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Gen. G. A. Joulwan, USA, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe - Sept. 18, 1996

Presenters: Gen. George A. Joulwan, USA, Supreme Allied Commander,
September 19, 1996 2:00 PM EDT

Wednesday, September 18, 1996 - 2p.m.

General Joulwan: Thank you very much and I would like to just say few remarks and then answer whatever questions you might have.

I think at the outset, we have just gone through I think a very historic election in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And for those of us who watched this theater for some time, for me it is very important to go back a year from today, September 1995. We were counting out bombing operations in Bosnia. There had been in the previous months the fall of Zepa and Srebrenica. We had the marketplace shelling which killed innocent civilians in the end of August and then we began an air operation with the approval of the North Atlantic Council.

So, within that year to me, it is very remarkable what IFOR has done, what the international community has done in the Dayton Peace Agreement that was reached. Bosnian Implementation Force was deployed in December and in the last five months has separated the forces, transferred land, taken weapons and put them by the warring factions into storage areas. They are now being monitored and demobilize the force and we now just have elections.

So, quite a bit has done. And as we look back on this year, I think it is important to recognize all of that. And who would have think we would have come this far. And if I may transition to use --no, I know I should have done it my self -- that one. I wanted to use this because I think it is important. This is the concept of operation to Operation Joint Endeavor. I have used with you before to sort of show you where we are. In December, we trained the force, identified it, and deployed it. And in January the Implementation Force entered Bosnia-Herzegovina, took command of the feeder. And I think set the right tone for compliance by the former warring fractions.

Then we went into an implementation phase up to about April, or D-plus 120 days and at that time we separated the forces by 4 and 10 kilometers. And as I mentioned, moved -- have them moved their heavy weapons into storage areas which we are now monitoring and also demobilized their forces.

We then got into this very, which I thought, challenging phase for our military force. How do you transition the peace, how to continue to execute these tasks, and try to assist within your capability the civilian organizations, the high representative, the high commissioner for refugees, the OSCE, and elections etc.

But that's what we are trying to do and to stay within mission. And as you remember -- can I just flip that top one around -- I laid these out for you on the last time we talked, and I said these are the conditions we will need for success. And I mentioned all of this because this was our focus for the implementation force from about April to the elections that were held on D-plus 270 or 14 September. And we concentrated on all of these. Some were accomplished completely, some not to the degree we would like, but the key is we concentrated on all of these as we tried to stay within this mission of supporting task and still carry out our primary military task.

As a result of that I think, we have seen the elections take place. I would particularly point out the great work being done by OSCE and the assistance we have given to OSCE to help them manage the great logistics burden that the elections brought to bear. And as a result of that we have had an election. The free and fairness of it will be determined by international agencies and truly by the people themselves. But I think IFOR's role in all of that has been significant.

Let me, if I can, to show you one of the things that we did which was extremely intensive in sense of manpower. These voter routes agreed by the parties, the three parties, the interior ministers, and we were able to open up these roads across the international or the inter-entity boundary lines for people to cross. There was freedom of movement for individuals over the last several months. This was to go back to their home villages which has been a point of contention. This was the beginning and we hope we can build on this and the parties themselves will realize that people can go back to their homes where they once lived. That is going to take time. Here was an example how IFOR could help in working with the International Peace Task Force and the parties themselves to allow freedom of movement across the inter- entity boundary line.

And finally, let me conclude and then I will take your questions. When we now look to the future, here the elections that were held, I have been told that there will be a decision made on whether municipal elections will be held. When that decision is made, we will get a date. One of the options being looked at is that it will be held this year before the end of the mandate for me which is 20 December 1996. When this date is given my recommendation is going to be that we have limited force reduction until that date. Because it has taken a great deal of effort by IFOR to be able to provide a secure environment for the national elections. Every indication is that the municipal elections, where we're going to have again 4, 000, 4,500 polling places. Many more people returning to vote. It will be probably done in very adverse weather conditions. For all of those reasons, our initial estimate by our troop -- our commanders on the ground is that we need to maintain our current capabilities.

Once those elections are held, the intent is to begin force reductions to exactly what I told you a few months ago. So where we going to have a capable force and I am not sure what that capable force will be, but our mission goes through the 20th. And we will maintain a capable force to carry out our mission and then as I said the last time we spoke, that force will be withdrawn over the next several weeks following the 20th of December.

But that is what it is going to look like. Limited reductions. At least that's my recommendation until municipal elections and then more force reductions and maintaining a capable force throughout our mission time which is the 20th of December. So this is sort of a background I would like to give you and I will be glad to take any questions that you might have at this time.

Q: General, Secretary Christopher today praised the results of the elections saying that was a triumphant for democracy, but he also said again -- conceded again, if you will -- that there's a need for an international presence there beyond the election. In fact, into next year, although he doesn't say what that is? Volker Ruhe said today, in Bosnia, that there will be a need for a force, a military force after IFOR, and Germany wants to take part in it. Portillo has said virtually said the same thing. Will -- is there going to be a need for a military force there and have you made any decision on it?

A: Well, that decision will be taken by our political authorities. And there will be I think intense discussion and debate on that and that decision once it's reached, will be conveyed to me and we will be -- we will take whatever action is required. But the political decision has not yet been made.

Q: But certainly, if it were up to you, to you for a recommendation, and what does it look like now?

A: Well, again, it's premature because what needs to happen here, we have to see the results of this election. What happens in this period, you have to make an assessment. In fact, we have to make an assessment in order to say what is a capable force. So, what I am trying to say, I think it is premature to start giving numbers, even for the end of our mission. We are trying to do that in a very professional way, but we have to see the results of the national elections, the institutions that are going to be built, any reactions by any of the entities to the decisions, all of that needs to be factored in. And so, to be very candid and very clear, I have told the commanders, you focus on the next three months. Don't start wandering away to talk about what is going next June. We have no political guidance for next year.

I am very much concerned about the next three months and the command is going to focus on the next three months which will be a very difficult tense times within Bosnia.

Q: But General, isn't it true that military planning is going on for a possible follow-on mission ? And isn't it time to -- I know you keep saying it is premature, but isn't it time to 'fess' up with the U.S. and tell the American people that there is a very strong likelihood that U.S troops will be on the ground in Bosnia next year as part of a follow-on mission?

A: It is premature to say that. There is no political decision. There is no political guidance to say that, so it will be premature for me to say it. Yes?

Q: But what you can say is that, that if there is a follow-on mission, as others have said, United States will have to be part of that. Will you deny it?

A: That again is a decision that our political authorities here in the United States must make. What I have been given in the mandate I got from North Atlantic Council, is a one-year mandate that ends on 20 December 1996. That is where my focus is. That is where our attention is right now and I have to make sure the troops don't get confused by the rhetoric. The guidance I have been given is clear, and we are going to focus on our mission between now and the 20 December. Yeah?

Q: Is it possible that something can awry with these municipal elections and that your mission won't be complete on December 20th?

A: We are going to have to see. But I would tell you that the mission that we have right now, goes through 20 December. But you are very right to say that many things could happen to include through the municipal elections. So, it is to me prudent to focus on the here and now. And I think it is important for our troops to understand that we still have three months remaining in our mandated mission. And that's where I have been focusing their attention. And I think it is extremely important for them to do so as you have asked.

Q: Is the reason that you won't concede the need for follow-on force politically driven?

A: No, I think that what we have to remember is, but I think what we have been thought is that there will be some international structure that would be there after our twelve months. What that will be, how that will be, what the context of that will be, that is up to the international community to say what that is going to be. And once we get that guidance then we can get some recommendations on it.

Q: On your Concepts of Operations chart under the final phase 5, one of the items is, "hand over residual commitments to civilian organizations?”

A: Right. That is what I am trying to say. We always had a thought that something would remain in Bosnia. The civilian side must continue the reconstruction. All of that have to continue for some time to come.

Q: I am not sure I understand what "residual commitments" means though?

A: Well, part of that has to do with reconstruction, and the rehabilitation of the country. And that is what is going to be taken up by civilian organization, UNHCR, OSCE, The World Bank and other institutions like that. Yes?

Q: General, how confident are you that on December 20th, the mission will be completed satisfactorily?

A: Well, right now, that is the instructions we have been given. And I think that we will do the best we can do to create the conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. To maximize our time there. And I think we have got some challenges in the post election period to be able to provide a secure environment for the new government to take hold, for the institutions to develop and to give some time for this new government in this new country to function. We will do that.

Q: General, the troops are will be coming in from Germany that will be part of that covering force for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops. Could they form the spearhead of a follow-on force if that decision were to be made?

A: That is a speculative question, I don't want to get into. I will tell you they are coming in because of a very good reason. And that is to cover the redeployment of our forces. So we have troops that are focused on one mission at a time. One force is going to withdraw and the other is going to cover that withdrawal. Yes?

Q: What I just needed clarify the priorities, you said that you recommended limited reductions until the municipal election. Once the mission ends, what happen if the elections are not -- I think that's what Suzanne was getting at. What if the elections don't happen by the 20th, what do you do? Do you register (inaudible)?

A: That's why we need a decision. If they are going to be held at some other time, then I need to know that. I am assuming that the initial discussions that they are going to be held this year, I have to plan for that. If they are not held here, we will then make another decision.

Q: You don't have political guidance at this point to decide that for next year?

A: Yes.

Q: Is that -- are you talking because of -- there isn't a presidential election and [inaudible] your political guidance?

A: I am talking about the North Atlantic Council, NATO. Yes?

Q: There's sort of that empty delta there about the draw down of the capable force to the removal.

A: Yes.

Q: Just in general, once you are able to take that force out, what time line are you looking for in terms of...?

A: Again, it depends on what that capable force looks like. But I have said the last time here, several weeks, I would say what I didn't last time was the possibility of this. I think was will skew us a little bit to the right, and I think we will have several weeks before we get the force out.

Yes?

Q: Is it your opinion that Bosnia can be secure without a follow-on force?

A: I am not sure, you mean . . .

Q: Do you think it can be stabilized enough for them to be on their own without a follow-on force?

A: Let's see what happens as a result of these elections. If we get some feeling of how the elections, the post-election period will be, I think we will be able to answer that question better. Yes?

Q: If this force is withdrawn and if there is a decision in the future to have some future force would it be a completely separate force from this? Would all these troops and then the new force come in? Or is it any possibility that this IFOR mission could be extended?

A: My instructions that I have right now is that the IFOR mission under the Dayton goes to the 20th December 1996. I think then what would have to happen is that the international community will have to express its will and from that determine what, if any, what follow-on force would be and it what it would consisted of? Yes?

Q: General, could you explain why it was deemed necessary to change the commander of IFOR for a third time this year?

A: Well, what we are doing in trying to bring in another headquarters, is for the same reason that we mentioned our covering force. I think it is very important that in a redeployment that a headquarters doesn't try to cover its own movement out. So, for those reasons we are bringing in a headquarters that can focus on the redeployment. And what we intend to do, is that bring that in which was approved today by the North Atlantic Council and it will be part of the Allied Forces Central Europe, Central, LANDCENT as we call it. And we will form a headquarters around that. That will come in on the October time frame and cover the withdrawal of both AFSOUTH and the ARRC. It will take over the headquarters responsibilities and for however long it takes to redeploy the force.

Q: Where will it be? Is that Sarajevo?

A: It will be in Sarajevo. Yes?

Q: Putting on your U.S. hat again. The Bosnia mission obviously has been somewhat unconventional for the Army -- U.S. Army. I thought maybe you would just sort of give me your opinion on how it's transformed the Army, and how...?

A: Well, let me just give you my personal opinion. We have approached this has missions of missions and operations of operations. We use our doctrine and we use our proven techniques for this operation as we did for -- as we do for any other.

I think it is important here, on the U.S. side and also for many of the other nations. We it talked about training the force. We train this force very hard for this operation. And we use our doctrine. And we did our troop to task missions and therefore, our soldiers I feel are very well-trained and informed on what to expect. And so when we talk about these sort of operations that were in, I think the doctrine applies and as a result of that, our soldiers are aware of what is expected of them. So they are well- trained and ready for the mission at hand. Yes.

Q: General, do you see any trend at all that these people are willing to live in peace now?

A: Again, that's part of this assessment.

Q: To date, even with elections to date, do you see any trend at with these people?

A: My feeling when I talk to many of these people is that they are tired of war. Many of them do want to live together. At least let's -- there is some hope. And let us not pre-judge too much. The fact that we did have people cross over to vote in thousands was a good sign. And it did have an impact on the outcome of the election. I think -- let us wait to see, step by step what's going to happen in the municipal election. Ambassador Frowick and others in OSCE have done great work in trying to create these conditions between here, a new government will be formed. Let's see what those institutions look like. I must try, to try -- rather than pre-judge, is try to assist in help them along this path. To try to create one country called Bosnia- Herzegovina.

And I think -- let's see what happens. If there can be some economic developments with this, as well as political development, what we could do, I think our troops can feel very proud of is that we have created an environment for this election to take place. Now I would hope that the parties themselves, who are the ultimate responsibility here, will find a way to work together for the betterment of all those people.

Q: Can you tell us some of the tasks that haven't quite been able to be checked off yet? Specifically, for instance the question of armed controls, getting a better balance of arms, that seems like something that is not going to be resolved by the time you leave in December?

A: As I said some of those are the tasks that will go on even in Dayton will go on for much longer. So those institutions, the Vienna Group, the OSCE Group and Ambassador Eide, will continue for some time to come. And the mechanism for all of that are being worked now. But I share you concern on arms control. I think it is something that needs to happen. There should be a build down of forces, there are too many arms, too many heavy weapons. But that is part of this dialogue that I think has to go on these residual tasks that must be accomplished by civilian agencies. Yes?

Q: What do you see in the next three months has the biggest challenge to IFOR. You mentioned there were quite a few left?

A: My biggest concern all the time is soldier complacency. That they keep their focus on the mission. That's why I don't want to look too far ahead up to our soldiers. They must focus on the mission. This is a very delicate time. We are getting into some bad weather and this is a very delicate time. With municipal elections coming up, we going -- again, 4,500 polling places and I think that they have to keep maintaining their focus on the mission. And as we bring these rotation of forces, and I might add to some of the nations, the journalists from other nations back there how appreciative we are of the contributions that are being made by over 30 nations. Many of them from your countries that have joined us in this effort. We are very pleased to have Russia joined us for example, the Ukraine and others that have joined us in this operation. And that's very much, very much appreciated.

Q: General, in the past week a big issue has been force protection.

A: Yes.

Q: [inaudible] the criticism contained in General Downing's report.

A: Yes.

Q: You have been able to maintain our mission without having any great problems such as occurred in Saudi Arabia. Can you tell us why you think that is, because some of the suggestions in that report were troubling. That it not was just one service but almost military wide that there wasn't enough attention being paid to the issue?

A: Well, it is so difficult I don't want to comment on other command's region, but what we have done force protection for all of us in the military is a key issue. In Bosnia we have made it a multinational issue and it has been high on our priority. And it is part of our commander's guidance and we watch it all the time. The challenges when you are dealing with 30 plus nations to try to instill the sense of urgency in what you are doing. We try to do it through our intelligence channels as well as through our command channels to make sure we have the best information possible. And we are working that all the time. Yes.

Q: General, on the Condition for Success Chart, under armed controls, return of refugees is listed there, I wonder if that is something you thought would further along that it is?

A: Again, I think if I can, as I said, in this phase it was a very delicate phase because what we were doing was going from purely military task to what Dayton calls to Annex 1A Supporting Task within our capabilities. And that's what we are trying to do. For the return of refugees for example, we coordinated with UNHCR, they're principal civilian organization responsible just like OSCE for elections. And so what we try to do was work with them. They had for example four pilot programs, four villages they were trying to get some sort of ethnic mix if you want to call that within the villages. And we are trying to provide a secure environment for that to happen.

They ran -- which I thought was a very good effort -- buses across the inter-entity boundary line. And we try to assist there to provide a secure environment for that to take place. And that was extremely successful. Not just for the elections but for the months leading up to the elections. Step by step these are to me very real accomplishments that who would have thought a year ago, we would be at this stage now. Clearly, much more have to be done, but clearly much has been done. And there is an opportunity here for a better life with the people of Bosnia- Herzegovina. And I am very proud that IFOR had a role to play in doing that.

Q: Have you proved the critics wrong?

A: I think what we have done so far is to demonstrate the flexibility of the NATO alliance. We have demonstrated that there is political will, and political cohesion and solidarity within the alliance. That they have committed forces and resources to try to help a very troubled region of Europe. We still have three months to go on our mandate and we are going to focus on that and then let history record how we did. I am very proud of the troops and if you would tell the families and the mothers and fathers here in the United States that their sacrifice is very much appreciated by me and that their sons and daughters are doing great work to bring peace to Bosnia- Herzegovina.

Q: General, let me just make one thing clear, you said that you would recommend an adequate force . . .

A: A capable force.

Q: A capable force remain there through the municipal elections. Is that election close to January or February that would still be [inaudible]

A: No, no, no. Let me be clear. No. That's not what I said. I said if the elections are going to be taken place between now and the end of our mandate, which I have been told may occur in November for the municipal elections. I haven't any firm date, then I would have to plan for limited reductions here. What I told you the last time is that this would be steeper curve. But if there is going to be municipal elections between now and the end of our mandate, I would -- my recommendations would be that the draw down be limited. So, I am only talking between now and the 20th of December.

Thank you all for your time and effort. Thank you for your support of the troops. And as always it's one team, one mission.

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