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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : General George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Presenters: General George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander Europe
March 27, 1996 9:30 AM EDT

Wednesday, March 27, 1996 - 9:30 a.m.

Subject: Role Of IFOR In Bringing Safety And Security To Bosnia

[Note: Also participating in the briefing is Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA]

Mr. Bacon: General Joulwan is in town for more congressional testimony and has agreed to come by and talk to all his old friends in the press corps about your favorite topic, as I learned yesterday, which is the role of IFOR in bringing safety and security to Bosnia. General Joulwan.

General Joulwan: Thank you very much. Ken, I'm delighted to see so many of you again. I thought what I would do since today is about D-plus 99, I believe, I think it might be very useful to go back and set the stage for some of your questions

by talking about the mission, because I think there seems to be some at least misunderstandings or misinterpretation of how we drew up this mission which was approved by the North Atlantic Council in early December of last year. Maybe I could start from that and then show you how we're evolving in that mission and to show you where we are in the different phases of it, how that leads into freedom of movement and the next phase and then perhaps talk a little bit about CIMIC, the civil military cooperation and then perhaps the Russians and then take your questions.

Let me, if I can, show you -- this chart is since November. It hasn't changed. What I did in Oplan 4105, which was approved by the North Atlantic Council, was break down the operation into five phases. And you can see, we've completed phase one and phase two, but I think it's important to understand that we went through a very intensive training phase of the force. We thought that was very important so we trained to mission what we thought those missions would be in bringing the force in. We identified the force. We balanced the force and we trained the force and we put the enabling forces on the ground, communications, logistics, opened ports, so we could flow the force rapidly once we had the go ahead.


Phase two was the entry or deployment of the force in the theater. And as you all know, that was a force which ends up now to be over 30 nations. We floated in the theater about 2,500 to 2,600 air flights, about 350 trains and about 50 ships. We deployed the force in the theater. We set the force by D-plus 60. And in that time, we had a four kilometer exclusion zone where all foreign forces were removed and we had a D-plus 45, the transfer of land from one entity to the other and then at D-plus 90, the gaining entity could come back in.

I mention that because we are now into phase three. And again, these words have not changed from our basic mission that was approved by the North Atlantic Council in December. And what we are doing now is continuing to execute the military missions and tasks that we were given from Dayton and by the North Atlantic Council. We are establishing our presence throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, not just now along the zones of separation, but throughout the country and I'll get into that in a minute. And during this phase, we will coordinate very extensively with the high representative as we move into phase four which is the transition of peace because the mission is much more than a military one. We set the foundation for which the then civilian agencies and organizations can do their job which, to me, is the key to success in Bosnia.

And this is what we said we would do in this phase. Continue to execute our military missions, facilitate in the reconstruction effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In other words, assist those civilian agencies as they carry out their responsibilities within our capabilities, because we have to balance it -- and this is the critical point that I wanted to make -- continually do our military missions and tasks, and within the capabilities that we have to assist and help the civilian agencies. And one of the key ways to do that is to provide a secure environment and that's why establishing the presence throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina is so important.

So, this is where we are right now in this very delicate phase as we look forward here to include the return of refugees, the elections that are going to be held, reconstruction that's going to take place, the international tribunal in carrying out their responsibilities. What we want to do is to establish a secure environment, a freedom of movement for that to take place. But, we continue to be required to execute all those missions and tasks.

Now let me just show you. Where is the next slide? Over here. Leave that up and let me just show you what that looks like on this chart. This is very important to understand because I know some people think that it looks easy what the military has had to do. It has not been easy. We had to deploy in the worst winter in this century in the Balkans in the most difficult terrain and we did that and we put a force of about 60,000 on the ground. This interline here of about four kilometers by D-plus 30, forces were withdrawn voluntarily. And now, we expanded that to 10 kilometers. So, you have a 10 kilometer zone of separation and this is about 1,000 kilometers long. We must maintain that. In fact, we just had an action up here where 20 some weapons were confiscated where forces were coming back in to the zone of separation. And with that, about 100 of those violations by all of the former warring factions.

And so, the maintaining of the zone of separation will continue even as we get into the next phase. What is most important as we look from now until D-plus 120 is that we hope and the intent is for the former warring factions now to pull their forces and equipment back into designated areas or cantonment areas. So, the intent here is by D-plus 120 is to have a 10 kilometer zone of separation, forces and heavy equipment back into these areas.

Once that happens, then that opens us up to get out into the international boundary of the country out here and allows freedom of movement. That is how we blend together the civilian operation and the military operation and we think that's going to be very important.

But if we can get forces back into here, we then will have broken what I call the spring offensive which we've had every year for four years. And that allows then the civilian agencies to move out. That is part of the mission. That's the point I want to make. That is an integral part of the overall mission that we have. It's very delicate. It's a combination of both. Dayton had, I believe, 10 or 11 annexes in it. The first one had to do with the military. The other 10 had to deal with the civilian aspects of it. How do you blend that together and keep your focus on your military tasks? We not only wanted to get back to these areas, we wanted to stay there. That means, we're going to have to monitor the area. And that means we're going to have to be all the way out here with our forces, out to the international boundary.

All right. Final chart. Now if you'll follow the progression, what we said we were going to do, where we are right now, and what I mean by freedom of movement. I just spent, on Monday, about four hours with the commanders on the ground in Sarajevo and we reviewed much of this. The good news is these are the major routes in Bosnia. At D-plus 90, 80 percent of those routes were now open. What that means is that there can be freedom of movement. You can move. There are no mines on the road. The bridges are in. Except where you see here. These are bridges that are out along the Sava here. Mines that we still have. The intent is to work to try to remove those with the former warring factions doing the removing of the mines. We are there to assist and to monitor and to help train. And where we can, we are putting some bridges in and working on the roads. That is not something outside of our mission. That clearly is part of our mission. Because our intent here is to have freedom of movement that goes all the way out to the international border. That facilitates refugees coming back in. That assists in getting for the elections, getting people to be able to travel to polling places; this is part of the overall mission.

And we hope that tomorrow, there will be a bridge across the Sava at Brcko. There is also a Hungarian platoon bridge that is now across also the Sava over in the Bihac area. That again connects Bosnia-Herzegovina with Europe. And we hope to be able to facilitate the flow.

So, that's what we're doing. We have about since December, about 400 civil military personnel from many of the countries to include over 300 from the United States that have been knitting this together and I think you've been given a handout which shows some of the work they've been doing. They had been in every committee, every committee from the constitution, to the elections, to refugees, working with the high commissioner for refugees, with the international committee of the Red Cross, and others trying to assist and to facilitate.

So, we have been trying to bring the civil military operation together in a way that really assists and helps the civilian side do their tasks as we do our military tasks. So, that's where we are and I'd be glad to take any questions you might have. Yes?

Q: General, despite what you say that the military mission is going well. You haven't at all prevented the Muslimization of the Sarajevo suburbs because by plans it was to be a multiethnic area. The civilian rebuilding in that country is moving at a snails pace. Will your troops pull out on time in November and have you any confidence at all that this will not break out again once you leave?

A: Well, first of all, I think we're all saddened at what occurred in Sarajevo. There was a great pressure that was put on particularly, some of the Serb residents that were there by the Serb government in Pale. We think many would have left anyway. We're somewhat pleased that about 11,000 Serbs had stayed in the suburbs and we see some even already trickling back in. Again, I think it's sort of a wait and see attitude.

What we hope to be able to do is try to open up the country. Now, that's easy to say. It's going to be very difficult to do. But three months into this, I think we should be focusing on what we can do now. So, I think there's going to be a lot of speculation on what they're going to do a year from now. I would like to focus on what can we do in the next nine months.

I think the military has demonstrated that they can create this secure environment. We are not going to permit checkpoints and bunkers and observation posts. They're springing up particularly along the new inter-entity boundary and the instructions to the IFOR is not to let that happen.

So, I think that in Sarajevo, we may see some more people returning if electricity and water and all those things start happening. We've got electricity now in Gorazde. Bridges. We've got a bridge. And all that within the first 100 days I think is a remarkable success story. So, I think we've got to look at what's been accomplished and hopefully what we can do in the next eight or nine months.

Q: What you have is a peace by threat of force. Do you have again any confidence that once this threat of force goes, these people will not be at each others throats?

A: I think much will determine in what we do in the next nine months. I think it's premature to get into that. Yes?

Q: Would you enumerate all the tasks that fall under this freedom of movement?

A: Well, I'll try; but primarily what we're concerned about is making sure that the roads are open, that they're trafficable, that their free of mines, that we can get out to the international boundaries of the country. There is also in the freedom of movement information and intelligence that's passed to the different agencies and that's why we have the CIMIC teams that work with them. And so, there's a great deal of information and intelligence that's passed to them and we are providing that.

When, for example, someone wants to go out into a certain area, we provide a secure environment for them to operate in, and that is also being done.

Q: What if we turn to refugees and what about freedom of movement for war crimes investigators?

A: That is coordinated with IFOR and that is done on a case-by-case basis. But that is being done.

Q: You will facilitate -- I mean, will IFOR trucks, buses be used to bring refugees back? I mean, what are you -- are you just talking about making sure that the roads that they're going to have to go down is paved and the potholes filled in? Or what exactly are you talking about?

A: Well, I think all of that depends on where we are at any particular time a request is made. If what I'm saying here starts collapsing, if there is no respect for the zones of separation, if we start seeing more violations, if it's going to tie down more and more vehicles and troops, then there's going to be less that we can do in terms of physical support for the civilian agencies. But that's going to be on a case-by-case basis. Within our capabilities, we will try to assist.

But let me make it very clear. We have primary tasks which are military tasks and supporting tasks which are what you're referring to and that will only be done on a case-by-case basis and with an analysis done by the commander in chief.

Q: On opposite sides of the zone of separation are similar issues. One has to do with the Iranians who were being trained as terrorists. One I think he busted up one near Sarajevo.

A: Yes.

Q: My question on that one is will IFOR -- does it have the mandate to move against the other training bases? And secondly, the other issue is Mladic has been out skiing. He claims that his people have been surrounded by IFOR troops from time to time which have not moved against him. Is this true and are you going to start after people like him?

A: Well, on your last question, if Mladic or any other indicted war criminal comes in contact with IFOR forces in the performance of their normal duties, every effort will be made to detain them. Now, I think there has to be some good judgment used there. But, we are not -- do not have a mandate to go out and hunt down and arrest indicted war criminals. That is not part of our mandate. We will detain them if we come in contact with them. That is the job for the police and a job for the international tribunal.

Q: Has IFOR actually surrounded or come in contact with --

A: Not that I know of.

Q: And what about the Iranians, sir?

A: We continue to see presence there. We are trying to get as much political pressure as we can to remove all foreign forces as was stated in the Dayton Agreement and we hope that the political process works in order to get them out. If they pose a threat to IFOR, IFOR will do what it did in Fojnica camp in February. It will react to that threat.

Q: Sir, earlier in the process there was talk that the mining problem would get worse in the spring when things thaw out and the snow melts. Have you begun to see that? And can you tell us about the status of the demining efforts?

A: That is a very real problem. We've been identifying that problem all along. We think that with the spring thaw, we will see more and more mines and the threat that it poses. There continues to be a great deal of effort being made both by IFOR in working with the parties and by the EU. The EU, the European Union, has just allocated I think it's $750,000 to the parties to be able to assist and to help in the demining efforts. We held a conference at SHAPE last week where we brought all interested countries together to see if we can work some solution and some assistance in this problem. We're very concerned that as refugees start returning that we're going to have areas that are not going to be cleared.

So, the intent here is to get them marked as best we can. But the onus again is on the former warring factions, those that laid the mines. And talking with the commanders on Monday, this is a clear effort that they're making in trying to assist and to help in making sure that we try to have as much as possible on these routes that I'm talking about free of mines. Yes?

Q: Just to follow up on the last question. Can you talk a little bit about the status of these forces? Are they still --

A: The best information that we have is that they are moving back into the cantonment or designated areas. We are a little bit concerned about some that violates -- still violate the zone of separation. But every indication is that there continues to be voluntary compliance. The last one that was we watched was air defense weapons and we have now inventoried quite a few air defense weapons that have been brought back in, into storage areas.

So, there seems to be some compliance with that. Yes?

Q: General, going into this mission you knew you'd be under a lot of pressure particularly if the mission went well to do more. You've outlined what some of the rather narrow tasks, civilian reconstruction tasks that you're taking on. Where do you draw the line? What things have you ruled out that you're just not going to do in order that you not get sucked into mission creep?

A: Well, I think you have a handout. I hope you've seen what I've reported to the NAC.

Mr. Bacon: On the way out.

General Joulwan: On the way out, take a look at the extensive sort of support. Much of it has to do with the CIMIC, the civil military cooperation folks that we brought in. Civil affairs folks. They are in every committee. They are working. Some of them in the international peace task force for example 20 years as a Chicago police chief. Another is a Ph.D. criminologist. We have economists. We have lawyers. They have been working since December with these committees. This is something that we have since the beginning felt that it was needed to do to bring together both the military and civilian -- the glue for all of that are the CIMIC soldiers that we brought in. They're not just from the United States. They are from other countries as well.

But, that's the interface. And it's that coordination and what they do is, if a non-governmental organization has an asset, trucks, or engineering work, or medical, they will say, rather than to go to the military, go to the non-governmental organization. I think there are 120 or more non-governmental organizations. We've done this is the past. In fact, how to facilitate that because what we're focused on is the end of the mission. And it's going to take a combination of both the civilian and military side working together to make that happen.

So, what I'm saying is, you will see an extensive amount of assistance as well as support that's been given.

Q: General, early warning signals. Do you have any early warning signals of mission creep anywhere? Are you worried about that?

A: What I'm trying to present here is that we have anticipated in the mission a way to have the civil and military work together. If this doesn't happen right, then it's going to be very difficult to carry out an election if people can't travel along the roads. I don't call that mission creep. I'd say that's part of the mission.

And that's the point I'm trying to make. And we have anticipated all of that. We want to set the climate right here, the secured environment. We have done that. We want to move breathing room from four kilometers to 10 kilometers and now back in the cantonment area. We hope to do that by D-plus 120. That opens up the country and that's what we want to try to do for the civilian agencies to get out and do their work.

Q: Perhaps what he's asking is are your troops going to rebuild buildings, rebuild schools? Are they going to put -- restore electric plants? Are they going to paint office buildings? Are they going to do that kind of stuff?

A: I think that we have already given a lot of advice on electricity. I think we at this point, we are not going to get into that sort of work on a large scale basis. Now you may see some on a case-by-case basis. But I think all of that needs to be balanced against our primary military tasks. Let me tell you if this falls apart, if we cannot have the separation, if we cannot have the withdrawal of forces back into their area, if we don't have freedom of movement, then what the civilian agencies are going to do and the elections just, they just don't work.

So, the focus here is what the balances is what I'm talking about and I think if you look at Dayton and how Dayton was written, it was to understand that this is what the military needs to do in setting this climate. And that's going to take a lot of effort. I was just in, about ten days ago, with the Secretary General in the Tuzla area with second brigade, 1st Armored Division and, in order for him to patrol his zone of separation just in his brigade area, he had 12 to 14 platoon sized patrols everyday that were going out. And we have ten brigades in Bosnia and NATO and the IFOR. So, you can imagine the commitment it's going to take and that's what I'm trying to paint here. To be able to make sure this works, to make this freedom of movement -- it's going to take a large commitment and within that, within that, if there are things we can do in a case-by-case basis, we will do it. But, there are a lot of agencies there. There are non-governmental organizations as well as UNHCR and others that have assets. And that's where the civil military folks come together and we try to say, how can they best use that. The last resort is to come to the military. Yes?

Q: General, on Monday, a NATO spokesman talked about communications and medical work at some of the areas that IFOR might get involved in. Can you describe those? And do all these civil areas, are they more important now because of the lag on the Carl Bildt's side because that's not going quite as quickly as we had hoped?

A: Well, I would say that primarily, we are providing again within the capabilities that we have particularly in the communications area, we are trying to assist where we can in that area and some nations have pledged communications equipment for the high representative. And so I think that's going to -- same with medical. We will help within our resources to try to help, but there are non-governmental organizations there that have medical facilities that they can provide.

Q: Maybe you covered this before. I was looking at your phase five mission complete.

A: Yes.

Q: The number one bullet there is [inaudible] IFOR. If you're going to pull the troops out, the US troops out by December 19 timeframe, the planning probably means you'll have to start making the pull backs as early as the summer. One, do you not invite rogue elements to move against you if you do that? And two, are you going to guarantee that you're not going to be vulnerable as you pull the forces out?

A: First of all, let me explain what this means. Mission completion means that our mission goes right up until one year. There may be weeks after that before we get all the troops out, but -- and that's the NATO troops. How we phase it out yet, we're still working. But I want to make sure that we have the capability to do the mission that was assigned to me right through a year. And so we will keep a balanced force to be able to do that right up to the years time. And the re-deployment will start -- some re-deployment will start before that. I'm not sure how long before and then there'll be some forces that will be deploying after that as we re-deploy the force. But, the mission is for a year and I want to make sure that we have a sufficient force to do that.

Q: General, you have a glowing report of how well the military operation is going. You've expressed concerns about freedom of movement. We hear reports about how the civilian aspects of this are lagging far behind and how the military may have to help out. Are you concerned that you could find yourself being spread too thin between the two objectives, the primary and the secondary?

A: That's a point I'm going to try to make. That's the key point. That's the balance I'm talking about. But we have anticipated this. This is something that just didn't happen. We anticipated this in our planning and that's why we have a very good relationship on the ground in Sarajevo straight up to my headquarters in Mons and up through Brussels that we are talking at every level on the civil and the military side.

What I'm trying to say is we have primary tasks and the commanders job there is to make sure we don't get spread too thin. That we don't get ourselves in a position where we cannot do our primary military tasks that I laid out and particularly, when you look at this, let me just put it down here. Sorry. This is a -- to maintain this zone of separation of about 10 kilometers, to get forces back into these cantonment areas and to make sure that they stay there. To open up the roads, this takes enormous amount of troops to do it and to maintain it. And that's the point I want to make and that's built into what we said in our overall plan back in December.

Q: Now, can we get your take on this morning's Washington Post report which concludes the Muslim Croat Federation is falling apart? And additionally, just a specific. He claims in here that despite your contention that you're not allowing check points and bunkers, the contention in this report is that foreign peacekeepers are allowed in checkpoints to block traffic and extort money. Is that happening?

A: Well on the first part, we are very concerned about the federation. That's been a constant concern at every meeting I've been to particularly from Rome to Geneva to Moscow. And primarily, it's a political issue that needs to be resolved between both factions. And I would hope that the political pressure would be put to bear and to assist and to help to ensure that the federation continues to operate. I think that's going to --

Q: Do you think that's going to fall apart then?

A: I think its been -- its always been very fragile. It is one of our biggest worries because part of what we see and hear inside of this is the federation. And that entity is very important for the long-term durability of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So, I think - work on that. But it's primarily political work that needs to be done by the international community to make sure that the federation continues to operate and survive. That's politically, economically, socially, legally, as well as militarily.

Q: And are they allowing check points in extortion of money?

A: As I said, we are seeing them. What has happened is we see some of them springing up. We just had one up in here that was taken down. But where the instructions to IFOR are not to allow that to happen and I think they're being tested to a degree. Are we going to catch everyone? Probably not. But the goal is to not permit this to happen, is to go after check points, observation points and bunkers. And they've already -- they've already taken some down and destroyed them. Yes?

Q: You said you wanted to keep your focus on the next nine months and you have certain criteria for whether or not your mission is a success. If at the end of nine months, Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic are still running around inside the greater Bosnia area, is your mission a success if those guys are still out there?

A: I think every effort ought to be made to the international community in those signatories to the Dayton Agreement to bring indicted war criminals to justice. And I think that the former warring factions, particularly the parties involved, the three signatories, have a responsibility to do that. I would hope that that would happen. But that is a political, legal, international court issue. Soldiers don't make good policeman and I think in my estimate, to be very candid in my view, we have to be very careful about that.

Q: It's not an issue -- at least as I intend this question -- that your soldiers would necessarily apprehend them. But, you are the guy who sits above this massive organization. If those leaders, those political and military leaders are still at large at the end of your tenure there, what does it say about the success?

A: Well let me put it the other way around. If there have been free elections that are held, if there's a momentum for peace in the country, if there is no spring offensive that we see, if reconstruction begins, if refugees return, I think we have done an enormous amount to start this country rebuilding and piecing itself together again. If in the narrow sense, Mladic and Karadzic are still not apprehended, would I call that a failure? No.

But I think we have to create a momentum for peace. I think IFOR coming in here in the first three months has done I think an excellent job in setting the foundation for that. But what has to happen is that the civil and military side must complement one another as we go into these next phases. There's elections to be held. But for the military to continue to do what they were sent in there to do and that is to provide the secure environment for the civilian agencies to do their job and that's what we plan to do.

Mr. Bacon: We have time for two more questions.

Q: How is work going with the Russian troops?

A: It is going extremely well. I visited there with the Secretary General as I said about ten days ago. What is most impressive to me particularly up in this area there in the [inaudible] area which is a very difficult area and in what we call the Eastern Posavina. There are now joint US/Russian patrols between the Russian brigade and the second brigade in this area and between the Russian brigade and the first brigade up in the Brcko area. They are -- the theory was when we designed all of this was that if we get the soldiers working together, that they would find that they can indeed work together and a have a great deal in common. That's what we're finding out.

There was a very good I felt morals, upbeat, in both sides that I talked to. Both -- not only the American side and the Russian side but also the Nordic and the Polish units that are also in MND, multi-national division north.

So, I think it's going very well. And I was in Moscow on Saturday and got to meet with some of the military leadership as well as the contact group and the senior military leadership in Russia is very pleased with what's going on as well.

Q: How is it we're getting reports back that the Russians have much better conditions for their troops than ours? They have better living conditions, better food, and our troops are still having trouble getting out of the mud up there? [Laughter]

A: I think there's been an enormous effort done in trying to take care of the nearly 20,000 American forces that were there. The 1,600 Russian forces do have good conditions as well. I think there's some reports of the American force, the liaison force with the Russian unit may not be living under best conditions. But, I think the troops that I've spoken to clearly understand their mission. The ones that I saw when I was there ten days ago, particularly in the American sector, talked of their training they received in Grafenwohr and Hohenfels. It was right on the money. They were confident in what they were doing and they were focused on their mission.

I must tell you I worried more about soldier complacency than I do about their living conditions. Because I think their living conditions are coming along very well keeping the focus on their mission, on what we're trying to do here is going to be very important in the months ahead.

Q: Can I ask one more question about land mines. Will the troops be, actually be involved more intimately in the land mine clearing as part of this freedom of movement?

A: Where it impacts in their area, probably yes. In other words, if it poses a threat to the NATO forces or the IFOR forces, they will be involved in trying to clear those.

Q: True all along, right?

A: That's been true all along. Exactly.

Q: Would it more true? Or I mean, is there going to be more --

A: We will be assisting and monitoring and help train the former warring factions to remove them, and on a case-by-case basis. If there is a issue or a problem we can take that on a case-by-case basis. But, it is primarily the responsibility of those that laid the mines to remove them and that is still our position.

Q: As an example, these major routes. You've had a case-by-case basis. Are you talking about they might actually remove some of those mines?

A: On a case-by-case basis, they may be. Not that the initial -- the primary effort is get the former warring factions. In fact, they're doing it. They're doing it. But our purpose is to assist and train and to help them do it.

Mr. Bacon: General Joulwan is losing his voice and a general without a voice is like a fireman without a hose. [Laughter] So with that, we'll stop so he can deal with other responsibilities.

General Joulwan: Thank you. Thank you all and I hope this was useful to you in trying to explain what we're trying to do on the ground down in Bosnia. Thank you all very much.

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