Tags: Powell | Expects | Bosnia | Troop | Reduction

Powell Expects OK on Bosnia Troop Reduction

Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM

"There will be decisions made tomorrow to reduce the Bosnian troop level more, so you can continue to reduce the troop levels, but it will be some time before those countries are free standing on their own and able to handle their own business and their own affairs," Powell said while en route to Budapest from Africa.

When asked when he thought U.S. troops would return home, he said he didn't know precisely but "I think it's going to be years (before the troops would return to the United States). I don't think you necessarily have to keep the troop levels the same, they have been going down steadily."

There are currently 3,500 to 3,600 U.S. troops in Bosnia. The last adjustment for U.S. forces in the SFOR, the NATO led peacekeeping force, reduced its size by 800.

During President Bush's campaign, his top foreign policy adviser Condoleezza Rice, said the administration would be looking at pulling U.S. troops out of the Balkans and reassessing the U.S. role in peacekeeping altogether. Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in a Washington Post interview he was reconsidering the U.S. role in Bosnia, referring specifically to peacekeeping troops. Powell on the other hand has made it a point to stress that U.S. peacekeepers will leave when the rest of the NATO force does.

Powell stressed that Rumsfeld's remarks were taken out of context and that he and the defense secretary were on the same page on Bosnia. "Don has been saying it correctly. We went in together we'll come out together," Powell said.

At the meeting Powell said he will be pushing his colleagues to bring in more units specifically trained for police and constabulary duties. There are 11 of the "multinational specialized units" on the ground in Bosnia. Powell said there should be a total of 19 and he will press for the remaining eight units to be deployed to the region.

Powell expects that the NATO foreign ministers meeting Tuesday and Wednesday will focus on escalating violence in Macedonia. Powell said the meeting's "principal focus will be on Macedonia.

"I think you will see the ministers press for respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia, welcoming the new expanded unity government and the coalition condemning the actions of the (National Liberation Army) and encouraging the government of Macedonia to move more aggressively on political reconciliation," Powell said.

Over the last week the government in Skopje stepped up efforts to run Albanian rebels out of a handful of towns they control. The crack down comes after President Boris Trajkovski expanded his government's ruling coalition to include more ethnic Albanians and continued talks with Albanian political leaders. However with the outbreak of recent violence, those talks could collapse.

Powell also said he expected his European colleagues to quiz him on his recent meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that focused principally on missile defense. In that meeting, Ivanov proposed two U.S.-Russian study groups to examine the modern missile threat and to review the missile agreements already in existence between the two countries.

One likely challenge for Powell will be how to manage the growing rift between Turkey and the rest of the alliance over a joint European defense entity known as the European Security and Defense Program. Securing Turkey's support for the initiative consumed most of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's time in December at the last NAC meeting. She was not persuasive enough to change their position.

Some conservatives argue the plan already endorsed by the European Union would amount to an army to compete with NATO. For this reason, U.S. support under President Clinton and Bush has hinged on the new body sharing defense planning capabilities with NATO to avoid overlap.

Turkey, however, has blocked any vote to date on sharing planning capabilities until they receive assurances that the EU-based military body will not be able to veto Turkish military activities, and that the Turks will be able to participate in some capacity in the new body.

Powell dispatched acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs James Dobbins to Turkey over the weekend to soften them up. "I don't know if we will find a solution in time for tomorrow, but if not we'll just keep moving on and look for a solution after Budapest," he said.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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There will be decisions made tomorrow to reduce the Bosnian troop level more, so you can continue to reduce the troop levels, but it will be some time before those countries are free standing on their own and able to handle their own business and their own affairs, ...
Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM
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