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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability at Eagle Base, Tuzla

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 16, 2003

(Media availability at Eagle Base, Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.)


Wolfowitz:  Okay, I guess you heard my remarks in the town hall [meeting].  It’s Armed Forces Day.  I’m happy to be here to say thank you to the troops on behalf of the president, Secretary Rumsfeld and myself, and I think I speak for the whole country in saying that we appreciate the incredible service that these young men and women do.  And in the case of most of these folks out here, they’re national guardsmen who are leaving civilian jobs to spend six months here on a mission that not only serves the American people, but clearly serves the people of Bosnia.  And I think they do a fine job and I think they deserve our thanks, they deserve the world’s thanks. 


I’m looking forward to spending the day here in Bosnia and learning more about the mission of SFOR.  General Ward is an old friend from his time on the Joint Staff and he’s going to educate me some more while I’m here today.  I recall with some sadness the tragedy of the civil war here in the early 1990s and I take a lot of pride and satisfaction in the fact that NATO has been able to bring stability to this war-ravaged part of the world and is able to help the people of Bosnia move forward.


Q:  Can you give us your estimation of the situation in Iraq and (Inaudible.) what else the troops in Iraq should do to prevent looting and the terrible picture that (Inaudible.).


Wolfowitz:  I think if you think about how fast things have moved in Iraq -- it isn’t even two months since the war began -- we are making, I think, a great deal of progress.  One of the most important things for the people of Iraq is to establish secure conditions.  We’re not there yet but I think we’re making progress.  It’s -- there are not only looters but there are still clearly elements from the old regime who are making trouble.  But I think we’re making progress, and we’re making progress, in spite of the insecure conditions in some parts of the country, in restoring basic services.  In southern Iraq, for example, all five power plants are now running for the first time since 1991.  I think, if you think about the speed with which the military operation took place, and how relatively quickly we’re moving in Iraq now, I think prospects for much better conditions in that country in a few months are very good.


Q:  There is an allegation the most wanted person indicted for war crimes in Bosnia is hiding in the eastern part of Bosnia in the zone of responsibility of the German and French arm(ies).  How do you comment that after seven years Radovan Karadzic still hasn’t been found and punished for what he did.


Wolfowitz:  Clearly finding those war criminals, and particularly Karadzic and Mladic, has got to be one of the important objectives of the NATO forces here.  In fact, one of the subjects that I’m going to be discussing with General Ward and his colleagues, is what we can do to more aggressively pursue those criminals.  I agree with the premise of the question, that finding these people and bringing them to justice is an important part of bringing stability to this part of the world.  We’ve been trying hard.  It’s not easy but it remains a key objective. 


One last question.


Q:  (Inaudible.) from Stars and Stripes.  If you can just tell me if you plan on any changes in the number of troops in the Balkans, and if you can maybe elaborate on using Bosnia as a model for USAREUR transformation.


Wolfowitz:  We’ve been successful, I think, in steadily reducing SFOR’s presence in Bosnia and the U.S. presence in Bosnia.  We’re at a point now where, at least for the time being, we’re going to see how the present deployment works and see whether there are opportunities to reduce further.  But as I [said] in answer to some of the troops’ questions, the mission here remains important and essential.  If we can accomplish the same mission with a smaller force we’re always trying to do that. But we’re not in any way going to leave conditions where this place goes back to the kind of tragedy we’ve seen in the past.  I think the key to success is going to be more and more to get the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves to step up to the task of responsibility for there own affairs.  And I think that is the key, making it possible for us to manage that same mission with less.


With respect to the larger issue of transformation, I do think there are lessons to be learned from here about how to most effectively do the kinds of peacekeeping missions which, as I mentioned, we’re going to clearly have to be doing for some time to come in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq.  I think an appreciation of those are essential pieces of our national security mission.


One last one.


Q:  Could you comment on a document about the status of citizens of the United States in Bosnia and all other countries, the document that is about to be signed by the Bosnian government?


Wolfowitz:  Oh, the Article 98 agreement.  I think the document you’re referring to is one that would provide, as Article 98 of the International Criminal Court convention provides, that in cases of American citizens who are in any way accused of war crimes here, that they would be subject to U.S. jurisdiction rather than jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  I would emphasize that it’s not that we believe that our people should have immunity from war crimes.  We, in fact, have on a number of unfortunate occasions had to try our own soldiers for war crimes.  We’ve done it.  We do it.  It’s a violation of American law and we believe that’s the proper way to handle it and that’s what this agreement would provide for.


That’s all we have time for.

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