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Many Experts Believe Use of Ground Troops in Kosovo is Inevitable

Posted March 29, 1999

— NATO says it is stepping up its attacks on Serb troops by launching around-the-clock strikes on Yugoslavia.

Airstrikes are being used to stop the slaughter of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, but ground troops could soon be added.

The big question over the last 24 hours is does the Kosovo crisis demand the use of NATO ground troops? The opinions on a move like that are mixed.

A number of military experts, including WRAL's own analyst, believe the use of ground troops is inevitable.

"We can stay with the air, but at some juncture, you've killed all of the targets. And that will happen over the next several weeks if they keep at it, and we have the will to maintain it," said retired Air Force General Robert Springer.

Airstrikes have done serious damage to the Yugoslav military. But Springer has his doubts about comments that the West will not need a ground presence at some point in Kosovo.

"So there comes a time where, no matter how good your military air power is, it simply can't take out that policeman on the corner with a rifle or a bayonet," said Springer.

Springer could see ground troops acting as peacemakers if Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic continues to resist NATO demands. Another role could be peacekeeper after a truce is reached.

But, perhaps the most likely scenario may be troops used to resettle hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians whenever the bloody conflict does end.

"That's going to be a long and costly ordeal. But if we are the nation, the world's only superpower nation, then I think we're going to have to participate in that," explained Springer.

And Springer discounts Milosevic's offer Tuesday to withdraw some of his troops from Kosovo in exchange for a pull-out by NATO forces.

"We've negotiated with this guy for years, very intently over the last six to 12 months, and he has not really lived up to the agreements that he has made and put his signature to," said Springer.

Tuesday afternoon, President Bill Clinton called the latest proposal from Yugoslavia unacceptable.

If the West does decide to use ground troops in Kosovo, some experts estimate it may take as many as several hundred thousand to get the job done.

Springer points out that many of those troops would be American, and that could be a hard sell in Congress.

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