On March 24, 1999, President Bill Clinton publicly ruled out committing ground troops to Kosovo. The failure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) air campaign to compel President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Yugoslavia's Kosovo province has prompted some Members of Congress to urge an intervention by NATO that utilizes ground troops. Their calls may be having an effect: the Clinton Administration seems to be softening its stance on the use of ground troops. On April 11, Secretary of Defense William Cohen admitted that contingency plans for ground operations could be "updated fairly quickly."
Before the United States commits ground troops to Kosovo, or elsewhere in Yugoslavia, it is vital that Congress and the American people have some appreciation for the likely cost, risk, and feasibility of such operations. Ground forces could be deployed to:
SCENARIO #1: Destroy all of Yugoslavia's military forces and occupy the entire country.
This would require as many as 500,000 NATO troops, including at least 250,000 Americans. It would take six to eight months to field the force, but the mission itself would be open-ended. The U.S. cost would be $40 billion to $50 billion the first year, and the United States could sustain from 15,000 to 20,000 casualties.
SCENARIO #2: Seize and occupy Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Yugoslavia.
This would require 150,000 to 200,000 NATO troops, including 75,000 to 100,000 Americans. It would take three to six months to field the force and one to two months to execute the mission. The U.S. cost would be $10 billion to $20 billion, and the United States could sustain from 5,000 to 10,000 casualties.
SCENARIO #3: Expel Yugoslavia's military and paramilitary forces from Kosovo.
This would require 50,000 to 70,000 NATO troops, including 20,000 to 30,000 Americans. It would take one to three months to field the force and four to six weeks to execute the mission. The U.S. cost would be $5 billion to $10 billion, and the United States could sustain from 500 to 2,000 casualties.
SCENARIO #4: Secure a "liberated zone" in southern Kosovo.
This would require 15,000 NATO troops, including 10,000 Americans. It would take four to six weeks to field the force and two to four weeks to execute the mission. The U.S. cost would be $5 billion, and the United States could sustain up to 500 casualties.
SCENARIO #5: Arm, train, and equip Kosovar resistance fighters operating out of Albania.
This would require 10,000 NATO troops, including 5,000 Americans for training and logistical support. It would take one month to field the force for this open-ended mission. The U.S. cost would range from $1 billion to $2 billion per year, and there would be limited risk of casualties.
SCENARIO #6: Insert peacekeeping forces into Kosovo after a negotiated peace settlement.
This would require 30,000 to 40,000 NATO troops, including 8,000 to 10,000 Americans. It would take four to six weeks to field the force, but the mission would be open-ended and pose moderate risk to well-armed peacekeepers. The U.S. cost would be $5 billion for the first year and $2 billion-$3 billion per year thereafter.
James H. Anderson, Ph.D., is a former Defense Policy Analyst in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.