U.S. Proposes Reducing Troop Levels in Bosnia
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 18, 2001 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has proposed NATO reduce troop presence in Bosnia by a third, to around 12,000. This would reduce U.S. troop levels in the country to around 2,100.
The military committee will study the proposal as part of its usual review of troop levels in the Balkans. If accepted at the June 2002 defense ministers meeting, the cuts could be effective in the fall of 2002.
Rumsfeld said the stabilization force mission in Bosnia has been a success. "Working together, NATO allies have helped stop genocide and bring peace to a troubled region," he said to fellow NATO defense ministers. The six-year military mission has gone on too long, Rumsfeld said. Civilian agencies should shoulder the burden of policing these areas and help rebuild them after wars, he said.
"There was a time when military force, once accomplishing their mission, would declare victory and go home," Rumsfeld said. "Today, however, it often seems that when it comes to such missions, success means never having to say goodbye."
Another proposal would form a joint NATO command for the Balkans. Under this, logistics and administrative support would be combined for NATO forces in Kosovo, Bosnia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This would not yield large savings in manpower but would streamline operations in the region.
Currently, there are 18,400 NATO troops in Bosnia, with 3,100 of them American. There are 39,000 NATO troops in Kosovo, including 5,700 Americans. In Macedonia there are 2,150 NATO troops, with 350 of them being Americans.
American officials said that they would go along with any NATO decision. "We went in together, we'll go out together," a senior defense official said.