THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
New U.S. Aircraft Deployments to Operation Allied Force and U.S. Contributions to the Kosovo International Security Force (KFOR)
In his commencement address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy today, the President will announce a new deployment of 48 U.S. aircraft to augment Operation Allied Force, and a commitment to contribute approximately 7,000 U.S. troops to an international security force in Kosovo (KFOR). KFOR is being organized by NATO to implement peace in Kosovo, and will number approximately 50,000 troops total. The President's announcements reflect a determination, shared by our allies, to persevere in the air campaign until NATO's objectives are met, while preparing for an international peacekeeping effort in Kosovo.
The deployment of an additional 48 U.S. aircraft is part of the 176-aircraft increase approved by Secretary of Defense William Cohen on May 6, and supports the increased operational requirements identified by NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Wesley Clark. They include a squadron of F-16CJs (12 aircraft) and two squadrons of F-15Es (36 aircraft total) from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Air Combat Command. The deployment of these additional aircraft is taking place this week, and, together with 20 KC-135s from the USAF Air Mobility Command, will bring the total number of U.S. aircraft supporting Operation Allied Force to 769.
The President's commitment to contribute approximately 7,000 U.S. troops to KFOR supports NATO's updated plan for the international security force. KFOR's mission will be to deter renewed hostilities, to establish the security necessary for refugees to return to Kosovo, and to restore confidence for Kosovars of all ethnicities to begin rebuilding their lives. To accomplish these objectives, it is essential that KFOR have NATO at its core, meaning participation by NATO countries, NATO command and control, and rules of engagement set by NATO.
The humanitarian crisis caused by Serbia's ethnic cleansing campaign has prompted NATO to update its planning for KFOR. The required size of the peacekeeping force has been adjusted from 28,000, as anticipated in February, to approximately 50,000. Our NATO allies will provide the vast bulk of the force, and we are also seeking contributions from Russia and other non-NATO countries. The U.S. contribution will comprise approximately 14 percent.
The leading elements of KFOR are already in the region, where they have been helping to provide relief to refugees from Kosovo. This includes a NATO headquarters and 15,000 Allied troops in Macedonia, as well as 2,000 U.S. Marines in a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Adriatic. These forces already provide an initial capability to move into Kosovo within a few hours once Belgrade accepts NATO's conditions and begins to withdraw its forces.
# # #