U.S. Committed to Peace in Bosnia
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 1998 "The United States remains totally committed to full implementation of the Dayton peace agreement," said Robert Gelbard, President Clinton's special representative for the implementation of the peace accord.
This includes the orderly return of refugees to their homes and turning over more indicted war criminals to the international war crimes tribunal, Gelbard told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, Jan. 6.
"Our goal, put very succinctly, is the consolidation of a democratic, prosperous state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, composed of two multiethnic entities," he said.
Key to accomplishing this goal is civilian implementation of the peace process, Gelbard said. NATO-led military forces provide the underpinning and security presence that enable civilian organizations to implement the peace accord, he added.
About 8,500 U.S. troops are among NATO's stabilization force of 36,000. NATO officials are planning a follow-on force to take up the peacekeeping role when the mandate for the current force ends in June. President Clinton has said U.S. troops will participate in the future mission. In the next few weeks, NATO military authorities are scheduled to report on force structure options for the upcoming mission.
"We will be examining those options very carefully, as will our allies," Gelbard said. Fifteen NATO and 16 non-NATO nations are currently involved in the SFOR mission, he noted.
U.S. officials are encouraging NATO authorities to avoid setting a specific end date for the follow-on mission, Gelbard said. Instead, the United States wants benchmarks Bosnia must meet before troops can leave. The benchmarks should be in such priority areas as economic reconstruction, refugee return and creating democratic institutions.
"What we want to do is have a clear sense, a road map, if you will, of knowing where we're going here and knowing when we get there," Gelbard said. Knowing what needs to be done will allow for course corrections along the way, he added.
Although it is somewhat behind schedule, the peace process is working and is successful, Gelbard said. After 46 months of war and 24 months of peace, a country and a process of democracy have been established, he said.
Gelbard credited one of the biggest accomplishments to date to the presence of the NATO-led peacekeeping force. As of Oct. 31, the deadline set in the Dayton accord, some 6,700 heavy weapons were destroyed, Gelbard said. "And 6,700 heavy weapons is a lot of scrap iron."