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Joint Press Conference with Cohen and Shelton in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
May 01, 2000

Monday, May 1, 2000

(Also participating in the Joint Press Conference was Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo)

SecDef Cohen: We will now take questions. You have heard the Chairman himself indicate that this mission was certainly a very difficult one; that it was successfully completed as far as driving Milosevic's forces out of Kosovo and helping to return a million refugees as well as helping to bring peace and stability. We understand that there are still some flashpoints that we have to contend with. We are strengthening our capability of interrupting the flow of weapons that may be transported illegally. We are looking forward to UNMIK [United Nations Interim Mission in Kovoso] producing more police so that our troops don't have to engage in as many police enforcement activities. But over all we believe that the mission is being successfully carried out.

Q: How concerned are you about the Presevo Valley?

Sec Def: That is something that we are following very closely and we are taking other measures. We have another surveillance company that will join our forces to help make sure that we can look very closely at what is taking place in Presevo Valley.

Q: Are there any chances of the military technical agreement being changed by North Atlantic Council, with regard to Presevo Valley?

Sec Def: I have not heard of any proposals that have been presented that would result in that kind of a change.

Q: What is Mr. Milosevic doing to stir up trouble in Mitrovica; Is he behind of what is going on in Mitrovica?

Sec Def: I think Milosevic certainly will take advantage of any potential conflicts in the region. We have extremism on both sides. That is something that we are trying very hard to discourage as far as the ethnic Albanians, and at the same time not give Milosevic any kind of excuse to respond to that. So, that is the reason why we are working hard as we can to make sure that doesn't take place.

Q: Are weapons and people being smuggled in from the rest of Serbia into Kosovo?

Sec Def: There was an interruption of weapons and a significant cache of weaponry that was discovered about two weeks ago on April 14th. Prior to that time, of course, we have seen some insurgencies trying to take root. In both cases, KFOR was able to intercept the weapons and put down insurgencies without any significant casualties at all.

Q: Would you send troops into ground security zone if violence erupted in the Presevo Valley?

Sec Def.: I'm not going to say what we will do in the future. We believe we have sufficient forces in our sector. The Chairman can perhaps comment in terms of what more might be needed in the way of a request coming from SACEUR. But I think we have sufficient forces here in our sector.

Q: But you wouldn't rule it out?

Sec Def.: We don't discuss whatever options we have. We will take whatever measures are necessary to maintain peace and stability in our sector.

Shelton: The authority exists, if necessary, to use the authority -- the SACEUR has that authority already if he needs to do that to enforce the agreement under the MTA.

Q: Are there any indications about the case for reinforcement in the American sector in recent times?

Shelton: That is a decision that is made by the Commander of KFOR. Of course, there are currently additional forces in the American sector operating today, helping to secure some of the sites as well as being available for other missions that might be directed by our Commander here in the NMD East.

Q: (inaudible)

Sec Def.: We are hoping that we will provide the basis for the people of Kosovo to establish institutions that will make them self-governing. That there will be local elections held this fall. We want to see institutions built that will allow the people in Kosovo to function. That is our hope and that is why KFOR is here. We are hoping that as things stabilize more and more, that the UN and its mission can take over the major responsibilities in Kosovo. We cannot put a time table on that.

Q: This is General Clarke's last visit to Kosovo today. Any word on how he has performed his job?

Sec Def.: He has done an extraordinary job. General Clarke is one of our most brilliant officers. He undertook a mission that is perhaps one the most complicated and complex and carried it out successfully. As I mentioned in my remarks, this air campaign was the most successful in the history of warfare. We had over 38,000 sorties that were flown. We had only two planes that were shot down and no pilots lost. That is a record that is unparalleled in the history of warfare. So, General Clarke and his entire staff and subordinates and all who participated deserve great credit.

Q: Why is he leaving office, then?

Sec Def.: He is leaving because we have General Ralston who will become the new SACEUR. We are now replacing many of our CINCs throughout the world.

Q: It is not a reflection on his performance?

Sec Def: No reflection at all. He has done an outstanding job as the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Southern Command, and he did an outstanding job here as EUCOM Commander and also as SACEUR.