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NATO Commander Says Troops May Be Out of Bosnia Next Year

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2003 – The NATO military mission in Bosnia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could end and the mission in Kosovo may be scaled back, said Marine Gen. James Jones, the alliance's supreme allied commander.

That's conceivable, he said, based on the changes that have taken place in the Balkans in the last year. Jones, also the head of U.S. European Command, spoke at the Pentagon today following a NATO ministerial meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 8 and 9.

Jones said that he has seen a fundamental shift in Bosnia toward the rule of law. There is a belief in the country, he noted, that if it wishes to integrate with the rest of Europe, then it must conform with the basic standards of acceptance for admission to groups such as the European Union or NATO's Partnership for Peace.

"We're seeing in Bosnia a real potential for ending the military mission there and transitioning to a presence that will be more based on establishing police forces as a fundamental enforcer of the rule of law for an emerging nation," Jones said. "And that is very, very exciting."

Jones said that if progress in Bosnia continues and "we see the evolution of the institutions of governance that are taking root and the positive steps that are being demonstrated in Bosnia, that certainly during '04 we could have a different footprint there than we currently have," he said.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, NATO will withdraw all but a token presence serving as advisers to the Macedonian armed forces. In Kosovo, there is a "spike" of more violent activity. "But I'd characterize that as a spike, not as a new threshold. And we believe that, militarily, we have the tools in which to execute the NATO mission," Jones said.

NATO first went into Bosnia in December 1995. Clinton administration officials said the NATO involvement would last one year. The NATO military intervention put an end to the fighting in the country. But developing civilian structures to take the place of military force lagged.

NATO launched an aerial campaign to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999. NATO sent peacekeepers to the region and discussions are under way to determine the final status of the Serbian state.

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