December 16, 1995
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT)
From Brussels Bureau Chief Patricia Kelly
MONS, Belgium (CNN) -- Supreme Allied Commander George Joulwan gave the order Saturday for 60,000 NATO troops to head into Bosnia.
"The enabling forces are in place," he said at a news conference. "The main forces are ready. Therefore my recommendation to the North Atlantic Council was simply 'Let's go.'" (116K AIFF sound or 116K WAV sound)
Joulwan is the mastermind behind NATO's operations in Bosnia, the top military commander in charge of Operation Joint Endeavour.
"Our work now is how to get the force there and get it there in good shape in the middle of winter," he said.
But the general isn't going to war -- his mission is peace. Until now Joulwan's staff has only been able to guess which countries will send troops and how many. But now they know for sure.
This mission is the first time that NATO troops will work alongside non-NATO troops. Even the Russians are playing a major role.
"One team involved in one mission to bring peace to Bosnia," Joulwan said. "Now what we must do is take the theory and put it into practice."
Practice means a 20 minute helicopter trip to NATO headquarters to brief ambassadors, and in turn, be briefed on the latest developments. Then Joulwan takes a 40 minute plane ride to Germany for a visit to NATO's Ace Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters.
"The most difficult part of it, the most important part to fit, is getting the political guidance right," Joulwan told CNN's Patricia Kelly.
After the visit with the troops in Germany, and a meeting of generals, Joulwan returns to Belgium.
A general with combat experience under his belt, Joulwan knows he is likely to lose some of his soldiers.
"There are going to be risks out there every time we deploy forces," he said. "Not just for American forces but for all of the forces. And we're going to do the best job we can." (191K AIFF sound or 191K WAV sound)
Most of the 60,000 troops will be in place within 60 days. Bad weather is a challenge but not an obstacle. Joulwan says it won't cause delays in deployment.
On Saturday, Joulwan pushed the button that started the process.
"I issued the activation order for Operation Joint Endeavour...at 0253 local time," he told reporters Saturday. "Our mission is clear, limited in time and scope and with robust rules of engagement."
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