The Man Who Played Ross – Chapter 10

Blown Periphery, Going Postal
A US F-117 Nighthawk taxis to the runway before taking off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, on March 24, 1999
SRA Jeffrey Allen, 1st Combat Camera Sq., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Operation Agricola – Kosovo 1999

The problem with a weak, compliant, unquestioning and corrupt mainstream media, is that it enabled corrupt, Champagne Marxist politicians, such as Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to become the British Prime Minister and later cultural Marxists such as David Cameron and Theresa May. In 1997 Blair was allowed full reign to complete a lifetime’s ambition and March through the Institutions, to destroy Britain as a Judaeo-Christian democracy. Of course his background in the law gave Blair an excellent springboard, because once the judiciary had been perverted, then the other institutions such as the Police and Education can follow. He even changed the country’s demographic to the advantage of his socialist political viewpoint or as Andrew Nether a former Labour advisor put it: …the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.

But the Armed Forces were a more difficult nut to crack, so the military would be subverted by a Common Purpose led Civil Service. The Permanent Joint Headquarters was founded in 1996, prior to Blair’s coming to office, but over the next few years it, along with the front line commands, was stuffed full of Civil Servants with a clear goal of stymying the military commanders’ powers and autonomy of action. In his first six years in office, Blair ordered British troops into combat five times, more than any other prime minister in British history. This included Iraq in both 1998 and 2003, Kosovo (1999), Sierra Leone (2000) and Afghanistan (2001). The author Robert Harris and former friend of Blair stated that: … [he] is a narcissist with a messiah complex who lives a tragic life. The problem with messianic narcissists is that they only see the world and events around them in terms of their own infallibility. The war in Kosovo was a classic case in point.

The Balkans has been on the front line of the war between Islam and the West since before the Middle Ages. The beautiful background of coastal towns and the mountainous hinterland has been the crucible for war and conflict and the block between Europe and a savage, marauding Ottoman Empire. The CIA World Factbook describes Kosovo thus:

The central Balkans were part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires before ethnic Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century. During the medieval period, Kosovo became the centre of a Serbian Empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The defeat of Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over the region from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War of 1912. After World War II, Kosovo’s present-day boundaries were established when Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). Despite legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s, which led to riots and calls for Kosovo’s independence. The Serbs – many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland – instituted a new constitution in 1989 revoking Kosovo’s autonomous status. Kosovo’s Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum declaring Kosovo independent. Serbia undertook repressive measures against the Kosovar Albanians in the 1990s, provoking a Kosovar Albanian insurgency.
{These repressive measures constituted the checking of Albanians living within Kosovo and therefore Greater Serbia, were indigenous and not infiltrators from Albania. Those that were not were expelled}.

Beginning in 1998, Serbia conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians (some 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo). After international attempts to mediate the conflict failed, a three-month NATO military operation against Serbia beginning in March 1999 forced the Serbs to agree to withdraw their military and police forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo’s future status. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo’s final status. The 2006-07 negotiations ended without agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, though the UN issued a comprehensive report on Kosovo’s final status that endorsed independence. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, over 100 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined numerous international organizations. In October 2008, Serbia sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The ICJ released the advisory opinion in July 2010 affirming that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovo’s unique history and circumstances.

Modern Messiahs tend to see the world through the prism of the 20th Century and tragically ignore the connecting events throughout history. Leading up to the conflict in the late 1990s, according to the World Factbook, “Serbia was waging a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in the massacres and mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians. For any counterinsurgency there needs to have been an insurgency to counter, and Serbs had been persecuted, massacred and forced to convert to Islam since the second battle of Kosovo in 1448 between the Hungarians and Ottoman Empire, which Hungary lost. Kosovo is 95.6% a Muslim country, since the Ottomans carried out forced conversion and ethnic cleansing to rid the country of Christian Serbs.

* * *

All of this meant nothing to a Corporal Jarvis of the Parachute Regiment Pathfinder Force. It meant a great deal more to a Sergeant Edge of No 22 SAS, particularly since his first, one-true love was murdered by a Serbian militia group in Croatia, five years previously. To Edge, these Balkan wars were personal. To Jarvis they were a welcome distraction from the tedium of garrison life in the UK.
Elements of 1 Para and 3 Para and 1 Gurkha Rifles had moved into the border area between Kosovo and Macedonia, along with a number of RAF Chinook helicopters. They were based at Jazhintse and the Pathfinders were waiting for nightfall, when they would cross into Kosovo on foot and secure the main Pristina road, including bridges and tunnels. Sappers from 9 Independent Parachute Squadron RE, were to dismantle any booby traps or mines laid by the retreating Serbian forces. There were other additions to the Para Pathfinders, namely two small teams of Special Forces, whose task was to call in close air support against the manoeuvring Serbian armoured forces. Air power had already proved itself to be a blunt instrument in the wooded hills and valleys of Kosovo. The SF units were to close in to the Serb forces, identify and call in NATO strike aircraft with radios and laser designators to mark the tanks and APCs. However, unbeknown to NATO forces, the Russians had already taken Pristina International Airport.

Jarvis was 2IC of a four-man team that would advance north towards Pristina and reccee the Kacanik Pass. They faced a TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle) of around twenty miles, some of it across country where it would be hard going. Attached to the team were two members of the UK’s Special Forces. There was a giant ox of a man, a corporal who called himself “Minty” because his surname was Murray. The second man with a snipers rifle was obviously a Blade, down to his choice of lightweight, Australian camouflage for wearing under his home-made ghillie suit. He didn’t call himself anything, not to these lower form of Para life anyway. He was a smallish man who seemed to have an air of pent-up aggression, which swirled around him like a menacing cloud. What was truly disconcerting were this man’s eyes and face. His eyes were cold and grey and he seemed to watch everything with a look of disdainful amusement, but his face was battered and kinked, like the face of an RTA victim who had been operated on by a hospital intern on a Friday afternoon.

It was early evening when Jarvis passed the improvised mess hall and saw the two SF men sitting on folding chairs, drinking coffee. The RTA victim was smoking a cigarette and barely glanced at Jarvis as he walked up to them. All of their kit was leaned up in front of them, large capacity bergans and their carbines were resting on top of the bergans and webbing. There was an additional bag strapped on top of Minty’s bergen, on which had been stencilled with black marker pen: SOFLAM, which Jarvis knew stood for: Special Operations Forces Laser Acquisition Marker.

“Good evening,” Jarvis said in a friendly manner to the two SF personnel. The man smoking merely nodded and Minty grinned, “We’ll be heading out at around 22:00 hours and there’s a final briefing for us Pathfinders at 21:00. You’re welcome to sit in on it.”

The two exchanged glances, “We’re just tagging along for the ride,” said the surly man, “We’ll be leaving you not long after you cross the border, so there’s no point is there?”

“I’ll sit in on it,” Minty said in a more conciliatory manner, as if to make up for his companion’s discourtesy, “Thank your boss.”

“OK. Have either of you done a tour in the Balkans before?”

Minty shook his head but the other man threw his cigarette end away and looked up at Jarvis, “I was in Bosnia in ninety-four.”

The look on his face was as though the experience had been a painful one.

“So you’ll already know what bastards the Serbs are,” Jarvis said slightly dismissively. For some reason the man face became dark with the beginnings of anger.

“Listen, Pal. Somebody once said to me during that tour: It’s not too easy to pick sides. And she went on to say: Your fucking John Major sends poor, clueless boys like you, to a place you do not understand the first thing about! But this time it’s Phoney Tony so it isn’t helpful to point the finger, is it?”

His face seemed twisted with an inner pain and there was an awkward silence. Jarvis finally said: “I’m sorry if you think I’m making light of the subject. I’ve not done a tour here, so I’ll bow to your expertise. Who said that to you?”

“A forensic anthropologist from Zagreb University. She and her team were excavating mass graves in Bosnia.”

“Was she a Serb?” Jarvis asked, suspecting vested interest at play.

“No. A Croatian. And she was no fool.”

“Oh. Did you stay in touch?”

“That would be a bit difficult, because she’s dead.”

Jarvis knew that he should back away, but curiosity outweighed common sense in this instance, “I’m sorry to hear that. How did she die?”

“I killed her,” the main said and lit another cigarette. Minty looked at Jarvis and gently shook his head. The meaning was clear, so Jarvis made himself scarce.

* * *

It was nearly dark by the time the O-Group finished and Jarvis went to collect his kit and join the rest of his patrol. They would cross the border and then head east to the main Route 6, transiting through Kotlina, then north towards Pristina. There were already Special Forces teams operating in the area, covertly watching Serbian troop dispositions and movements and as always, NATO air power rumbled up above the clouds. Minty collared him after the briefing.

“Hello, it’s Guy isn’t it?”

“Yes, hello Minty.”

“Look, about earlier, you…”

“Minty, there’s no need to apologise for your oppo.”

Minty chuckled, “Oh I’m not apologising for him. What Edge does or says is up to him.”

“Edge? Is that what he calls himself? Quite apt really.”

“No that’s his name. Mark Edge and what he says he can apologise for himself. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

“Perhaps he’s just a natural, born bastard then.”

Minty shook his head in the gathering darkness, “Edge isn’t a bastard. Believe it or not, he’s a sensitive soul who is deeply affected by the events he is sometimes faced with.”

“In which case, I would suggest that he’s in the wrong line of business.” Jarvis’ voice was cutting, “And what was that about a Croatian anthropologist and his killing her. Was it some kind of a bloody joke?”

Minty put his arm on Jarvis’ shoulder to stop him, “Stop and just listen. Edge was in Bosnia during Op Grapple, before he joined the Regiment. He was part of a small team of observers sent up country to take a look at a mass grave being excavated by a UN team. For whatever reason, he fell for a Croatian woman, who had a bit of history during the Balkan wars in the nineties. A Serb militia group pitched up one day to intimidate the forensic team. Edge killed the leader’s dog…”

“This sounds so bizarre,” Jarvis said quietly.

“It gets worse. The militia abducted this woman and they killed her. She was tortured to death and they dumped her body at the dig site. You see, Edge was talking metaphorically when he said that he killed her. But in a way, he did.”

“So the Serbs are bastards then, aren’t they?”

“The point he was trying to make is that it’s difficult to differentiate the goodies from the baddies in a civil war. The Croats and Muslims are no different. They’re all capable of committing terrible atrocities. This is a volatile part of the world with a lot of bad history.”

“But over a dog? For God’s sake!” Jarvis couldn’t comprehend it.

“You might not like Edge and I admit that he’s a difficult person to like, but try to understand what makes people like him tick.”

“What happened to his face?”

“I think that was a bit of police brutality while he was in Germany.”

“Do you like him?” Jarvis asked.

“I feel a profound sorrow for him. The death of that woman has affected him deeply. Edge has a troubled soul, but he is absolutely first rate at what he does. He’s analytical, ruthless, but also capable of great compassion. He is a true soldier and I admire him for that.”

“I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.”

“Best you don’t then,” Minty said with a grin.

* * *

They were following a winding road east at a fast Tab. The six of them were in double file, the patrol leader, a Sergeant on the front right. Jarvis as 2IC was at the rear right, where he could direct the patrol if the leader was hit in a contact. The two Special Forces troopers were behind, laden with kit, but acting like they were on an evening stroll.

Every thirty seconds or so, Jarvis would turn round and check their rear and just before they passed through the town of Kotlina, he was carrying out this routine when he realised the two Special Forces troopers had gone. Without a word or farewell they had left the Pathfinder patrol and gone on to carry out their own mission, whatever that was. He would learn some time later that Edge had gone on to be awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy and Minty would earn a mention in dispatches. And this certainly wasn’t the last time Jarvis and Edge’s paths would cross. The slightly angry and resentful Guy Jarvis would learn that his and Edge’s fates were intertwined, whether they liked it or not.

Within the next few hours, Jarvis’ patrol reconnoitred the main road north into Pristina and met no opposition from the Serbian forces. The bridges and narrow cuts through the mountains were checked for mines and demolition charges and daybreak had passed by the time his patrol reached the Kacanik Pass. They waited until the main body of 1 Para arrived by Chinook helicopter and their main mission had been completed. However, it wasn’t back home for tea and medals for the Pathfinders. They would move into Pristina, specifically the airport, where an anxious stand-off with Russian troops took place.

Early on 11 June 1999, a column of about 30 Russian armoured vehicles carrying 250 Russian troops, who were part of the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia, had moved into Serbia, ahead of the NATO KFOR troops. At 10:30 a.m. this was confirmed by SHAPE and by pictures from CNN which showed that the Russians had hastily painted “KFOR” in white letters on their vehicles where they had previously been “SFOR”. It was assumed that the column was heading for Pristina and Pristina International Airport ahead of the arrival of NATO troops.

At 5:00 a.m. on 12 June, the British 5th Airborne Brigade began flying into Kosovo from Skopje to secure the ten mile long Kačanik Gorge for the 4th Armoured Brigade to pass through to Pristina. From there, the lead reconnaissance troop in the race to Pristina was commanded by British officer Captain James Blunt. The first NATO troops to enter Pristina on 12 June 1999 were Norwegian Special Forces from FSK Forsvarets Spesialkommando and soldiers from the British 22 SAS, although to NATO’s diplomatic embarrassment Russian troops had arrived first at the airport.

Norwegian soldiers from FSK Forsvarets Spesialkommando were the first to come in contact with the Russian troops at the airport and to report the developments back to Lieutenant-General Mike Jackson. Jackson went forward by helicopter to try to negotiate a settlement with the Russian forces. After an agreement had been secured, Pristina Airport was reactivated by 53 Field Squadron (Air Support) Royal Engineers as a military airbase on 15 October 1999, then with resumed international air transport to several European cities. During that period, the Russian KFOR along with NATO forces were in charge of security for the airport.

Within a week, Jarvis and his Pathfinder team were on a C130 that flew them to an Italian airbase and an RAF flight returned them to the UK, saving them from the tense peacekeeping operations KFOR would be involved in. Pathfinders were a precious commodity and would be needed elsewhere. It was during his short post-deployment leave that his father finally told him he was dying of cancer.

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And from Matador:

War Crimes for the Political Elite

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