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Nethercutt Finds ‘Fragile Peace’ Says U.S. Needs ‘Exit Strategy’ For Involvement In Bosnia

The United States needs to find an “exit strategy” for its military involvement in Bosnia, Rep. George Nethercutt said Sunday after touring bases in that country.

Peace may be a generation away from the former Yugoslavia, said Nethercutt, part of a congressional team that spent the weekend in the Balkans. U.S. troops can’t stay that long, he said.

But the Spokane Republican said he likely will vote to continue money for the U.S. military mission when it comes before the House Appropriations Committee this spring.

“We’ll never pull our funding out from under our troops when they’re on the ground,” he said in a telephone interview from Rome.

Nethercutt was part of a bipartisan group that inspected military bases in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Brcko, and met with Bosnia and Serb officials.

Sunday afternoon, he had an impromptu meeting with a group of civilians - five Serbs and five Muslims - near Brcko. It was, Nethercutt said later, a microcosm of the conflict.

An elderly Serbian woman said she had been moved eight times in the last several years and just wanted to go home. The Muslims said they had been displaced and wanted to return home, too. Neither group could visit the graves of family members.

“There was a heated discussion about who’s killed whom,” he said. “This is a very fragile peace.”

Nethercutt, who was a lawyer specializing in adoptions before he was elected to Congress, also toured a Sarajevo orphanage and delivered 300 toothbrushes and 300 tubes of toothpaste to the orphanage, a gift from the Spokane Dental Association. He also met with government officials about the delays for American families willing to adopt Bosnian orphans.

The delays are a result of government red tape, Nethercutt said. Government officials promised to look into the problems, but he said Congress might require proof that the adoption process is streamlined before approving some financial aid.

, DataTimes