U.S. Commander Mulls Bosnia-Herzegovina Troop Cut
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 12, 2004 It's likely time to reduce the number of American troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a senior U.S. military officer told members of Congress here today.
"I think that the conditions are right, now, to downsize" the U.S. military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Army Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett, commander of the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
Up to 60,000 U.S. troops were deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s as part of a NATO mission to stabilize the region following a bloody civil war. Today, about 900 American troops, Packett noted, are pulling security duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Dayton Peace Accords, initiated in November 1995 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, provided the framework for cessation of warfare in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
At the recent NATO summit at Istanbul, Turkey, leaders agreed to end the alliance's nine-year mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and transfer security responsibilities to the European Union by the end of this year.
Packett acknowledged "significant challenges" remain ahead in that part of the Balkans, such as the removal of land mines and capturing and trying alleged war criminals.
Yet, before any troop cuts are made, "we need an incubation period," the two- star general pointed out, "to make sure that this level is, in fact, OK, to make sure that it's going to allow us to meet our objectives, and to ensure we have the right level of force" as the end of the year approaches.
"But," Packett reiterated, "I think the conditions are right to downsize."
Packett didn't offer what numbers of U.S. troops, if any, would remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina after force reductions.