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DoD News Briefing - Future of U.S. Forces in the Balkans - Nov. 15, 1996

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and General John M. Shalikashvili, Chairman, JCS
November 15, 1996 1:45 PM EDT
Friday, Nov. 15, 1996 - 1:45 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili will begin with statements, and then they will take your questions. Secretary Perry?

Secretary Perry: I'd like to start off today with a brief history lesson.

It was just 18 months ago that the Bosnian Serb army entered Srebrenica. That resulted in thousands of deaths and unspeakable atrocities. This outraged the world. It led in a few months time to the massive NATO bombing attack, which in turn led directly to Dayton. So one year ago we had an agreement, a peace agreement, the Dayton Agreement, and we were preparing to implement that agreement with the implementation force, the NATO implementation force, called IFOR.

I still have vivid recollection of the discussion, the debate, and the controversy at that time, much of which was characterized by forecasts of doom that NATO would be confronted with major armed resistance; that they would face a fierce, Bosnian Serb army; they would have fierce terrorist attacks; they would be unable to cope with the mines; we would not be able to get the warring forces to go into the cantonments as called for in the agreement. All of these led to forecasts, literally at the time, of thousands of casualties a week. None of this happened, so it's instructive to ask, "Why not?".

First of all, most importantly, we had a clear, achievable mission. The mission for IFOR was written into the Dayton Agreement. It was a military annex to the Dayton Agreement. And I and General Shalikashvili and other members of the Defense Department, largely wrote that military annex. We had a solid plan of execution. General Joulwan and his staff at NATO did a magnificent job of putting that plan of execution together. We had, I'm confident to say, brilliant military leadership -- Admiral Smith, Admiral Lopez, now General Crouch, and of course General Nash, the American division commander, 1st Armored Division.

We had superlative training. A month before our forces went in there, they all went down for a special refresher training at the training ranges in Germany. I went down to see them in this training process, along with General Joulwan. As I was marveling at the fidelity and the rigor of the training, General Joulwan told me something I'll always remember. He said, "We believe it's important to make the scrimmage tougher than the game."

And we had a powerful force. IFOR was a powerful force, sized to be strong enough not just to do its mission, but to intimidate any potential opposition. And they had robust rules of engagement. At the time I said IFOR would be the biggest and the toughest and the meanest dog in town. That was said in a facetious way, but it was quite meaningful. We deliberately sized that force, equipped that force, and gave them the kinds of rules of engagement that nobody would want to take them on.

As a result of that, we have successfully achieved every aspect of the military annex and the Dayton Agreement. We have, in effect, completed the task that was called for in IFOR, and we've done it with remarkably high success and remarkably few casualties. In fact the 1st Armored Division units that are down there, that have been in Bosnia all this time, have had fewer casualties in their period in Bosnia than they had in a comparable period last year when they were based in Germany.

Let me just remind you of what these achievements are. I'm not going to cover these for you one at a time, but it's worth looking at the list. These were all specific requirements of the military annex of the Dayton Agreement. Some of them daunting tasks. Forming the demilitarized zone, the zone of separation; forcing the warring factions to move their armies and their heavy weapons back into cantonments; transferring hundreds of square miles of territory; forcing the withdrawal of foreign forces. Each one of these tasks could have been a difficult problem. Each one of them could have been a real barrier to success. All of them have been accomplished. And at the same time these were being done, the forces were providing a generally secure environment so that other civilian tasks could go on -- the election, reconstruction, freedom of movement. All of these were going on to provide the environment in which other tasks could be accomplished.

There were some, perhaps, surprising, unexpected results from this operation. There was a revitalization of NATO as a result of this activity. We developed truly effective cooperation between NATO and Russia. And by the opening of this operation, IFOR, to the Partnership for Peace partners, we revitalized the Partnership for Peace as well. In fact, there are more partner nations participating in IFOR than NATO nations. So all of these very important tasks, relating to the general security of Europe, were also achieved by NATO.

If IFOR was such a huge success, why is it we don't just fold up and go home after 12 months as we said we would do? I think that's a very fair question.

The answer to that question is that while we have, indeed, achieved all of these stated objectives, the civil functions which were proceeding in parallel with them -- the economic reconstruction, the political reconciliation, bringing up the international police force, the arms control -- these have moved very slowly, and some not at all. Therefore, the conditions for peace still do not exist in Bosnia, and there's still the danger that if our forces were to leave Bosnia next month, that the war would resume, having thereby lost the very great benefits we got by going in with IFOR in the first place.

We're facing, therefore, a paradoxical situation. Putting it in simple terms, the operation was a success, but the patient is still in danger of dying. That is to say, the peacekeeping operation, this implementation force, was hugely successful. But notwithstanding that, there is still a danger of the war resuming if we were to leave now.

What do I mean when I say danger of the war resuming? Do I believe that if IFOR were to leave next month that the warring factions would mobilize and start a war again? No, I do not believe that.

The actions that have been taken in the last year have been very effective in curtailing that kind of a threat. But I do recognize because these civil tasks are still unfilled, there is a fertile breeding ground for violence, for localized conflicts, which could escalate, get out of control, and lead to a general war.

What are these breeding grounds? It's the refugee resettlement, municipal elections not yet conducted -- almost none of the refugee resettlement has been done to this point, determining a final agreement on Brcko has yet to be implemented, the federation still not achieved political stability. Our concern then is that without the military presence, there would be hot spots all over Bosnia -- any one of which could spin out of control and escalate to a general war.

Therefore, we believe it is necessary to maintain a stabilization force in Bosnia for a longer period of time to prevent that from happening.

Let me describe to you what the mission of this stabilization force would be, and then turn to General Shali to describe the tasks and how they're going to implement the force.

The next to charts I think lay this out. I have listed on these two charts a summary of the tasks that were undertaken by IFOR. These are the specific tasks that are spelled out in the Dayton Agreement, and these are more general tasks -- deterring resumption of hostilities, maintaining a secure environment, providing selective support to the civil implementation. All of these tasks have been undertaken by IFOR in the almost year that we've been there.

I have organized them in two different columns. The first, which I call implementation tasks. Those tasks have been completed. The second, the more general tasks, the stabilization tasks, need to continue.

So if you look for a breakout of tasks of IFOR, you have to look at both of these charts to see what IFOR was doing. Now when you go to the follow-on force, which I call the stabilization force, these are done. They only have to do, now, this set of tasks. When I say they only have to do that, I do not want to minimize the difficulty of carrying out these tasks. I'm just pointing out that a whole set of the tasks are all done. Therefore, we conclude that the IFOR mission has been successfully completed as represented by those tasks, but a new mission must be created which I'm referring to as the stabilization force. This force can be and will be smaller than the implementation force because it has fewer tasks, different tasks. This force will be done with different military leadership, and it will be done with different soldiers. Indeed, all of the soldiers -- all of our soldiers that went into Bosnia a year ago, December and early January, will be returned to their bases by December 20th as we told them when we sent them there.

So the stabilization force will be a different mission, different soldiers, different leadership. It will have the same command structure. It will still be under NATO command and control, commanded by an American general.

With that background, let me turn it over to General Shali to describe to you how we're going to organize and structure the stabilization force, SFOR. Then both he and I will be available to answer your questions.

General Shalikashvili: We are now about to approach this new operation whose mission will be to deter a resumption of hostilities, and to stabilize the security environment in order to facilitate the civilian implementation process. As we do so, and as Secretary Perry already alluded to it, it's important that we understand what made IFOR so successful.

There was a clear mission, very specific tasks that had to be accomplished -- shown here on the left chart, and you see the very specific tasks to be accomplished for the new mission shown on the right chart. It was very robust rules of engagement that allowed you not only to ensure the protection of our soldiers, but also that allowed you to get the job done. A very clear, straightforward NATO chain of command. Finally, success results are due to the exceptional men and women from all the nations that supplied forces to IFOR. I, of course, am particularly proud of the role our American men and women in uniform played in that operation because I remember time and again how their cool professionalism diffused situations, that had they not been there and had they not acted as professionally as they did, it could very well have escalated into something that would not have been so easy to control.

So this new mission that we are about to embark upon will have a clear chain of command, NATO chain of command, clear rules of engagement, very robust rules of engagement, will have all that which made IFOR successful, but it will be a smaller force. It will consist of some 31,000 personnel from NATO and non-NATO nations that make up this operation, and some 5,000 of those stationed outside of Bosnia at the Ready Reserve. The contribution made by the United States to this force will be 8,500 personnel stationed inside Bosnia.

It is envisioned that after approximately one year we will be able to replace this 31,000 force by a yet smaller force with an even narrower mission, the mission of deterrence. That particular operation would consist of some 13,500 military personnel stationed in Bosnia with an additional 9,000 stationed outside as a Ready Reaction force, ready to move in. We, in turn, the United States, would contribute approximately 5,500 personnel to that operation.

We will ensure that approximately every six months we conduct assessments of what is ongoing in Bosnia, and based upon those assessments, make the judgment whether we continue on a proper glide path, and whether the situation is right so in fact we can transition by late fall next year from that force of approximately 31,000 to that smaller force of approximately 13,500. With a goal of withdrawing our forces from Bosnia approximately June of 1998.

The next chart will show you a summary of the force levels. First for IFOR and then for the two stabilization forces that I've just talked about. The first one of some 31,000 that would stay there until the late fall of 1997. Then the smaller one that would replace it that would stay until June/July of 1998. Shown on the chart as well are the U.S. contributions to these forces.

With that, let me turn it back to Secretary Perry, and whatever additional remarks he might wish to make, and then we'll be ready to answer your questions.

Secretary Perry: We have described to you how the new military mission, the stabilization force, would be achieved. What its mission would be, what its task would be, what its force structure and chain of command would be. By the end of this mission, this SFOR mission, we hope to see a military balance in Bosnia, to see municipal elections conducted, to see more progress on political reconciliation and economic reconstruction.

I mention those points because the NATO force, SFOR, cannot by itself bring peace to Bosnia. It requires a joint military/civil action. The principal role of the military action in SFOR, this follow-on force, is to provide the secure environment which allows these civilian organizations to accomplish these other missions. We expect our allies to provide more resources to carry out those civil missions. We expect the Bosnians themselves to take more responsibility for rebuilding their country's institution. And we expect all of this civilian activity, these civilian functions, to be accelerated during 1997 so that they operate at a much higher level than they did during '96.

With that, with this combined civil/military action, then we expect to see the real basis for making peace in Bosnia.

With those comments, General Shali and I will be available to take questions.

Q: Dr. Perry, given the centuries of hatred in that country and the fact that months have gone by now since the forces have been separated and you've had the weapons in cantonment, what gives you any confidence at all that reconstruction and political reconciliation can be achieved in Bosnia by mid 1998?

Secretary Perry: There has been, as I've said, the progress has been much slower than we had hoped and had expected, but there has been progress. The last time I was in Bosnia, I flew over much of the country, as well as driving through several of the major cities. It was encouraging to see the reconstruction that was already underway -- not necessarily by government or official organizations, but the people rebuilding their own homes and their own businesses. It was encouraging to see the small businesses that were starting up. So a lot is already happening, but much more needs to be, and it's up to the civil organizations involved here to try to jump start some of these other activities to get them going with a higher level of...

I think the key to all of this, Charlie, is a real acceleration in the economic reconstruction. Economic reconstruction goes through the country -- not just in sectors of the country -- to first of all provide a reason for Bosnians to work and to travel throughout the country, and to provide a reason for hope in the future, a reason for wanting to maintain the peace.

The employment rate in Bosnia now, I don't think these figures can be taken too seriously, but they are quoted by people who think they understand it. The employment rate is 10 percent. That's not the unemployment rate, that's the employment rate is 10 percent. Now that doesn't capture all of the private business that's going on, but that gives you a flavor for what needs to be done, the size of the task that's ahead of the economic reconstruction effort.

If we can make real progress in that area, and that I do have confidence can be done, then that becomes the solid foundation for all of the other changes, the political changes, the social justice changes, all the other changes that need to be done.

Q: Mr. Secretary and General Shali, can you or can someone soon give us a definitive breakdown as to when the 8,500 U.S. troops will arrive in country, when the rest of the 31,000, what units will be involved, who the military commander, U.S. general will be?

General Shalikashvili: I think the commander on the ground will remain to be General Crouch. However, as far as the remainder of the specific units are concerned, I think we're still a little ways off before European Command is formally given this mission, once it is approved, and they're able to develop the troop list. We will, of course, provide it to you as soon as we have it, but I think it's a little while off yet.

Secretary Perry: One clarifying point. We're describing to you a U.S. decision today. NATO still has yet to meet and come to a final decision. That will presumably happen in the next week or so. When that is done, then this detailed planning will take place.

Q: You mentioned that you're not prepared to identify specific units, but you mentioned this will be a continuing European Command mission, so you would expect the SFOR to be made up of European-based troops?

General Shalikashvili: No. I said that European Command will be responsible for drawing up the troop list but they, in turn, will be drawing on forces in the United States and perhaps others, and will come to us with assistance where they cannot fill that. So I wouldn't draw that conclusion at all, that they all come from Europe.

Q: Would you expect the IFOR troops that are pulling out to be redeployed at some point in the future, since this is going to go on at least another 18 months?

General Shalikashvili: Again, it's much too early to say that. We will have to see at what point, in fact, we will be able to draw down and what kind of forces we will need to have then. I think it would be wrong for me now to speculate on these kinds of details.

Q: Clearly IFOR was as successful as it was because of its size and its strength. That was one of the big points you emphasized at the very beginning. Why are you messing with success? Why are you cutting that force in half? Why are you confident that that force will be able to do the job?

General Shalikashvili: As we analyzed the specific tasks and conducted our troop-to-task analysis, and as the European Command looked at what it would take to do these new missions and these specific tasks, they're the ones who came to us and identified the number of 8,500 as the proper number that would first and foremost provide for force protection of our forces, and secondly, sufficient force to get the job done that these tasks here identify.

Secretary Perry: I just want to add to that, the chart that I showed you before lists the tasks of IFOR and the tasks of SFOR. It's clear that there are far fewer tasks to perform. That's one reason that the European Command was able to come up with a smaller set of troops.

In addition to that, when we went in in the first place, we were prepared to meet a resisting army. The people who were forecasting we were going to meet a resisting army had some basis for that. They turned out to be wrong, but there's some basis for that forecast. Therefore, we had to go in, as I said, with an intimidating force.

That's not an issue we're facing today. We're facing many other problems. The stabilization force will face many problems in Bosnia in the year to come, but that will not be one of them.

Q: About a year ago we had similar briefings like this where we were told that the IFOR mission would last for about a year, and the explanation for that was if it couldn't be done in a year, then maybe we shouldn't we do it.

Now we're being told that an additional mission is required that's going to take a year and a half. How can we have any confidence that in that year and a half you're not going to be up there again saying we need to do another force for Bosnia that will be indefinite?

Secretary Perry: We made a lot of estimates a year ago. We estimated the size of the force we would need; we estimated the kind of resistance we would come up with, the kind of tasks we needed to undertake, the kind of leadership and command we needed. We estimated we would be able to manage force protection in a way that minimized the casualties. All those estimates were right.

We also estimated we would get this mission done in 12 months, and that was right in the sense that all of the tasks that were spelled out for IFOR, we did in the 12 months. It was wrong in the sense... I was wrong in particular in my belief that having done those tasks we would have established the conditions which would allow us to leave Bosnia. That was an error in judgment. It's my error in judgment. I don't say that in an apologetic way, because we were making a lot of judgments about this mission at that time, and most of them were very, very good judgments. But my recommendation to the President at that time, my advice to the President at that time, was we could get these missions done in 12 months, and therefore, we should set the mission duration to 12 months. Well, it was right in the sense we did get those missions done in 12 months. It was not right in the larger sense that getting them done put us in the position where we could leave. In that sense the judgment was not correct, and I take the responsibility for that. That was not the President speaking to General Shali and me saying make this a 12 month mission, it was our speaking to him and saying we can do this mission in 12 months. As I said, it was right in the sense that all of the specific tasks spelled out, we did do in 12 months. It was not right in the sense that those tasks were enough to allow us to safely leave the country.

Q: Doesn't that raise questions in your mind as to whether or not there can be peace in Bosnia without the presence of international troops?

Secretary Perry: It focuses quite precisely on the question that the military presence in and of itself is not enough to provide the conditions for peace. That's why I emphasized at the end of my briefing here that in addition to having this military force, a stabilization force, go in, there had to be an acceleration of the efforts to provide the conditions that would lead to peace. Those are economic and social and political. And that that has to proceed in parallel and at an accelerated pace from the military mission.

Q: How specifically different will the job of the soldiers there be during the next 12 to 18 months than it has been before? Will you be going out on patrols deep into both sides' territory as you have been before? And secondly, the criteria that you have outlined, your new criteria, are much less specific than your initial criteria were. Those were things that one could see as forces pulled back and armaments were put into cantonment areas. This is much more vague.

Secretary Perry: Let me make an initial comment and then ask General Shali to answer that. I laid out on those charts two sets of tasks -- the specific tasks and the general tasks. But IFOR had both of those sets of tasks. It had the specific and it had the general as well. So we have been doing the general tasks for the last year. That's not a new idea of a specialization force. The new force will be limited, stabilization force will be limited to those items instead of having to do the others.

General Shalikashvili: That's exactly right. I think your question, though, gets at the issue of what will be different for the soldier on the ground. There will be the specifics, many things different. For instance, he will not be told to go and push one or the other of the factions out of the zone of separation because they have done that already. He will not be told to go and ensure that weapons are collected in cantonment areas, because that's already done. But in addition to those tasks, that soldier all along has been conducting patrols to ensure that there isn't trouble breaking out somewhere, and when he sensed or saw trouble breaking out, that he would help bring calm to that particular situation. At the same time, he was conducting patrols over to a cantonment area to make sure that no one was taking weapons out of these cantonment areas. Those tasks he will continue to do.

So yes, the tasks now no longer include a whole list of things he was doing up to now. They do include some of the other things that he already had been doing and that he will continue doing.

The other thing that will be different, though, is that while the type of functions will be as they are on this chart here, quantitatively, they will be doing less of that because there will be less of them. So yes, there will be patrols, but not quite as many; there will be checking on cantonment areas, but not as often as before.

But it's very important that we understand that there is now a whole class of tasks that have been completed and they no longer have to be done, no longer will be done.

Q: Stability requires, or it looks like it would require the refugees to be returned to their homes or to be in new homes or something. Secondly, you have war criminals, indicted war criminals, running around the country. To some extent, even passing through NATO checkpoints.

What do you see as the goal in one year in regard to both of those issues? How would you define success in one years?

General Shalikashvili: Let me first address it from the standpoint of the mission of the SFOR in these particular cases. In the case of war criminals, SFOR's mission will be to ensure that they apprehend war criminals should they fall into their hands, incident to the conduct of their normal operations. But they will not go and conduct separate operations to go after war criminals.

As far as the freedom of movement is concerned, they will ensure that they provide the general climate of stability and security, but they will not have the responsibility of enforcing freedom of movement in each individual case. That is, they will not accompany people as they move from Point A to Point B. On the other hand, when people wish to return to their homes and they have gone through the proper procedure, through the UNHCR, then SFOR will be there to ensure that there is a proper climate of security.

Q: But that very thing is causing an explosion this very week in one location, and there are many other locations where refugees haven't even tried to return to. In some cases they go through the procedure and their houses are blown up. This is all in the IEBL. I don't understand how you're going to get from here to there, how refugees are going to be able to go home under these very vague conditions, and also just what you've just laid out.

General Shalikashvili: I don't mean that they're vague, they're very specific conditions what it is that SFOR will not do that I described to you. It is not correct to make this the mission of SFOR, because you are relying on a military force not only ensuring your safety as you go over there, but somehow also ensuring your safety while you're there. It would be almost like asking that as you cross from one area to the other, from then on, you will be accompanied by a military force that will not only provide for your freedom of movement but also for your security while you are in that other area, and that is clearly not what we wish SFOR to do. Those are sort of conditions that must be created by the local government, and they are conditions that must be regulated by UNHCR that is responsible for the movement of people. SFOR properly provides the general climate of security, and it's there when local forces -- whether they're the local police forces or the international police force -- are no longer able to deal with the situation.

When you think back to IFOR, you see how often and how well that force has dealt with it, and has prevented these incidents from growing into a bigger confrontation, and eventually to conflict. I am very confident that SFOR will be able to do that just as well.

Q: The third of your stabilization tasks, selective support... As I recall the hearings a year ago, most members of the committee saw that as the tar baby. They knew that facing the main forces, that was dangerous, but this was where they saw a risk that troops could get sucked into the morass, out in...

Your answers, both of you, to the committees, on several occasions, as I recall, was "We won't do very much of that because that's a residual category. We'll do the other stuff, we'll be busy doing the other stuff."

We've done the other stuff. We're not going to be doing that. That raises the possibility that there will be more time to do this stuff that's dangerous and sticky. True?

General Shalikashvili: I will tell you that first of all, I feel very good that Secretary Perry and I were very good stewards not to allow us to get drawn into what you've just implicated, and that the force has been very disciplined in, first of all, doing those tasks that were required; and then when they had the capacity and the time and could assist without interfering with their primary tasks, they have been of assistance. You should not underestimate how much they were able to do. How many bridges are fixed because of what they've been able to do; how much of the infrastructure they were able to assist with, without getting drawn into nation building at all. Because most if not all of what they did was incident to providing for their own freedom of movement that they needed to have, the infrastructure that they needed to support them, and yet that is something now that is available to the people as well.

I am confident that we will be able to watch this just as closely with this new force.

Q: I'm still a little confused on one point in terms of what exactly is your bottom line here? Are U.S. troops going to be out of Bosnia in 18 months? Or is it your bottom line that they will now stay until stabilization comes to Bosnia, whenever that may be. Is there an 18 month deadline here?

Secretary Perry: I believe they will be out in 18 months. I believe that the key to having suitable conditions in 18 months which will make us feel good about them coming out are these economic reconstruction projects. Therefore, it's not enough for us to say we're going to support this stabilization force, this military force in Bosnia. We as a government have to do what we can to support the economic reconstruction programs, and we have to urge our European allies who have taken the lead in this, to do more in that regard.

Q: Is there anything in this whole package here that represents a U.S. initiative in that direction, or are there any new steps the United States has taken with the Europeans or within NATO to do that?

Secretary Perry: There are some steps. They're not Defense Department steps. Our role here is supportive of these activities. General Shali indicated we have been able to do some economic reconstruction. It's useful to the civilian economy, because we needed it for our own force movement. And wherever we can get the dual benefit of that, we have done it. But we don't see this as a Defense Department mission. We are simply supportive of that. And the principal way we support the economic construction is providing the stable and secure environment which allows these activities to take place.

General Shalikashvili: Last time when we were briefing IFOR implementation, the question arose whether we meant that the mission would end on a certain date or the troops would be out on a certain date. So maybe if I can, for the record, say that our recommendation now is that the mission end in June of 1998, and that shortly thereafter all troops withdraw form there.

Q: Irrespective of the conditions in Bosnia at that time?

General Shalikashvili: Clearly, as I told you, we need to make assessments along the way, but it is now the intent for the mission to end in June of 1998, and shortly thereafter for the troops to withdraw.

Q: ...United States demand that the UN, the mandate set that date?

Q: The troops that are in SFOR, are they to be drawn from the so-called covering force that's there now?

General Shalikashvili: Again, I cannot tell you until we get the recommendation from the European Command. Our goal has been from the very beginning that no soldier spend longer than one year in Bosnia, but I would not wish right now to unduly tie the hands of the European commander on this question. So give us some time until we get the information from him and his recommendation. Then we'll be able to brief that.

Secretary Perry: Thank you very much.

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