegation to the meetings, invited representatives of Kosovo minority groups to attend and maintained his invitation to the Albanians. Serbian President Milan Milutinović attended one of the meetings, though Rugova did not. He and his staff insisted on talking to Yugoslav officials, not Serbian ones, and only to discuss the modalities of Kosovo independence.
A new Serbian government was also formed at this time, led by the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Radical Party. Ultra-nationalist Radical Party chairman Vojislav Šešelj became a deputy prime minister. This increased the dissatisfaction with Serbia's position among Western diplomats and spokespersons.
In early April, Serbia arranged for a referendum on the issue of foreign interference in Kosovo. Serbian voters decisively rejected foreign interference in this internal affair. Meanwhile, the KLA claimed much of the area in and around Decani and ran a territory based in the village of Glodjane, encompassing its surroundings. So, on May 31, 1998, the Yugoslav army and the Serb Ministry of the Interior police began an operation to clear the border of the KLA. This lasted several days and led to bomb threats from the western capitals, including reports which claimed summary executions and killings of civilians. NATO's response to this offensive was mid-June's Operation Determined Falcon, an air show over the Yugoslav borders.
During this time, the Yugoslav President Milošević reached an arrangement with Boris Yeltsin of Russia to stop offensive operations and prepare for talks with the Albanians, who, through this whole crisis, refused to talk to the Serbian side, but not the Yugoslav. In fact, the only meeting between Milošević and Ibrahim Rugova took place on 15 May, in Belgrade, two days after Richard Holbrooke announced that it would take place. One month later, Holbrooke, after a trip to Belgrade where he threatened to Milosevic that if he did not obey "what's left of your country will implode", he visited the border areas affected by the fighting in early June; there he was famously photographed with the KLA. The publication of these images sent a signal to the KLA, its supporters and sympathisers, and to observers in general, that the U.S. was decisively backing the KLA.
The Yeltsin agreement included Milosevic's allowing international representatives to set up a mission in Kosovo-Metohija to monitor the situation there. This was the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) that began operations in early July. The American government welcomed this part of the agreement, but denounced the initiative's call for a mutual cease fire. Rather, the Americans demanded that the Serbian-Yugoslavian side should cease fire "without linkage...to a cessation in terrorist activities".
All through June and into mid July, the KLA maintained its advance. KLA surrounded Peć, Djakovica, and had set up an interim capital in the town of Mališevo (to the north of Orahovac). The KLA troops were infiltrating Suva Reka, and north to the area west of Priština. They threatened the Belacevec coal pits and captured them in late June, threatening energy supplies in the region.
The tide turned in mid-July when the KLA captured Orahovac. On the 17th of July 1998 in the two close by villages to Orahovac, Retimlije and Opteruša, all the Serb males were kidnapped and later found dead. Similar, even if less systematic incidents took place in the town of Orahovac and the larger Serb village Velika hoċa. The Orthodox monastery of Zociste 5 km from Orehovac - famous for the relics of the Saints Kosmas and Damianos and revered also by local Albanians - was robbed, its monks deported to a KLA prison camp, and, while empty, the monastery church and all its buildings were leveled to the ground by mining. This led to a series of Serb and Yugoslav offensives which would continue into the beginning of August.
A new set of KLA attacks in mid-August triggered Yugoslavian operations in south-central Kosovo-Metohija south of the Pristina-Pec road. This wound down with the capture of Klecka on 23 August and the discovery of a KLA-run crematorium in which some of their victims were found. The 1st of September featured a KLA offensive around Prizren, causing Yugoslavian military activity there. In Metohija, around Pec, another offensive caused condemnation as international officials expressed fear that a large column of displaced people would be attacked. This followed the fall of Donji Ratis where the KLA kept a mass grave; about 60 bodies were found there of recently "disappeared" Serbs and other Kosovo citizens.
In early mid-September, for the first time, some KLA activity was reported in northern Kosovo around Podujevo. Finally, in late September, a determined effort was made to clear the KLA out of the northern and central parts of Kosovo and out of the Drenica valley itself. During this time many threats were made from Western capitals but these were tempered somewhat by the elections in Bosnia, as they did not want Serbian Democrats and Radicals to win. Following the elections, however, the threats intensified once again but a galvanising event was needed. They got it on September 28, when the mutilated corpses of a family were discovered by KDOM outside the village of Gornje Obrinje; the bloody doll from there became the rallying image for the ensuing war.
The other major issue for those who saw no option but to resort to the use of force was the estimated 250,000 displaced Albanians, 30,000 of whom were out in the woods, without warm clothing or shelter, with winter approaching.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia, Christopher Hill, was leading shuttle diplomacy between an Albanian delegation, led by Rugova, and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. It was these meetings which were shaping what was to be the peace plan to be discussed during a period of planned NATO occupation of Kosovo.
During a period of two weeks, threats intensified, culminating in NATO's Activation Order being given. All was ready for the bombs to fly; Richard Holbrooke went to Belgrade in the hope of reaching an agreeming with Milošević with regards to deploying a NATO presence in Kosovo. With him came General Michael Short, who threatened to destroy Belgrade. Long and painful discussions led to the Kosovo Verification Agreement on October 12, 1998.
Officially, the international community demanded an end to fighting. It specifically demanded that the Serbs end its offensives against the KLA, (without mention of an end to KLA-perpetrated attacks), whilst attempting to convince the KLA to drop its bid for independence. Moreover, attempts were made to persuade Milošević to permit NATO peacekeeping troops to enter Kosovo. This, they argued, would allow for the Christopher Hill peace process to proceed and yield a peace agreement. A ceasefire was brokered, commencing on October 25, 1998. It feaured the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), which was large contingent of unarmed OSCE peace monitors (officially known as verifiers) moved into Kosovo. Their inadequacy was evident from the start. They were nicknamed the "clockwork oranges" in reference to their brightly coloured vehicles (in English, a "clockwork orange" signifies a useless object.) The ceasefire broke down within a matter of weeks and fighting resumed in December 1998 after the KLA occupied some bunkers overlooking the strategic Priština-Podujevo highway, not long after the Panda Bar Massacre, when the KLA shot up a cafe in Peć. A couple of days after the massacre, the KLA assassinated the mayor of Kosovo Polje.
The January to March 1999 phase of the war brought increasing insecurity in urban areas, including bombings and murders. Such attacks took place during the Rambouillet talks in February and as the Kosovo Verification Agreement unravelled in March. Killings on the roads continued and increased and there were military confrontations in, among other places, the Vucitrn area in February and the heretofore unaffected Kacanik area in early March.
KLA attacks and Serbian reprisals continued throughout the winter of 1998–1999, culminating on January 15 1999 with the Račak massacre. The incident was immediately (before the investigation) condemned as a massacre by the Western countries and the United Nations Security Council, and later became the basis of one of the charges of war crimes leveled against Milošević and his top officials. The details of what happened at Račak were revealed shortly after Serb paramilitaries left the scene of the massacre. Rolling TV cameras featured United States Ambassador William Walker walking through mutilated bodies of Albanians. Shortly after that he held a press conference where he stated that he had just witnessed Serbian crimes against civilians The massacre was the turning point of the war. NATO decided that the conflict could only be settled by introducing a military peacekeeping force under the auspices of NATO, to forcibly restrain the two sides. A carefully coordinated set of diplomatic initiatives was announced simultaneously on January 30, 1999:
The Rambouillet talks began on February 6, with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana negotiating with both sides. They were intended to conclude by February 19. The Serbian delegation was led by then president of Serbia Milan Milutinović, while Milošević himself remained in Belgrade. This was in contrast to the 1995 Dayton conference that ended war in Bosnia, where Milošević negotiated in person. The absence of Milošević was interpreted as a sign that the real decisions were being made back in Belgrade, a move that aroused criticism in Serbia as well as abroad; Kosovo's Serbian Orthodox bishop Artemije traveled all the way to Rambouillet to protest that the delegation was wholly unrepresentative.
The first phase of negotiations was successful as can be seen in the historical evidence. In particular, the statement by the Contact Group co-chairmen on the 23 February 1999 that the negotiations have led to a consensus on substantial autonomy for Kosovo, including on mechanisms for free and fair elections to democratic institutions, for the governance of Kosovo, for the protection of human rights and the rights of members of national communities; and for the establishment of a fair judicial system. They went on to say that a political framework is now in place leaving the further work of finalizing the implementation Chapters of the Agreement, including the modalities of the invited international civilian and military presence in Kosovo. During the next month, however, NATO, under the influence of US diplomats Rubin and Albright, sought to impose a forced, as opposed to invited, military presence. The tilting of NATO towards the KLA organisation is chronicled in the BBC Television "Moral Combat: NATO at War" program. This happened despite the fact, quoting General Klaus Naumann (Chairman of NATO Military Committee), that Ambassador Walker stated in the NAC (North Atlantic Council) that the majority of [ceasefire] violations was caused by the KLA.
In the end, on 18 March, 1999, the Albanian, American and British delegation signed what became known as the Rambouillet Accords while the Serbian and Russian delegations refused. The accords called for NATO administration of Kosovo as an autonomous province within Yugoslavia; a force of 30,000 NATO troops to maintain order in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory, including Kosovo; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law. The American and British delegations must have known that the new version would never be accepted by the Serbs or the Contact Group. These latter provisions were much the same as had been applied to Bosnia for the SFOR (Stabilisation Force) mission there.
While the accords did not fully satisfy the Albanians, they were much too radical for the Serbs, who responded by substituting a drastically revised text that even the Russians, traditional allies of the Serbs, found unacceptable. It sought to reopen the painstakingly negotiated political status of Kosovo and deleted all of the proposed implementation measures. Among many other changes in the proposed new version, it eliminated the entire chapter on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, removed virtually all international oversight and dropped any mention of invoking "the will of the people [of Kosovo]" in determining the final status of the province. Even the word "peace" was deleted.
Events proceeded rapidly after the failure at Rambouillet.
The international monitors from the OSCE withdrew on March 22, for fear of the monitors' safety ahead of the anticipated NATO bombing campaign. On March 23, the Serbian assembly accepted the principle of autonomy for Kosovo and non-military part of the agreement. But the Serbian side had objections to the military part of the Rambouillet agreement, appendix B in particular, which it characterized as "NATO occupation". The full document was described "fraudulent" because the military part of the agreement was offered only at the very end of the talks without much possibility for negotiation, and because the other side, condemned in harshest terms as a "separatist–terrorist delegation", completely refused to meet delegation of FRY and negotiate directly during the Rambouillet talks at all. The following day, March 24, NATO bombing began.
NATO's bombing campaign lasted from March 24 to June 11, 1999, involving up to 1,000 aircraft operating mainly from bases in Italy and aircraft carriers stationed in the Adriatic. Tomahawk cruise missiles were also extensively used, fired from aircraft, ships and submarines. All of the NATO members were involved to some degree—even Greece, despite publicly opposing the war. Over the ten weeks of the conflict, NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat missions. For the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) it was the first time it had participated in a conflict since World War II.
The proclaimed goal of the NATO operation was summed up by its spokesman as "Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back". That is, Yugoslav troops would have to leave Kosovo and be replaced by international peacekeepers in order to ensure that the Albanian refugees could return to their homes. The campaign was initially designed to destroy Yugoslav air defences and high-value military targets. It did not go very well at first, with bad weather hindering many sorties early on. NATO had seriously underestimated Milošević's will to resist: few in Brussels thought that the campaign would last more than a few days, and although the initial bombardment was more than just a pin-prick, it was nowhere near the concentrated bombardments seen in Baghdad in 1991. On the ground, the ethnic cleansing campaign by the Serbians was stepped up and within a week of the war starting, over 300,000 Kosovo Albanians had fled into neighboring Albania and Macedonia, with many thousands more displaced within Kosovo. By April, the United Nations was reporting that 850,000 people—the vast majority of them Albanians—had fled their homes.
NATO military operations switched increasingly to attacking Yugoslav units on the ground—hitting targets as small as individual tanks and artillery pieces—as well as continuing with the strategic bombardment. This activity was, however, heavily constrained by politics, as each target needed to be approved by all nineteen members states. Montenegro was bombed on several occasions but NATO eventually desisted in order to prop up the precarious position of its anti-Milošević leader, Đukanović. So-called "dual-use" targets, of use to both civilians and the military, were attacked: this included bridges across the Danube, factories, power stations, telecommunications facilities and—particularly controversially—the headquarters of Yugoslavian Leftists, a political party led by Milošević's wife, and the Serbian state television broadcasting tower. Some saw these actions as violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions in particular. NATO however argued that these facilities were potentially useful to the Yugoslav military and that their bombing was therefore justified.
At the start of May, a NATO aircraft attacked an Albanian refugee convoy, believing it was a Yugoslav military convoy, killing around fifty people. NATO admitted its mistake five days later, but the Serbs accused NATO of deliberately attacking the refugees. On May 7, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists and outraging Chinese public opinion. NATO claimed they were firing at Yugoslav positions. The United States and NATO later apologized for the bombing, saying that it occurred because of an outdated map provided by the CIA. This was challenged by a joint report from The Observer (UK) and Politiken (Denmark) newspapers which claimed that NATO intentionally bombed the embassy because it was being used as a relay station for Yugoslav army radio signals. The bombing strained relations between China and NATO countries and provoked angry demonstrations outside Western embassies in Beijing.
In another major incident - Dubrava prison in Kosovo - the Yugoslav government attributed 85 civilian deaths to NATO bombing. Human Rights Watch research in Kosovo determined that an estimated eighteen prisoners were killed by NATO bombs on May 21 (three prisoners and a guard were killed in an earlier attack on May 19.
By the start of April, the conflict seemed little closer to a resolution and NATO countries began to think seriously about a ground operation—an invasion of Kosovo. This would have to be organised very quickly, as there was little time before winter set in and much work would have to be done to improve the roads from the Greek and Albanian ports to the envisaged invasion routes through Macedonia and northeastern Albania. U.S. President Bill Clinton was however extremely reluctant to commit American forces for a ground offensive. Instead, Clinton authorized a CIA operation to train the KLA to sabotage and destabilize the Serbian government. At the same time, Finnish and Russian negotiators continued to try to persuade Milošević to back down. He finally recognised that NATO was serious in its resolve to end the conflict one way or another and that Russia would not intervene to defend Serbia despite Moscow's strong anti-NATO rhetoric. Faced with little alternative, Milošević accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish–Russian mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Kosovo headed by the UN, but incorporating NATO troops.
The Norwegian special forces Hærens Jegerkommando and Forsvarets Spesialkommando cooperated with the UCK in gathering intelligence information. Preparing for the invasion on the 12th of June. The Norwegian special forces sat together with the UCK on the Ramno mountain on the border between Macedonia and Kosovo and had an excellent scouting point for what was happening inside Kosovo. Together with British special forces, Norwegian special forces were the first to cross over the border into Kosovo. According to Keith Graves with the television network Sky News, the Norwegians were already inside Kosovo 2 days prior to the march in of other forces and were among the first to enter into Pristina . The Hærens Jegerkommando and Forsvarets Spesialkommando job was to clean the way between the striding parties and to make local deals to implement the peace deal between the Serbians and the Kosovo Albanians. This was done under very difficult circumstances. .
On June 12, after Milosevic accepted the conditions, KFOR began entering Kosovo. KFOR, a NATO force, had been preparing to conduct combat operations but in the end its mission was only peacekeeping. It was based upon the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters commanded by then Lieutenant General Mike Jackson of the British Army. It consisted of British forces (a brigade built from 4th Armoured and 5th Airborne Brigades), a French Army Brigade, a German Army brigade, which entered from the west while all the other forces advanced from the south, and Italian Army and United States Army brigades. The U.S. contribution, known as the Initial Entry Force, was led by the 1st Armored Division. Subordinate units included TF 1-35 Armor from Baumholder Germany, the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Bragg, N.C; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment from Schweinfurt Germany, and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, also from Schweinfurt, Germany. Also attached to the U.S. force was the Greek Army's 501st Mechanized Infantry Battalion. The initial U.S. forces established their area of operation around the towns of Urosevic, the future Camp Bondsteel, and Gnjilane, at Camp Monteith, and spent four months—the start of a stay which continues to date—establishing order in the south east sector of Kosovo. During the initial incursion the U.S. soldiers were greeted by Albanians cheering and throwing flowers as U.S. soldiers and KFOR rolled through their villages. Although no resistance was met, three U.S. soldiers from the Initial Entry Force lost their lives in accidents.
Following the military campaign, the involvement of Russian peacekeepers proved to be tense and challenging to the NATO Kosovo force. The Russians expected to have an independent sector of Kosovo, only to be unhappily surprised with the prospect of operating under NATO command. Without prior communication or coordination with NATO, Russian forces entered Kosovo from Bosnia and seized the Pristina airport. Furthermore, in June 2000, arms trading relations between Russia and Serbia were exposed which lead to the retalliation and bombings of Russian Checkpoints and area Police Stations. Outpost Gunner was established on a high point in the Preševo Valley by Echo Battery 1/161 Field Artillery in an attempt to monitor and assist with peacekeeping efforts in the Russian Sector. Operating under the support of 2/3 Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, the Battery was able to successfully deploy and continuously operate a Firefinder Radar which allowed the NATO forces to keep a closer watch on activities in the Sector and the Preševo Valley. Eventually a deal was struck whereby Russian forces operated as a unit of KFOR but not under the NATO command structure.
The legitimacy of NATO's bombing campaign in Kosovo has been the subject of much debate. NATO did not have the backing of the United Nations Security Council because the war was opposed by permanent members with ties to Yugoslavia, China and, in particular Russia, who had threatened to veto any resolution authorising force. NATO argued that their defiance of the Security Council was justified based on the claims of an "international humanitarian emergency". Criticism was also drawn by the fact that the NATO charter specifies that NATO is an organization created for defence of its members, but in this case it was used to attack a non-NATO country which was not directly threatening any NATO member. NATO claimed that instability in the Balkans was a direct threat to the security interests of NATO members, and military action was therefore justified by the NATO charter; however, the only NATO member country to which the instability was a direct threat was Greece.
Many on the left of Western politics saw the NATO campaign as U.S. aggression and imperialism, while critics on the right considered it irrelevant to their countries' national security interests. Veteran anti-war campaigners such as Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Justin Raimondo, and Tariq Ali were prominent in opposing the campaign. However, in comparison with the anti-war protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the campaign against the war in Kosovo aroused much less public support. The television pictures of refugees being driven out of Kosovo made a vivid and simple case for NATO's actions, and the ulterior motives of Western powers as well as alleged atrocities committed by the KLA went relatively unreported. The personalities were also very different—the NATO nations were mostly led by centre-left and moderately liberal leaders, most prominently U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema. Anti-war protests were generally from the libertarian right, the far-left and Serbian émigrés, with many other left-wingers supporting the campaign on humanitarian grounds. The German participation in the aggression against Belgrade (the third in the course of the 20th century) was one of the reasons for Oskar Lafontaine's resignation from the post of Federal Minister of Finance and the chairman of the SPD.
There was, however, criticism from all parts of the political spectrum for the way that NATO conducted the campaign. NATO officials sought to portray it as a "clean war" using precision weapons. The U.S. Department of Defense claimed that, up to June 2, 99.6% of the 20,000 bombs and missiles used had hit their targets. However, the use of technologies such as depleted uranium ammunition and cluster bombs was highly controversial, as was the bombing of oil refineries and chemical plants, which led to accusations of "environmental warfare". The slow pace of progress during the war was also heavily criticised. Many believed that NATO should have mounted an all-out campaign from the start, rather than starting with a relatively small number of strikes and combat aircraft.
The choice of targets was highly controversial. The destruction of bridges over the Danube greatly disrupted shipping on the river for months afterwards, causing serious economic damage to countries along the length of the river. Industrial facilities were also attacked, damaging the economies of many towns. In fact, as the Serbian opposition later complained, the Yugoslav military was using civilian factories as weapons plants: the Sloboda vacuum cleaner factory in the town of Čačak also housed a tank repair facility, while the Zastava plant in Kragujevac made both cars and Kalashnikov rifles, although in completely separate buildings and locations.
Only state owned factories were targeted, leading many to suspect that the bombing campaign was partly designed to prepare the way for a free market-based reconstruction by wealthy foreign powers. No private or foreign owned industrial sites were bombed. Perhaps the most controversial deliberate attack of the war was that made against the headquarters of Serbian television on April 23, which killed at least fourteen people. NATO justified the attack on the grounds that the Serbian television headquarters was part of the Milošević regime's "propaganda machine". Opponents of Milošević inside Serbia charged that the managers of the state TV station had been forewarned of the attack but ordered staff to remain inside the building despite an air raid alert.
Within Yugoslavia, opinion on the war was (unsurprisingly) split between highly critical among Serbs and highly supportive among Albanians—although not all Albanians felt that way; some appear to have blamed NATO for not acting quickly enough. Although Milošević was increasingly unpopular, the NATO campaign created a mood of national unity. Milošević did not leave matters entirely to chance, however. Many opposition supporters feared for their lives, particularly after the murder of the dissident journalist Slavko Curuvija on April 11, an act widely blamed on Milošević's secret police. In Montenegro, President Milo Đukanović—who opposed both the NATO bombardment and Serbian actions in Kosovo—publicly expressed fear of a "creeping coup" by Milošević supporters.
Opinion in Yugoslavia's neighbours was much more mixed. Macedonia was the only Yugoslav republic apart from Montenegro not to have fought a war with Serbia and had tense relations between the Macedonian majority and a large Albanian minority. Its government did not approve of Milošević's actions, but it was also not very sympathetic towards the Albanian refugees. Albania was wholly supportive of NATO's actions, as might be expected given the ethnic ties between Albanians on both sides of the border. Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria granted overflight rights to NATO aircraft. Hungary was a new member of NATO and supported the campaign. Across the Adriatic, Italian public and political opinion was against the war, but the Italian government nonetheless allowed NATO full use of Italian air bases. In Greece, popular opposition to the war reached 96%.
Some critics have accused the coalition of leading a war in Kosovo under the false pretense of genocide. President Clinton of the United States, and his administration, were accused of inflating the number of Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbians. Clinton's Secretary of Defense William Cohen, giving a speech, said, "The appalling accounts of mass killing in Kosovo and the pictures of refugees fleeing Serb oppression for their lives makes it clear that this is a fight for justice over genocide. On CBS' Face the Nation Cohen claimed, "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing... they may have been murdered. Clinton, citing the same figure, spoke of "at least 100,000 (Kosovar Albanians) missing". Later, talking about Yugoslav elections, Clinton said, "they're going to have to come to grips with what Mr. Milošević ordered in Kosovo... they're going to have to decide whether they support his leadership or not; whether they think it's OK that all those tens of thousands of people were killed...". Clinton also claimed, in the same press conference, that "NATO stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide. Clinton compared the events of Kosovo to the Holocaust. CNN reported, "Accusing Serbia of 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo similar to the genocide of Jews in World War II, an impassioned President Clinton sought Tuesday to rally public support for his decision to send U.S. forces into combat against Yugoslavia, a prospect that seemed increasingly likely with the breakdown of a diplomatic peace effort. Clinton's State Department also claimed Yugoslav troops had committed genocide. The New York Times reported, "the Administration said evidence of 'genocide' by Yugoslav forces was growing to include 'abhorrent and criminal action' on a vast scale. The language was the State Department's strongest yet in denouncing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević. The State Department also gave the highest estimate of dead Albanians. The New York Times reported, "On April 19, the State Department said that up to 500,000 Kosovar Albanians were missing and feared dead.
The United Nations Charter does not allow military interventions in other sovereign countries with few exceptions which in general need to be decided upon by the United Nations Security Council. The issue was brought before the UN Security Council by Russia, in a draft resolution which - inter alia - would affirm "that such unilateral use of force constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter". China, Namibia and Russia voted for the resolution, the other members against, thus it failed to pass.
On April 29 1999 Yugoslavia filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague against ten NATO member countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Canada, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA). The Court did not decide upon the case because Yugoslavia was not a member of the UN during the war.
In Western countries, opposition to NATO's intervention was mainly from the libertarian right, and from most of the far left. In Britain, the war was opposed by many prominent conservative figures including former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, and journalists Peter Hitchens and Simon Heffer, whereas opposition on the left was confined to The Morning Star newspaper and left wing MPs like Tony Benn and Alan Simpson. However, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a Leninist splinter-group, backed the Kosovo Liberation Army (while opposing NATO's intervention, seeing it as American-led imperialist opportunism) and support the complete secession of Kosovo from Serbia.
The war inflicted many casualties. Already by March 1999, the combination of fighting and the targeting of civilians had left an estimated 1,500-2,000 civilians and combatants dead. Final estimates of the casualties are still unavailable for either side.
Yugoslavia claimed that NATO attacks caused between 1,200 and 5,700 civilian casualties. NATO acknowledged killing at most 1,500 civilians. Human Rights Watch counted a minimum of 488 civilian deaths (90 to 150 of them killed from cluster bomb use) in 90 separate incidents. Attacks in Kosovo overall were more deadly - a third of the incidents account for more than half of the deaths.
Various estimates of the number of killings attributed to Yugoslav ground forces have been announced through the years.
In June 2000 the Red Cross reported that 3,368 civilians (2,500 Albanians, 400 Serbs, and 100 Roma) were still missing, nearly one year after the conflict.
In August 2000 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) announced that it had exhumed 2,788 bodies in Kosovo, but declined to say how many were thought to be victims of war crimes. Earlier however, KFOR sources told Agence France Presse that of the 2,150 bodies that had been discovered up until July 1999, about 850 were thought to be victims of war crimes.
Some of the missing civilians were re-buried in mass graves in Serbia-proper. In July 2001, the Serbian authorities announced the discovery of four mass graves containing 836 bodies. The largest grave was found on a Serbian Police training ground in Batajnica just outside of Belgrade.
Although it far exceeds the 4,400 killings reported to human rights groups, statistical experts working on behalf of the ICTY prosecution estimate that the total number of dead is about 10,000. Their higher estimate was based on the controversial assumption that most people wouldn't report the killing or disappearance of a loved one.
The estimate of 10,000 deaths is also used by the U.S. State Department, which cited human rights abuses as its main justification for attacking Yugoslavia.
A study by researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia published in 2000 in medical journal the Lancet estimated that "12,000 deaths in the total population" could be attributed to war. This number was achieved by surveying 1197 households from February, 1998, through June, 1999. 67 out of the 105 deaths reported in the sample population were attributed to war-related trauma, which extrapolates to be 12,000 deaths if the same war-related mortality rate is applied to Kosovo's total population. The highest mortality rates were in men between 15-49 accounting for 5421 victims of war as well as for the man over 50 accounting for total of 5176 victims of the war. For persons younger than 15 the estimates were 160 victims for males and 200 for females. For the woman between 15-49 the estimate is that there was 510 victims and for the woman older than 50 years the estimate is 541 victims. The authors stated that it is not "possible to differentiate completely between civilian and military casualties".
Military casualties on the NATO side were light—according to official reports the alliance suffered no fatalities as a result of combat operations. However, in the early hours of May 5, an American military AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed not far from the border between Serbia and Albania.
An American AH-64 helicopter crashed about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Tirana, Albania's capital, very close to the Albanian/Kosovo border. According to CNN the crash happened 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Tirana. The two American pilots of the helicopter, Army Chief Warrant Officers David Gibbs and Kevin L. Reichert, died in that crash. They were the only NATO casualties during the war, according to NATO official statements.
There were other casualties after the war, mostly due to land mines. After the war, the alliance reported the loss of the first U.S. stealth plane (a F-117 stealth fighter) ever shot down by enemy fire. Furthermore an F-16 fighter was lost near Šabac to Yugoslav air defences (although NATO reported it was an engine failiure) and whose remains are on display in Museum of Aviation in Belgrade, 32 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from different nations were lost. The wreckages of downed UAVs were shown on Serbian television during the war. A second F-117A was also heavily damaged, and although it made it back to its base, it never flew again..
NATO did not release any official casualty estimates. The Yugoslav authorities claimed 169 soldiers were killed and 299 wounded by NATO airstrikes. The names of Yugoslav casualties were recorded in a "book of remembrance".
Of military equipment, NATO destroyed around 50 Yugoslav aircraft, of which many were old and unflyable and were intentionally placed as decoys to draw attention away from valuable targets. Two notable exceptions were the 11 destroyed MiG-29s, and 6 G-4 Super Galebs which were destroyed right in their hardened aircraft shelter when someone forgot to close the shelter doors. At the end of war, NATO officially claimed they destroyed 93 Yugoslav tanks. Yugoslavia admitted a total of 13 destroyed tanks. The latter figure was verified by European inspectors when Yugoslavia rejoined the Dayton accords, by noting the difference between the number of tanks then and at the last inspection in 1995. The army lost 14 tanks (9 M-84's and 5 T-55's), 18 APCs and 20 artillery pieces. Most of the targets hit in Kosovo were decoys, such as tanks made out of plastic sheets with telegraph poles for gun barrels, or old World War II-era tanks which were not functional. Anti-aircraft defences were preserved by the simple expedient of not turning them on, preventing NATO aircraft from detecting them, but forcing them to keep above a ceiling of 15,000 ft (5,000 m), making accurate bombing much more difficult. Towards the end of the war, it was claimed that carpet bombing by B-52 aircraft had caused huge casualties among Yugoslav troops stationed along the Kosovo–Albania border. Careful searching by NATO investigators found no evidence of any such large-scale casualties.
However, the most significant loss for the Yugoslav Army was the damaged and destroyed infrastructure. Almost all military air bases and airfields (Batajnica, Lađevci, Slatina, Golubovci, Kovin, Đakovica) and other military buildings and facilities were badly damaged or destroyed. Unlike the units and their equipment, military buildings couldn't be camouflaged. Thus, defence industry and military tehnical overhaul facilities were also damaged seriously (Utva, Zastava Arms factory, Moma Stanojlović air force overhaul center, technical overhaul centers in Čačak and Kragujevac). Moreover, in an effort to weaken the Yugoslav Army, NATO targeted several important civilian facilities (Pančevo oil rafinery, bridges and railroads).
Kosovo Liberation Army losses are difficult to analyze. According to some reports there were around 5,000 casualties on KLA side. Difficulties arise in calculating an accurate figure, as KLA fighters dying in combat would sometimes be carried away by retreating KLA forces, and other times left on the battlefield and buried in mass graves by the Yugoslavs. Things are further complicated by the difficulty of determining who was a KLA member. For example, the Yugoslavs considered any armed Albanian to be a member of the KLA, regardless of whether he was officially a card-carrying member, so someone who is counted as a civilian by the Albanian side might be counted as a KLA combatant by the Serbs. Also, many members of the KLA were not wearing uniforms and the KLA tactic was to take weapons from killed members to make them appear as civilians shot by Yugoslav security forces.
However, the campaign of violence forced 200,000 Serbs from Kosovo. Gypsies were also driven out after being harassed by Albanians. Since June 12, 1999, as many as 1,000 Serbs and Roma have been murdered or have gone missing as a result of KLA elements and possibly criminal gangs or vengeful individuals. The Yugoslav Red Cross had also registered 247,391 mostly Serbian refugees by November. The new exodus was a severe embarrassment to NATO, which had established a peacekeeping force of 45,000 under the auspices of the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK).
Returning IDPs from the Republic of Macedonia were kept in a lead polluted refugee camp set up by KFOR / UNMIK in North Mitrovica. The charity, ran by Paul Polansky, claims 27 died from lead poisoning, denied by UNMIK who recognise only one death.
According to Amnesty International, the presence of peacekeepers in Kosovo led to an increase in the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.
Further indictments were leveled in October 2003 against former armed forces chief of staff Nebojša Pavković, former army corps commander Vladimir Lazarević, former police official Vlastimir Đorđević and the current head of Serbia's public security, Sreten Lukić. All were indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
The ICTY also leveled indictments against KLA members Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi, indicted for crimes against humanity. They were arrested on February 17–18, 2003. Charges were soon dropped against Agim Murtezi as a case of mistaken identity, whereas Fatmir Limaj was acquitted of all charges on 30 November 2005 and released. The charges were in relation to the prison camp run by the defendants at Lapusnik between May and July 1998.
War crimes prosecutions have also been carried out in Yugoslavia. Yugoslav soldier Ivan Nikolić was found guilty in 2002 of war crimes in the deaths of two civilians in Kosovo. A significant number of Yugoslav soldiers were tried by Yugoslav military tribunals during the war.
On March 2005, a U.N. tribunal indicted Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for war crimes against the Serbs, on March 8 he tendered his resignation. Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian, was a former commander who led units of the Kosovo Liberation Army and was appointed Prime Minister after winning an election of 72 votes to three in the Kosovo's Parliament in December 2004. Haradinaj was acquitted on all counts. The Office of the Prosecutor has appealed his acquittal, and as of July 2008, the matter remains unresolved.
The Serbian government and a number of international pressure groups claimed that NATO had carried out war crimes during the conflict, particularly regarding the bombing of alleged dual-use facilities such as the Serbian TV headquarters in Belgrade. The ICTY conducted an inquiry into these charges. The tribunal has proclaimed that it has no mandate to press charges against NATO for war crimes against civilian population.
In 2008, Carla Del Ponte published a book in which she alleged that, after the end of the war in 1999, Kosovo Albanians were smuggling organs of between 100 and 300 Serbs and other minorities from the province to Albania. But the ICTY has found no "substantial element" to support Del Ponte's charges.
The Kosovo war had a number of important consequences in terms of the military and political outcome. The status of Kosovo remained unresolved until 2007; international negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo, as envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and the province was administered by the United Nations until its unilateral declaration of independence on February 17, 2008.
The UN-backed talks, lead by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, had begun in February 2006. Whilst progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself. In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes 'supervised independence' for the province. By July 2007 the draft resolution, which was backed by the United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council, had been rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty. Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, stated that it would not support any resolution which is not acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina.. With the February 2008 declaration of independence, the proposal became redundant.
Milošević survived the immediate aftermath of the war, but the effective loss of Kosovo was a major factor in provoking the popular revolt which overthrew him in 2000. He was subsequently arrested and taken to The Hague, where he died from natural causes in his cell, awaiting trial for crimes against humanity on 10 March 2006.
Despite the successful conclusion of the war, Kosovo exposed gaping weaknesses in NATO. It revealed how dependent the European members had become on the United States military—the vast majority of combat and non-combat operations were dependent on U.S. involvement—and highlighted the lack of precision weapons in European armories. Some right-wing and military critics in the U.S. also blamed the alliance's agreement-by-consensus arrangements for hobbling and slowing down the campaign.
The campaign exposed significant weaknesses in the U.S. arsenal, which were later addressed for the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. Apache attack helicopters and AC-130 Spectre gunships were brought up to the front lines but were never actually used after two Apaches crashed during training in the Albanian mountains. Stocks of many precision missiles were run down to critically low levels; had the campaign lasted much longer, NATO would have had to revert back to using "dumb" bombs for lack of anything better. Situation was not any better with the combat aircraft; continuous operations meant skipped maintenance schedules and many aircraft were withdrawn from service awaiting spare parts and service. Also, many of the precision-guided weapons proved unable to cope with Balkan weather, as the clouds blocked the laser guidance beams. This was resolved by retrofitting bombs with Global Positioning System satellite guidance devices that are immune to bad weather. Also, although pilotless surveillance aircraft were extensively used, it often proved the case that attack aircraft could not be brought to the scene quickly enough to hit targets of opportunity. This led to the fitting of missiles to Predator drones in Afghanistan, reducing the "sensor to shooter" time to virtually nil.
Kosovo also demonstrated that even a high-tech force such as NATO could be thwarted by quite simple tactics, according to Wesley Clark and other NATO generals who analyzed these tactics a few years after the conflict. The Yugoslav army had long expected to need to resist a much stronger enemy; either Soviet or NATO; during the Cold War and had developed effective tactics of deception and concealment in response. These would have been unlikely to have resisted a full-scale invasion for long, but were probably effective in misleading overflying aircraft and satellites. Among the tactics used were: