Here are answers to some basic questions about the Bosnian peace agreement.
Q. When will American troops go to Bosnia?
A. Probably in mid-December, but White House and Pentagon officials aren’t saying for sure. Clinton aides said Tuesday that Supreme Allied Commander in Europe George Joulwan will complete the details of a NATO troop plan and submit it for Clinton’s review in a matter of days.
Once that has happened, the president will seek a formal expression of support from Congress. The president said Tuesday that Congress would have “a period of weeks” before an expected formal signing of the peace agreement in Paris. The signing would trigger the involvement of NATO’s peacekeeping forces.
Some 1,500 to 2,000 NATO communications and logistical personnel, including several hundred Americans, are expected to be sent into Bosnia in the days before the signing.
Q. Why are American troops needed in Bosnia?
A. The warring parties have asked for their presence, and Clinton promised in February 1993 to send U.S. troops to help implement a peace agreement.
Q. How many American troops would be sent?
A. The American troops - roughly 20,000 to 25,000 - would make up one-third of the NATO force, with the rest coming from NATO partners and other nations. The bulk of the U.S. contingent will be from the Army’s 1st Armored Division, currently based in Germany. About 3,000 reservists in the United States are likely to be called, along with hundreds of support crews.
Q. What will they be doing?
A. The U.S. troops will patrol “zones of separation” to keep the warring factions from fighting each other. They will have to clear mines. The Pentagon has said they will not disarm combatants, hunt down accused war criminals, resettle refugees or rebuild the ravaged country.
Q. How long would U.S. troops stay in Bosnia?
A. The administration has said the deployment will last about a year. Clinton promised Tuesday “a reasonable timetable for their withdrawal.”
Q. How dangerous is their mission?
A. It is extremely risky. Casualties are likely. The administration has vowed that U.S. troops will not be placed in a combat situation, although Bosnia is teeming with millions of mines and well-armed militias. Besides snipers, another danger is road accidents, which have killed most U.N. soldiers and three U.S. diplomats during the peace negotiations.
In the past three years, a U.N. force ranging from 15,000 to 34,000 has suffered a total of 210 killed, 80 of those “war related.”
Q. Can Congress block the use of U.S. troops in Bosnia?
A. No. But Congress could put intense political and financial pressure on Clinton to bring American troops home.
Q. What are the major elements of the peace agreement?
A. As President Clinton outlined Tuesday: Bosnia would be a single state, made up of two parts - the Bosnian Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic, with fair distribution of land between the two. The capital, Sarajevo, will remain united. There will be a central government, including a national parliament, a presidency and a constitutional court. Free democratic elections, held under international supervision, will choose the president and the parliament. Refugees will be allowed to return to their homes. People will be allowed to move throughout Bosnia. An international commission and an internationally trained civilian police will monitor the human rights of Bosnian citizens. War criminals will be excluded from political life.