Clinton expected to announce new troop plans for Bosnia
November 14, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST (0440 GMT)
From Sr. White House Correspondent Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton is expected to announce Friday a continuation of the U.S. military presence in Bosnia as part of a new multi-national peacekeeping force aimed at bringing stability to the Balkans.
The decision would keep American troops in the volatile region for at least most of 1997.
The United States has come under strong pressure from its NATO allies to participate in what's described as a follow-on military presence in Bosnia -- one that takes the place of the original contingent.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said 30 countries would take part in the overall force, which may number 30,000 troops. His said his "best guess" is that between 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops would join the force.
"The presence of the American troops would be absolutely basic. The leadership of your country is absolutely basic," Solana said.
The troops would replace the current NATO-led peace
implementation force (IFOR) of about 43,000 troops, which includes 12,000 U.S. troops. All of them are scheduled to withdraw by the end of the year.
Solana has been lobbying the Clinton administration and members of Congress to support the new mission, and said he received positive indications from Vice President Al Gore. But there has been resistance from some key Republican House members.
The chairman of the House National Security Committee Rep. Floyd Spence, R-South Carolina, said Thursday he would oppose President Clinton's decision to use ground troops in Bosnia as a "quasi-permanent human buffer."
Spence opposed involvement in Bosnia last year due to the lack of a solid exit plan for the United States, a situation he said has not changed.
"The administration still does not appear to have a credible exit plan," a Spence statement said.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary William Perry briefed the Senate Armed Services committee Thursday. Since August, he and other top administration officials have spoken openly about the possibility of an extended presence in Bosnia.
Removing troops would risk "some return to hostilities," said White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry.
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Republican critics on Capitol Hill have raised concerns and calling for greater consultation and explanation.
"I certainly think we are in danger of having a prolonged mission without a clear rule of engagement and without a clear mandate for exactly what victory will be. That is what happened in Vietnam," said Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
During the presidential campaign, Republican challenger Bob Dole accused Clinton of not leveling with the American people on the need to keep troops in Bosnia. The president simply said that option was under consideration -- insisting no decisions had been made.
Privately, administration officials agree the president wanted to get the election behind him before making the final commitment. So the name of the new NATO led force will change but the basic mission will remain the same -- to keep Bosnia's fragile peace from unraveling.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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