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News Release


Release No: 449-97
August 31, 1997


Comments by me before a group of reporters have been carried in a number of recent news accounts. While the majority of these reports accurately reflected what was said, in a couple of instances the information has been misconstrued. It is hoped this statement will clarify matters.

First, statements I made on the wisdom of having a single person in charge of complex operations such as those undertaken in Haiti, Bosnia and elsewhere have been taken to represent an assessment of the situation in Bosnia today. This is not correct.

My comments were part of a wide-ranging, philosophical discussion of the manner in which this nation conducts what we often call "military operations other than war," using the U.S. efforts in Haiti and elsewhere as examples. I noted that such complex operations involve a number of different U.S. and international agencies from the very outset. I also noted that, while coordination of the U.S. effort is often very good, it would strengthen the system if we could develop a way to put one person in charge from the outset. This person would be responsible for the overall coordination of the U.S. effort, but also would have authority to direct that certain actions be taken.

All of this discussion was general and philosophical, and clearly not intended as an assessment of the current situation in Bosnia. In fact, the only time this part of the discussion approached the subject of what is happening today in Bosnia, was when a reporter opined that this "single person in charge" approach appears to have been adopted in recent months with respect to Bosnia. I concurred with that assessment.

The bottom line is that we have the right team in place to lead U.S. efforts in Bosnia. Ambassador Bob Gelbard is the President's point man, and he is getting results. His role as the overall U.S. coordinator, and the energy and drive it has brought to the process since his appointment this past Spring, underscore the need to have such a central authority at the outset of complex contingency operations.

On a related matter, there have been other news reports that suggested I am opposed to the use of U.S. soldiers under any circumstances to apprehend indicted war criminals. This is not my position. My comments were a simple reiteration of what I have said all along: that we should not use Stabilization Force (SFOR) soldiers to hunt down and capture indicted war criminals because these soldiers are not trained to do these operations. The kinds of soldiers the U.S. sends to SFOR basic infantrymen, military police, engineers, tankers, etc. are not trained to hunt down and grab war criminals or other fugitives. We should not ask them to do things for which they are not trained, or we build in the conditions for failure, not success.

I also noted that the U.S. and some other countries have military forces that are trained to do these kinds of complex search-and-capture missions. There are also civilian agencies that have this kind of expertise. My point simply was that we must avoid using forces that are not trained for such missions if a decision is made to conduct such operations.

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