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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
November 24, 1995 11:30 AM EDT

Friday, November 24, 1995 - 11:30 a.m. (EST)

[Secretary Perry delivered this address from Bad Kreuznach, Germany, following a visit with the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division which is headquartered there.]

Secretary Perry: This is my second trip to Germany in two weeks to meet with the U.S. soldiers who are preparing to go to Bosnia to support the peace there. I have talked to the soldiers. I've watched them train and I've questioned their commanders. I believe that this force is well-trained, well- equipped, strong, and ready for the mission.

For the first time in nearly four years, we face the promise of lasting peace in Bosnia. It is clear from my discussions with the negotiators in Dayton, and my talks with the leaders throughout Europe -- including Russia -- that this peace agreement could not have been reached without American leadership nor can it be implemented without American participation in the peace Implementation Force. The alternative to peace is clear: it's more killing, beyond the 200,000 already dead; it's more ethnic cleansing; more refugees, beyond the more than two million who've already fled their homes, flooding into nearby countries; and more instability in Europe.

We have a real opportunity for peace and we should seize it. It is time to stop the killing. I have just finished meeting with 700 of the military leadership of the 1st Armored Division. I have answered for them the following questions: Why are we asking them to go to Bosnia; who will go with them, what other nations; what is their mission; when they will go; and when will they come back. These are questions they all have a vital interest in and understanding what the best answer we can give them to these questions gives them the confidence and the comfort to move forward in preparation for the mission.

I've also met with the family support group. We take family support very seriously not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we believe that family support is critical to the success of a military mission when their deploying out of country. Therefore, we do not consider family support an extracurricular activity. It is part of the responsibility of the chain of command. General Nash feels that responsibility. General Crouch feels that responsibility. I feel it and the President feels it. And we're all working to be sure that we are the best family support that there's ever been for any deployed mission.

Now with those opening comments, I'll be happy to entertain questions. Yes?

Q: Will there be peace commands associated in Bosnia? We are still hearing from [inaudible] Bosnian Serbs [inaudible] from local Bosnian Serbs political leaders [Inaudible]. These types of statements coupled with the requirements from the Dayton [inaudible] that these forces that go in are suppose to do things like resettle refugees, which involves -- I would assume

-- taking people out of their houses that they've taken away from someone else and putting the original occupants back in, and this sort of thing. What I'm wondering is, how is this anything short of combat to accomplish these tasks? [Inaudible] resistance and the mission?

A: Two different questions sort of merged together. Let me try the second one first. The peace enforcement mission is providing the security environment which allows many other things to happen. The things for which the peace enforcement team is not responsible for making happening. The IFOR -- the enforcement team -- will not be resettling refugees, they will be providing an environment which allows that function to be going on. They will not be involved in economic restructure or in rebuilding the infrastructure. All of these are very important civil functions which will be going along, in parallel, with the IFOR mission.

The principle task of IFOR is to provide the security environment which allows all these other very critical tasks to take place. In order for this mission to be successful -- in order for us to even agree to go into Bosnia -- requires agreement from all of the parties to accept the NATO peace Implementation Force.

We are not going into there to fight a war. We're not planning to fight our way in and we do not expect organized opposition. We do expect, recognizing that there has been years of war -- and hatreds have been built up -- we do expect that there may be some individuals or some gangs who will not accept the decision of their leaders, who will not accept the signatures that were made at Dayton and therefore, we are going in very well-armed and with very firm rules of engagement. Our forces will be quite capable of taking care of themselves, but again, we're not going in to fight a war. We're not going in to deal with the organized resistance for an Army. And we will not go in if that is what we have to face. Yes?

Q: [Inaudible]?

A: We expect, as I said, that this will not be an easy operation, because of the fact that there's been war going on there now for almost four years and because the hatreds have built up so strongly. We know that some individuals and some groups within Bosnia do not accept the judgment of the leaders. So, therefore, we do expect that there will be some opposition, some resistance to this peace agreement. We do not expect organized opposition. We do not expect to face any armies. Our force is quite capable of taking care of itself no matter what they confront. But, we're not going in there to fight a war and we will not go in if we believe that's what we have to do. We have to be prepared for this disorganized -- we have to be prepared for harassment from individual groups and we will be prepared for that.

Q: Would you be surprised if there were casualties?

A: Pardon?

Q: Would you be surprised if there were causalities?

A: That, if I may say, it is a naive question. We have casualties every week just through accidents that occur. Running an army, even in peacetime, even conducting training missions, has risks associated. Even our training missions, we run at the edge of performance so that our soldiers will be at peak efficiency. And so, we do have accidents and we do have casualties.

If we go into an operation like this where there's going to be some disaffected individuals and gangs, we may expect some of them to try to harass, try to attack our troops. We are well-trained to deal with that. We know there are millions of mines in the country and so, even though somebody is not deliberately planting a mine for our troops, we could have accidentally run over a mine. Therefore, our training is intensive in mine awareness and how to deal with mines in the country.

Now, we know that the weather is very bad -- particularly, in the winter there. There may be automobile accidents. There are many ways which casualties could occur. And what we can do, and what we have done, is train our troops -- to the maximum effectiveness and the maximum proficiency -- to deal with every situation which we believe they might confront there.

Q: Mr. Secretary, General Nash said yesterday that the rules of engagement are still being worked on. Can you say, sir, from the U.S. point of view, specifically, what are the basic [inaudible] the U.S. has to have in those rules of engagement?

A: Our soldiers will be authorized to use deadly force whenever necessary and that's the fundamental. That's what I meant when I said we will have robust rules of engagement. General Crouch, do you want to comment further on that question on the rules of engagement?

General Crouch: We have trained with a set of rules that has followed the basic assumption, as the Secretary has said it. As NATO finally establishes those rules, we'll complete our training and I fully expect that we'll be able to execute just the way the Secretary has described it.

Secretary Perry: I might also comment that, aside from our requiring these firm rules of engagement, we have been clear from the beginning that we would not accept a dual-key. That is, there will be only a unitary command. We not believe you can conduct effectively a military operation with split commands. So, those are the two fundamental features that we have imposed and those, I am confident, will be part of the NATO plan. Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, could you go back to your opening remarks just a minute, and share with us what you told the commanders this afternoon about such questions as, why they are going, the exact scope of the mission, how long they will be there?

A: That was a fairly long talk we had, but let me summarize briefly the "why." I gave them, what I call, "an iron logic," which connects U.S. vital national interests with the President's decision to make a commitment to Bosnia. The first part of that logic is that the United States has vital, political, economic, and security interests in Europe.

And that the second part of it is, the war in Bosnia threatens these interests -- not just because of the war as it has been conducted but because the danger that that war would expand either to the south or to the north and become a wider Balkan war.

The third part of that is that we need now have -- the first time in four years -- a real opportunity to achieve a peace. And that to seize this opportunity, not only must NATO go in for peace implementation force but, the U.S. must commit to be a part of that force.

The peace agreement will simply be nullified if the United States is not a part of this force. The parties to the agreement have made very clear that their willingness to sign the agreement was based on the commitment of the United States to participate in the implementation.

And, finally, I told them -- what I believe -- that this is an operation that has risks. We talked about some of those risks today. But that I believe that the alternative, which is letting the war continue, letting the killing continue -- taking the risk that this war will spread to a wider Balkan war, has even greater risk for American interests than taking this opportunity to stop it. That was the main argument that I used for why we're going in.

I described to them, in simple terms, the mission -- which is a peace enforcement mission: enforcing zones of separation; enforcing the cease-fire pointed out to them there will be many other activities, civil activities, going on in parallel. Their job is provide the enabling security, the security which enables those other missions to take place.

I talked to them about the timing of when they might be going in, how long they might to stay to do the job. And I talked to them about who else is going in with them. We expect -- so far, 25 nations have volunteered to send forces in to join us in this peace Implementation Force.

Of the 60,000 troops, which NATO has estimated it needs for this mission, it is clear that we will be oversubscribed. There will be more troops volunteered for that than we will be able to use from these 25 nations. The British, the French, the Germans. Virtually, every NATO nation has come forward with a substantial number of troop deployments. The British figure, if I remember properly, is 12,000. There at least 12 non-NATO nations who have indicated they would want to join this operation. Most of them with about a battalion, about 1,000-or-so troops each.

So, we have very substantial contributions. We will have lots of company in this operation. That is both a challenge, in terms of the management, and it's also an opportunity because it presents the model for how we're going to deal with security problems in Europe in this post-Cold War era -- the cooperative model we're using, where NATO and non-NATO nations work together to deal with these security problems and get them settled before they become worse.

Q: [Inaudible] the pull-out date that we're talking about?

A: That's a simple question that takes a complicated answer, to be precise about it. First of all, it depends on the going in date. And the going in date depends on when the peace agreement is signed. I gave them my best estimate of how that process was going to unfold and that basically it means we will be going in sometime in December -- probably about mid-December -- based on present planning.

I also described to them that General Nash's and General Crouch's plans for building up the force over several months, maintaining the full level-of-force on to the sixth or seventh month, and then assuming that we have maintained, for some months, a secure environment, we will start withdrawing that force and we plan to withdraw the full force at the end of twelve months.

Unknown Speaker: We want to cut if off at this point. Dr. Perry wants to spend some more time with the troops and family members. Thank you very much.

Secretary Perry: Thank you all.