Perry Says No More Checkpoints
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
ZAGREB, CROATIA, Apr. 3, 1996 NATO’s Implementation Force will no longer tolerate checkpoints in Bosnia, according to Defense Secretary William J. Perry.
Implementation forces will fan out all over the country and knock down any checkpoints they come across -- "and they’re not going to be polite about the way they knock it out," Perry said at the start of a five-day visit to the Balkans.
Freedom of movement is fundamental to the Dayton Agreement and to the success of civil reconstruction, he said. Implementation Force efforts to maintain freedom of movement will intensify now that the full force is in place and initial military tasks called for in the agreement have been accomplished, he said.
"We now are relieved of some of the functions we had to perform in establishing the zones of separation and the transfers," Perry said. "We now have the time available to fan out over the country, and we will be able to make much more extensive presence, both in space and in time. This is going to make a big difference."
For the last month or so, Perry said, implementation forces have been knocking down checkpoints as they saw them. If a Bosnian faction had put up a checkpoint a month ago, an Implementation Force unit might not see it for a week. Now, Perry said, chances are a unit will catch it the same day.
En route to Zagreb and Sarajevo, Perry said he intended to push for more thorough compliance of the Dayton Agreement, including maintaining freedom of movement and completing prisoner exchanges.
In Croatia, he said, he planned to emphasize indicted war criminals must be turned over. Perry repeated the policy implementation forces would not track down indicted war criminals, but would detain them if they came across them. He said he did not expect to see such indicted Bosnian Serb leaders as Gen. Ratko Mladic or Radovan Karadzic in positions of authority by the time NATO is slated to withdraw its force at the end of the year.
Following Perry’s meeting with Croatian defense minister Gojko Susak March 30, Susak announced Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic volunteered to turn himself in to the war crimes tribunal. Blaskic is one of seven Croats indicted in connection with alleged massacres of Moslem civilians. Susak said his action is the only course available in Croatia until the country’s parliament passes a proposed amendment allowing war criminals to be extradited.
To develop and strengthen future ties with Croatia, Perry said, he advocates Croatia becoming a member of Partnership for Peace. He said he wants to establish a vigorous defense bilateral working group with Croatia to develop such military cooperation programs as military officer exchange, joint exercises and cooperation in defense materiel.
In Bosnia, Perry said, he planned to stress foreign troops must leave. While the number of foreign troops in Bosnia has been reduced substantially compared to a few months ago when they caused concern for the security of U.S. troops, Perry said he’d like the number to be zero.
While he acknowledged much work remains to be done in Bosnia, he noted the progress made since the Implementation Force deployed in December.
"Less than a year ago, the Bosnian Serbs were going into Srebrenica," he said. "Thousands of people were being massacred. The U.N. Protection Force was looking to get out of Bosnia. NATO was considering, with U.S. assistance, sending in 30,000 or 40,000 troops to extract the U.N. force. The prospect of a long, bloody civil war faced this region."
This spring, as a result of the Dayton Agreement and deployment of NATO’s peace force, Perry said, the situation has improved. The peace agreement is holding. The Implementation Force is safely in country, contrary to predictions of resistance and mass casualties. The cease-fire is being maintained.
The major military tasks under the Dayton Agreement have been executed, he said, noting zones of separation have been set up and land transfers have been safely enforced.
"We’ve had more than four months without the killings and atrocities that characterized the four years before that," Perry said.
After meeting with Croatian officials, Perry visited Implementation Force support force headquarters in Zagreb to thank U.S. and multinational troops for their logistical support of the 60,000-strong peace force in Bosnia.