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Cohen on Committing Troops to Operations

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 1997 – Defense Secretary William Cohen said the United States must be selective about committing troops to operations throughout the world.

"We should not be the world's policeman; [we] can't be a prisoner of world events," Cohen told the House National Security Committee Feb. 12 during hearings on the fiscal 1998 DoD budget. "We have to look very carefully at how many operations we commit our troops to."

There is growing pressure for the United States to respond to regional crises. In some cases, the United States may have to become involved even when no vital U.S. interests are threatened. But, he said, U.S. leaders must be "more selective, more restrained" about committing troops since these operations drain funds needed to maintain readiness and modernization.

Cohen cited Bosnia as an example. President Clinton committed U.S. troops to Operation Joint Guard in December. It is in America's national interests to have peace in Bosnia. But, DoD did not plan on keeping 8,500 troops in the region for 18 months. As a result, DoD did not budget for the expense. Money to fund the operation must come from operations and maintenance funds.

The price tag for U.S. operations in Bosnia since the NATO peace mission began is about $6 billion, Cohen said. Prior to taking office, Cohen announced his committment to bringing U.S. troops home from Bosnia by June 1998, the scheduled end of the NATO's stabilization force mission.

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