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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK


Ground troops 'may have shortened war'

Sir Charles Guthrie: Air campaign was a success

The earlier consideration of a ground option could have brought the Kosovo crisis to a swifter end, the UK's top soldier tells the BBC.

The BBC's David Shukman's exclusive interview with Sir General Charles Guthrie
Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Charles Guthrie told BBC News that it would have been preferable to have "as many options as you possibly can" in the conflict.

But he the air campaign had been a significant success.

Kosovo: Special Report
Sir Charles said: "I would like to have seen us having a well-known ground option, but that wasn't possible for various reasons.

"I personally think it probably might have made things quicker, I'm not sure, but I do know that this air campaign has worked."

Sir Charles admitted that he had forseen Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic giving in to military pressure earlier than he did - but was ready for a draw-out campaign.

He said: "(Milosovic) hoped that the alliance, given time, would crack. It didn't.

"My politicians were very realistic indeed. They felt, and I told them right at the begining, this is going to be a bumpy ride, it's going to be a long haul."

The general defended the Nato campaign against what he saw as unfair charges that it had committed too many "blunders" and fought too defensively.

Brits in Balkans
He said criticism that the air raids were conducted from too high an altitude out of a fear for pilot safety were unrealistic, and that the pilots involved had been "courageous".

Sir Charles said Nato errors had been concentrated on to the exclusion of successes.

He told the BBC: "Less than a quarter of one per cent was what the media liked to call a Nato blunder.

"Mistakes do get made like this. Pictures people see on their screens, of course they are horrific, but it is a tiny thing.

"It is out of proportion to the whole thing."

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