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Clinton: Kosovo Deployment Hinges on Agreement,

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 1999 – President Clinton has said he will commit American troops to Kosovo only if there is a strong peace agreement, a permissive security environment and a NATO mission with clear exit strategy.

Speaking at an award ceremony here Feb. 4, the president said he is seriously considering the possibility of U.S. participation in a NATO-led peacekeeping force if a settlement is reached. “We are discussing it now with Congress and our allies,” he said. “No decision has been reached.”

 

The president outlined what it will take for the United States to contribute troops to a Kosovo mission in Kosovo. First, he called for “a strong, effective” peace agreement. Both sides must show they’re committed to the agreement and they’re willing to cooperate with NATO, he said. 

 

“If both parties haven’t committed to stop killing each other, there’s no point in our sending Americans and other NATO forces and other allied forces into a situation where we can’t succeed,” Clinton said.

 

There also must be “a permissive security environment with the withdrawal of enough Serbian security forces and an agreement restricting the weapons of the Kosovar paramilitaries,” he said.

 

The President seeks a well-defined NATO mission with a clear exit strategy. “Our European allies will have to contribute a substantial majority of the troops, but NATO is a partnership, and they have the right to expect the United States … to be a part of that.” 

 

Great Britain has already put 8,000 troops on 72-hour alert for possible deployment to Kosovo. French Defense Minister Alain Richard said his nation is ready to contribute 5,000 ground troops and 40 aircraft. U.S. defense officials told Congress they are considering deploying up to 4,000 ground troops if the President’s conditions are met. 

 

Serb authorities and ethnic-Albanian separatists are slated to hold peace talks this weekend in Rambouillet, France. International officials hope they will settle their dispute over the autonomy of the southern Serb province. 

 

If an agreement is reached, NATO is considering deploying about 28,000 troops to implement the peace. If the talks fail, NATO is ready to take military action. An activation order for air strikes has remained in effect since last fall when humanitarian disaster loomed among several hundred thousand displaced people facing the onset of winter. A temporary agreement reached then to stop the violence has been repeatedly violated. 

 

In the last 11 months, fighting in Kosovo has killed 2,000 people, according to press reports. Within the last six weeks alone, state department officials said 45,000 ethnic Albanians have been forced to flee their homes. 

As the ethnic war in Bosnia demonstrated, “if you don’t oppose the violence it just gets worse and worse and worse, until finally you do oppose it at a much higher price, under more dangerous conditions,” he said. 

 

Sending NATO peacekeepers to Bosnia has proven successful, Clinton pointed out. The United States initially sent 28,000 troops to implement peace in Bosnia. Today, there are less than 7,000 and the drawdown continues. The “peace process has taken hold,” the president said. 

 

Clinton said the situation in Kosovo represents “the biggest remaining danger to our objective of peace and stability in Europe.” If it continues, he said, it will draw Albania and Macedonia, and it could involve Greece and Turkey, both NATO allies.

 

“We’ll see another massive humanitarian crisis; there will be more atrocities, more refugees crossing borders, more people crying out for justice and more people seeking revenge,” the president said. “Therefore, the time to stop this conflict in Kosovo is now, before it spreads, and when it can be contained at an acceptable cost.

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