Seven U.S. cargo planes brought tents and equipment here Thursday to support the peace mission to Bosnia, but heavy snows and dense Balkan fog have delayed the major movements of American soldiers, the Pentagon said.
As President Clinton and Balkan leaders signed the Bosnia peace accord in Paris, only about 65 U.S. military personnel had landed in Tuzla, headquarters for American soldiers who will make up one-third of a planned 60,000-troop NATO peacekeeping mission.
Weather permitting, the first large groups of U.S. troops should begin flying into Tuzla this weekend from Italy, with no soldiers or equipment coming by land until next week at the earliest, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said in Washington.
Bacon said the delay won’t alter the schedule for implementing the terms of the peace accord.
The bulk of the 20,000 American troops are expected to come to Tuzla over land, accompanying heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers and other gear too heavy to be transported in any quantities by air.
It will likely be February before the full U.S. contingent arrives, Defense Secretary William Perry has said, but the force is expected to be operational weeks before that.
There was sun across much of the Balkans, but it didn’t thaw out mountain roads or clear the fog that continued to hem in much of Tuzla.
An Air Force spokesman said the U.S. is contracting locally to purchase gravel for roads, repair and construct buildings, and fix bad plumbing and electrical wiring in structures that will form a U.S. military base.