President Clinton will visit American troops in Bosnia next week, hoping to bring home some good news from the peacekeeping front for his State of the Union address.
Citing security concerns, the White House refused to give the exact date or site of Clinton’s stop, although he is widely expected to visit the American headquarters in Tuzla. A visit Jan. 13 is being considered.
Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said the trip will occur before Clinton’s State of the Union address, the Jan. 23 showcase of administration policy that political aides hope will lay the first marker for the 1996 presidential campaign.
“He would like to see the troops, talk to them, see how they’re doing,” McCurry told reporters. “He’d like to see senior U.S. and also senior NATO military commanders to get their assessment of the status of the deployment.”
Clinton had wanted to travel to Bosnia during the holiday season, but his military commanders asked him to wait until the deployment was at a later stage.
Some 20,000 U.S. troops are on their way to Bosnia to help outfit a 60,000-person NATO peacekeeping force.
McCurry said few details of the trip will be divulged before Clinton and a small contingent of journalists are airborne. “We are going in the midst of a complicated deployment into a place in the world that is not exactly entirely safe,” he told reporters.
The spokesman did say the trip will involve “one or two additional stops,” and said it was unclear whether the president would visit Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian leaders while in the region. Aides said the president may spend a night in Germany, either before or after the Bosnia trip.
As with most presidential actions in an election year, there will be political overtones to the trip. Clinton will return with fresh anecdotes and quotes from U.S. troops that he can sprinkle into the nationally televised State of the Union address. “Very Reaganesque,” one aide said.
The official said Clinton hopes to visit the U.S.-built bridge across the Sava River.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole also had wanted a holiday visit with the troops but held back at the request of the Pentagon.
McCurry said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Dole, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, might accompany Clinton.
But Dole’s spokesman, Clarkson Hine, said the senator was focusing on balancing the budget and has no travel plans.