In what he called a “very important, very significant development,” Defense Secretary William J. Perry said Sunday that the United States will establish an intelligence-gathering operation to help the leaders of a planned European strike force monitor the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Perry, speaking as he returned to Washington from a meeting of defense ministers in Paris, said the “intelligence coordination cell” will be patterned after a similar operation created during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and will provide key backup assistance to the commanders of the quick reaction force.
The United States, he said, will provide unmanned reconnaissance flights to collect intelligence information about Bosnian Serb movements.
He added that the United States will also use the Predator unmanned spy plane, which is still in the training stage and has not been used yet in a military situation.
The intelligence data will be handed over to European military leaders who will be running the new quick reaction force announced in Paris on Saturday. The special commando unit will be deployed whenever U.N. peacekeeping troops find themselves in harm’s way.
The United States has the world’s most technically sophisticated intelligence-gathering apparatus, he said, and such information will give allied European field commanders an extra advantage in tracking Bosnian Serb activities. That assistance, officials said, could have helped prevent earlier problems, such as the shooting down of an American F-16 pilot over Bosnia on Friday and the capture of hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers.
“There’s detailed planning already under way for the preparation of an intelligence coordination cell,” Perry said. “That’s a very significant move, and our allies (in Paris) saw that as a very significant move.”
Perry said that once planning for the new intelligence operation is completed, military officials from NATO and other European forces will be better prepared to handle contingencies should the U.N. peacekeeping efforts become endangered.
“We’re already doing the internal U.S. planning on what that cell would consist of,” he said.
A convoy of British soldiers with big guns in tow arrived in central BosniaHerzegovina, the first of thousands of troops that will form the multinational quick reaction force there. About 50 British gunners and six 105mm guns arrived in the central Bosnian town of Gornji Vakuf in the late afternoon.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the United States is pressing Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to help determine the location and condition of the missing U.S. pilot. Speaking to reporters in Haiti, Christopher said that a U.S. official has spoken to Milosevic about the status of the pilot, adding that Milosevic has agreed to help the United States press the Bosnian Serbs to disclose what they know about the pilot.
In Croatia, breakaway Krajina Serbs threatened to fire rockets into the capital, Zagreb, and several coastal cities if Croatian government soldiers and their Bosnian Croat allies do not halt an advance toward Knin, the selfstyled capital of the breakaway Krajina region.
U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said if the U.N. withdraws from Bosnia it will result in “a humanitarian disaster, refugees flowing out of the ‘safe areas,’ hunger and all kinds of horrible things.”
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, speaking on the same program, denounced the new U.S. initiatives and specifically criticized the planned quick reaction force. “I don’t see this rapid deployment force is going to make any great difference,” he said.
Los Angeles Times