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Subject: Update on NATO IFOR civil-military operations in Bosnia

Presenters: General George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander Europe
May 03, 1996 12:00 PM EDT
Friday, May 3, 1996, 12:00 p.m.

(Also participating in this briefing is Mr. Kenneth Bacon, ASD/PA.)

Mr. Bacon: As you know General Joulwan is in town for the semi-annual CINCs conference and we twisted his arm to come down here and talk to you again about Bosnia. There is no better person to do it. General Joulwan.

General Joulwan: Thank you very much Ken. It is always a pleasure to see all of you again. My purpose this morning -- let me get right into it, is to give you an update on sort of where we are and where we are going. I know the last time we were here we went into some detail on ... as we approached 120. And I thought that what I'd do is try to bring you up-to-date with using a few slides, and then take some questions you might have.

I want to make it clear, a key point is, some very significant work that has been done and I want to try to show you that because the troops have been doing superbly. Not just in terms of separating the force and transfer of land and also getting weapons and forces back to cantonment areas, but there's been a lot of work done on roads, on bridges, to try to really open this country up to civilian agencies and to civilians. And I want to discuss that.

But first of all -- let me go to the next chart -- I think it is very important to say we are D-plus 135. And one of the other points that I want to make before we jump ahead to what's going to happen after D-plus 365, I think it is very important to keep our focus to where it is meant to be, and that is on the mission. And so at D-plus 135, the op plan, the operations plan that we developed has been approved by the North Atlantic Council, still in effect, is on track on the military task that we have been given. Next slide.

Let me explain it this way. That when you look at the series of tasks that we have been given over the last four plus months. I think it is very significant that what we have done here is to lay the foundation for success. And as those military tasks when we deployed the force during the toughest winter they have had in many years, the most difficult terrain in Europe. It was done extremely well. So we deployed the force and separated the force by four kilometers. The former warring factions by D-plus 30, transferred land at D-plus 45. The gaining entity came into that territory at D-plus 90. Separated the force out to 10 kilometers and started to turn in air defense weapons.

Now, D-plus 120 -- building on all of this -- forces are now moving back to cantonment areas with troops and with heavy weapons. That is going to take a little bit more time. But the majority of the movement has taken place and it is going to take probably about another 30 days before we have all the weapons and the forces back into the cantonment area. So separating the force, transfer of land, troops back into barracks, heavy weapons in storage areas, that opens up the country for the civilian agencies to begin to do their work and also for population centers, where elections are going to be held, also for freedom of movement for the civilians. So, there's where we are. The issue is, where do we go now? And I am trying -- in the best military advice that I have given --next chart please -- is to really look at the time between D-plus 120 and D-plus 270 which is September. And have our focus of attention now, as we do what I call Phase 4 of the op plan, transition to peace. And so that, what we want to do, during this time is to have all the former warring factions in the cantonment areas. The inner entity boundary line agreed upon and that inner entity boundary line does not become an international boundary or border.

Dayton really talked about two entities of one country, the Republic of Serbska, and the Federation are two entities of Bosnia - Herzegovina. And so, we don't want that to become international boundary. We are removing check point bunkers, OPs [observation posts]. But, we hope to have freedom of movement, as well as airports open. All the prisoners released, refugees can return during this time. The international tribunal hopefully will complete much of its inquiry; the international police task force up to full strength; arms control agreed upon, reconstruction up and running; the election campaign developed and operational; the federation established and functional; and we do our troop and task analysis. I'll talk some about that if you have questions. And try to say how do we now look at the new task that we have in this particular part of the operations plan.

Now, much of this is political and civilian tasks. But I think the under pinning of that is freedom of movement. And let me show what I mean. Next slide, please.

Now, this is where we are at D-plus 120. I think it's significant here because there has not been adequate focus on what has been accomplished by the military side while we were doing all those other tasks. The key, I think for success, is to have access throughout the country. Total freedom of movement. Notice there is no -- the confrontation line here is not an international boundary, one country. And I think it is very interesting what has been accomplished. We now have linked Bosnia-Herzegovina to Europe. We now have two fixed bridges and pontoon bridges across the Sava River.

That needs to be opened up now for not only IFOR and the civilian agencies but for civilian traffic as well. All these here are bridges that have been repaired or built. We -- and that number's at 51 -- bridges that have either been repaired or rebuilt in this first 120 days. That to me is a significant accomplishment.

All the roads -- the main roads -- are now open. Fifty percent of the rail line -- and I'll show you that -- fifty percent of the rail line is open. Indeed, General Nash has now started to move fuel by rail. And we hope to get the airports open, particularly Sarajevo by D-plus 180 which will be some time in June.

You should also know that NATO has authorized to date, $74 million for roads, bridges and engineer projects. Lieutenant General Walker, the ARRC commander has identified another, over 300 projects that tie into this freedom of movement. And so it's very significant and I think it's important that we can now, over 90 percent of population -- where you see these little yellow dots -- can be reached now by secure roads. We still have some mining problems here, but for the most part the major roads are open. That is going to be very important in this phase when we start talking about elections. Next slide.

And that, by the way, is part of the mission. I show you this because this is, photographs taken of bridges. Here, you can see, I believe by dough boy, the bridge that's down, here you see it being rebuilt. And there's some other examples of bridges that have been built by the military as they trying to open up the country for freedom of movement. I think it is very important that we have done over 50 of these. Armored launched bridges as well as bailey bridges and fixed bridges. But a significant expenditure of time, energy, money by the troops in getting this done. Next slide.

When we talk about support to the international tribunal, again, this has been significant, and there is very good coordination. When I talk about the guidance in terms of, within our capabilities, IFOR must do all those tasks that don't go away. Separation of forces, monitoring of the cantonment areas, freedom of movement throughout the whole country. And in addition, to that within our capabilities, we supporting the international tribunal.

Area security is very important. We provide that area security that they then go and do their investigation. We provide life support as well as liaison and a great of reconnaissance and surveillance of those sites. In the Srebrenica area, everywhere you see a star is where we have assisted the international tribunal in their efforts, also in the Prijedor areas and Brcko area. But these are the suspected and known mass grave sites. They have given us a priority of about 15, that we're working with. And they now have as I said a liaison officer with the Ace Rapid Reaction Corps. But constant communication and coordination is ongoing and it is working out extremely well. Next slide, please.

Now, one of the things that I wanted to make clear because there has been some speculation. On the guidance that I have received, some from the NAC, on what I call mission completion guidance. I think it is very important that the mission given to me by the 16 nations, was for one year. And so, that is through December 20th. I have said that we need to then maintain some capability -- and it's too early for me to say what that capability should be -- but sufficient capability to do our mission through that time. And so a mission capable IFOR will remain until that time. Also -- the instructions -- no substantial decrease in the IFOR force until D-plus 270 or after the elections.

And we hope the elections will be held within that time frame by September -- D- plus 270. And we that we can then, depending on all those conditions I talked about, will determine when we will begin the redeployment of the IFOR force. But it may begin -- I say may -- between D-plus 270 and 365. And then the redeployment may take some weeks after D-plus 365. The NATO force may take some time after that until we get all of the forces out.

But the key is, to keep a force in there. To make sure that we can do our mission straight up to that one year. And then -- this is what I talked about earlier -- we do what we call troop and task analysis. The first part, the first 120 days, to set the force, to separate the former warring factions, expand that to 10 kilometers, transfer of land, cantonment areas. We now will look at the different tasks that we are going to have in the D-plus 120 to the D- plus 270, particularly, focusing on freedom of movement for the election; and what does that mean.

And so there maybe some force mixed adjustments as particularly that the NATO and non-NATO nations, other than primarily the U.S., rotate forces in. And the commanders are now looking at what that force mix should be. Do we want more engineers, more the military units to come in and assist in these new tasks. And that's what -- this is not yet come in from the field but there will be no increase in the IFOR limits that we have talked about. It will be a change of mix depending on the mission.

I believe that is my last slide. I might add that we also are providing substantial support to the International Police Task Force. And I am happy to report that is about 1,300 of the 1,721 police force -- International Police Force is now present. And I hope by the June-July time frame that the total number will be provided by the nations that have pledged them.

So, I hope this is useful. This is sort of an update of where we are and I'll be glad to take any questions you might have.

Yes.

Q: How would you characterize the freedom of movement now? Are you satisfied with it or just have satisfied, disappointed or?

A: I would say that, given where we are right now, I think we have made substantial progress. What we have to do is, is to take the two entities and try to have some reconciliation between the two. I think that is going to be a challenge. But clearly Dayton says that you have one country, and the challenge is going to be along that inner entity boundary for freedom of movement to take place. I might add that I think what we have seen in the recent past where there have been large demonstrations coming down there at the inner entity boundary line. We have had some difficulties.

IFOR is trying to prevent violence and where they have come in small groups, there has been very relative little problem of getting one ethnic group to be able to cross over. We are trying to work with UNHCR right now. We are trying to coordinate that with a high representative, the International Police Task Force and the faction's police forces are also involved. There is a lot of discussions going on now on how to control it.

I think it is going to be very important that we keep insisting that freedom of movement take place. But, what we don't want is to have these violent clashes that large scale demonstrations can bring about.

Yes?

Q: Can you tell us what the progress is and what the problems are with the creation and consolidation of the Federation Army, given an army in training is positive on training the Federation Army, not the Muslims individuals?

A: Well, there is a great attempt being made in trying to bring about all different factors in the federation to include the military. It is too early to tell. But we are making some progress. And in fact, there has been a proposal to try to take one of the barracks that's in a questionable area and both sides to make that a federation barracks and perhaps they can have some sort of a minister of defense or some joint facility where both can use it.

We have much more work to do in that area. Again, it is much more political than it is military. But we are making slow progress in that area.

Q: General Joulwan, could you give us any assessment on how long do you think it's likely to be before you can certify its a going military concern that can be armed and trained?

A: I'll rather not give you a time on that right now. It is a challenge. The difference -- the high representative particularly is working that. And is working that with the IFOR commander as well.

Q: General, how many Iranians or other foreign forces remain in Bosnia?

A: Again, I can't give you a firm number. I will tell you that over 1,000 have left. We are still concerned about what may be there. We think it is less than what it has been in the past. But the number that are there still concern us. And we would like all of the foreign forces to be removed.

Q: Approximate?

A: I rather not give you an approximate number. But it is less than what it has been in the past?

Q: Just on the same point that when it comes to determining -- when it comes time to provide equipment particularly, heavy weapons and the training that the United States will be relying on your judgment that there has been substantial and satisfactory compliance with this provision that all the foreign fighters be removed from the country. Are you going to require that the very last Iranian or person from another county be, the very last one be out before you certify that or is there some leeway there?

A: I think is going to be what poses a threat to the IFOR forces. We would like to make sure that all foreign forces are removed in compliance with Dayton. It would not just be my recommendation. It is truly also a political issue as well. I have made it very clear that I think it is very important that we comply with Dayton, which is that all foreign forces be removed.

Yes?

Q: Well, just to be clear so you are saying that it wouldn't be necessarily have to be down to the last, certified that the last person has left? Or, I think you said what poses a threat to the forces.

A: Again, let me be clear. All foreign forces should be removed from Bosnia-Herzegovina. I am very much concerned that even small numbers can pose a threat. But I think it is very important to keep the pressure on that all foreign forces be removed.

Yes?

Q: Sir, a technical question. The Bosnia operation is afforded some opportunity to test some new war fighting technologies and equipment in particular as far as the communication go. And I thought that maybe you can just give me your assessment, how things like the current broadcast system has enhanced the operation?

A: Well, communications has played a key role on that. I am not sure whether I can get into what the new techniques we are using. We are using a lot of old techniques too, of making sure that we have proper communication for multi-national force. We've learned a lot of lessons in that communications is very important. And liaison is very important. But I'd rather not speculate on any new techniques.

Q: Yesterday, Hans Vondenbrook from the European Union said that if Mladic and Karadzic were still running around in Bosnia, by the time an election is held, that that election would be sham. Do you have progress report on where you think that issue stands? And do you agree with that assessment?

A: Well, first of all, those two individuals -- that truly is an issue for the signatories to the Dayton agreement to address. It is a political issue primarily. And I think those that have signed that the Dayton agreement need to make sure that the indicted war criminals are brought to justice.

That, to me it is not a function -- it is not a mission that the IFOR has been given. If we come in contact in the normal conduct of our military task, we will detain them and turn them over to proper authorities.

I think what the best thing we can do is focus on what I have said here. In creating those conditions between now and the first 270 days, the elections. And the elections to me are very important for the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think it would also get at those two individuals that you are talking about. That if a government can be elected by the people in a democratic fashion, then I think that will go a long way to creating stability within the country.

We in the IFOR are not going to get involved in chasing after those two individuals?

Yes?

Q: Is it your assessment that Bosnia, as a federation, and Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country, is a viable entity once the IFOR leaves.

A: I don't think it's premature for me to say that. I hope so. That is our whole goal. Is to try to ensure that the federation survives. I think that there is some positive signs lately. And I hope that we can continue that.

Yes?

Q: In your national hat can you live without land mines?

Q: I should believe it makes no difference if you wear your SACEUR hat (laughter).

A: I would say that we have given our input to the chairman and the chairman is making his recommendation to the National Command Authority.

Q: What is your view on it though as a four-star general?

A: It is complicated. You have a make sure that when you talk land mines, it is a broad category what you are talking about. And I think you need to -- it takes -- it is much more than just anti-personnel, dumb anti-personnel mines, smart ones, land mines, tank mines etc. And I think it is a very broad category. I would just say that we have been afforded the opportunity to make our recommendations known to the chairman. And the chairman will make his recommendation to the National Command Authority.

Q: How is the de-mining going? You've spoke in the past the importance of de-mining?

A: De-mining in Bosnia?

Q: Yes.

A: Of what we know, it's not going as fast as I would like. It is going to take a long time. I think we made some positive steps with the mine awareness center that we have established in Zagreb. The high representative has also established the center that we are working closely with. The European Union has allocated I think it is $750,000 for equipment. And so there is some movement, but it is going to take a long time.

We're trying to make sure that the roads are cleared. And try to avoid what occurred the other day where civilians in these large groups would spill over into mine fields. It is a great concern of ours. That's why the close coordination with the high commissioner for refugees is important.

Mr. Bacon: We only have to time for two more questions. I promised the general he could have lunch.

General Joulwan: He is being kind to me now.

Q: What can you tell us about this incident yesterday where a soldier apparently shot himself? And also more generally are you concerned at all about morale?

A: I think morale has been very good so far. And I have been down there several times. And I have talked to a lot of the troops from many of the nations. Remember that we have about 30 nations with us now. I think the clarity of mission, and that's why I want to keep this in front of us. That's what I have talked about here. How do we make this transition, is important.

The individual you talked about is still being investigated and I hope to have some more information.

Q: Do you know if it's a suicide or not?

A: We don't know yet. We'll try to get some information as it becomes available. I have been sort of out of the net for the last several hours; but it's being investigated. But let me tell you that the troop morale is extremely high. I have been very, very pleased when I've talked to the troops how much they understand their mission. And this is a difficult, complex mission. As we try to make this transition I am talking about, it is very much so to keep the focus on mission. Not mission creep, but mission. And that's what I am trying to do. And how you work in freedom of movement into that is part of the mission. And that's the point I've been trying to make. And if the soldiers understand that and the leaders understand that, then we are in pretty good shape.

My concern has always been, and I have been around soldiers for 35 years, is soldier complacency. We cannot allowed that to set in and therefore it is very important that we make it very clear what the mission is and what we expect the troops to do. And they are doing a wonderful job.

Q: General, I know that you don't like us to talk about D-plus 366, but no briefing would be complete if we didn't ask you about what is going to happen afterwards. To what extent can you tell us, has there been any discussions. planning for any kind of a post-IFOR force.

A: Well, there is always some discussions going on. But clearly what I have tried -- and I have probably haven't done a good job here -- is to try to explain that will determine what happens between 270 and 365, is what we do now.

How do we create the best conditions to give us the opportunity after the election -- between 270 and 365 -- to then make some ... to understand what that mission is going to be. But if we can concentrate on the elections now and making sure that, that can take place. I believe that will influence what we do later on.

Q: Can you foresee a scenario where there might be some NATO troops in Bosnia next year? Not necessarily U.S., but NATO troops?

A: I am not going to speculate on that. That will be a political as well as a military question. The mission I have is for one year. And that is what I need to focus on.

Q: Can I talk you for a moment about the importance of refugee return?

A: Yes.

Q: As one of your criteria? Given the hostility with which the first refugee returns have been treated, do you foresee IFOR having to provide area security in population centers where refugees are going back?

A: We're working that very hard with UNHCR. Because that's going to be -- they are responsible for trying to estimate what is coming back and what is going to happen. The British by the way, have submitted a very good paper in the council on refugees and how to approach what it is we are trying to do. And we working that very closely. But I think the coordination that takes place between IFOR and UNHR and the high representative is going be very important.

We are trying to do that now. Therefore, what roads to use, how they are going to come in, what coordination needs to take place, how do we take advantage of the joint civilian commissions to be able to say who are you bringing, when are you bringing them in. To try to get the coordination between the entities. And let's be clear. It's only been 130 days here. So, I think we've got to continue to work to build as much as we can through trust and confidence among ethnic groups that have been fighting one another for several years.

Q: General, you said, when you left here last, that aside from rebuilding bridges and roads and that kind of thing, that you might if you had the opportunity to help with schools and that kind of thing. What else are you doing to rebuild the country? The military doing ---

A: That is being looked at and let me, I will use my phrase, “within our capabilities.” I have to give flexibility to the commanders on the ground, as they look at that challenge they have, monitoring cantonment areas for example. What we have to make sure is that the former warring factions not only return to barracks with their troops and their weapons, but they stay there.

And so, I'd rather let the commanders on the ground have the flexibility to say, what do they need to ensure that they can do their military task. And within that capability, to provide whatever assistance they can to the civilian agencies. But I think we have to be very careful there, because I do not want them to lose their focus on their primary military mission.

Yes?

Q: Besides whether are not elections what else are you going to look at as D-plus 270 and after that D-plus 270 to 365 ...

A: Well, many of the things that I talked about here that hopefully, the key would be the election. But I think but we are also hoping for is that there is -- the International Police Task Force will be up and running. And I think it is very important as I said that they train the former warring factions police force so that there is some law and order that will be involved in the country. And I think it is going to be very important. And that's why I put it up there.

We have for example 14 civil affairs reservists, military reservists working with the International Police Task Force now. There is a training center, training that the International Police Task Force and also federation and other former warring factions police. That needs to take place and we hope that by 270 we will be well on the way.

It's those conditions that will underpin what we are going to face at 270 to 365 and it is premature to make those decisions now. What I want to do is to keep our head in the game and keep our focus clear here of what it is we need to do now. I don't want to leap ahead. It is very important for the troops to understand that. And I am trying to be clear.

Thank you.

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