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Perry, Chairman Say Forces Out of Bosnia in March

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 1996 – All U.S. members of a force covering the withdrawal of troops from Bosnia will be out by midMarch, defense officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were questioned by committee members. These members said the Clinton administration promised American forces would be out of Bosnia by Dec. 20, 1996 the date the mandate for the 52,000member NATO implementation force runs out.

Shalikashvili told the senators 15,000 U.S. troops are currently in Bosnia. He said the military is working with two premises: First, no service member will be in country more than 365 days, and second, the United States must maintain a missioncapable force right through Dec. 20.

The chairman said the forces are also needed in Bosnia to provide security for municipal elections now set for Nov. 22 or 24. By the elections, Shalikashvili estimated, 10,000 American service members will support the elections and continue implementing the Dayton accords. The rest will be redeploying.

"By the time the IFOR mission ends ..., we expect to be down to a force of approximately 10,000 Americans, with 7,500 dedicated to the covering force operation and 2,500 involved in a process of withdrawal," he said. The current plan calls for all covering force troops to be out of Bosnia by midMarch. Weather or security problems could delay this date, he said.

Perry told the senators the covering force has nothing to do with any followon force that NATO may provide. He said NATO defense ministers debated that question at the recent NATO meeting in Norway. The ministers will wait for a thorough review of the situation in Bosnia and develop a range of options.

"These options range from withdrawing on schedule with no followon [force] to providing a war prevention force to providing a sustainment force that would prevent war and also sustain the secure environment to a force that would largely continue the IFOR mission," Perry said.

He told the senators he will wait until the NATO review is finished before making any recommendation to the president. "We must know the mission, we must know the task of the mission, and we must know the force structure required," he said.

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