JANUARY 19, 1996
PAUL DAVIES, ITN: Muslim prisoners are brought of jails where many have spent years as captives of the Bosnian Serbs. Now they're being released. A few miles away Serb prisoners prepare to be reunited with their families as another condition of the Dayton agreement is complied with.
SPOKESMAN: We expect that the total number of more than 900 prisoners will be released today, but this is expectation and only the facts are important and at midnight we'll be in a position to say how many prisoners have effectively been released by the parties.
PAUL DAVIES: Earlier, a aerial search of the old battle lines confirmed what NATO commanders already believed, that the former warring factions had pulled their forces out of the new zone of separation ahead of today's deadline. As Bosnia's three armies move their weapons away from the confrontation line, many parts of the zone of separation are now being patrolled by British soldiers, some of them shocked by the conditions their Bosnian counterparts lived in. There are still hazards for the British soldiers and the peace plan, but on D Day plus 30, NATO commanders say their demands have substantially been complied with.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get two assessments of the Bosnia mission now. Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He recently returned from Bosnia, and he joins us from Boston. Sen. John Warner is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. He has made several trips to Bosnia, the most recent in September. Thank you, Senators for being with us. Sen. Kerry, what--how would you characterize the record of the Bosnia mission so far?
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) Massachusetts: Well, I think that it's gone better than was expected, and I think that's the assessment of the generals, the commanders that I visited with a few days ago. But I think we all have to remember that this initial part is the easier part; nevertheless, we all ought to be elated that it has happened as it was set out within the Dayton agreement, and it appears as if things are on track. The tougher part will come, but you've got to accomplish the easier in order to get to the tougher, so I would say all in all, it's a good mission at this point in time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Warner, what do you think?
SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) Virginia: Two words: Well done for our troops and those of our allies. The mission is proceeding, and you must remember we've only got about 30 to 40 percent of the full force in place. So Adm. Smith is the overall commander, Gen. Nash, and right on down to the privates, well done.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do the commanders--does their interpretation of the mission seem to you about right, or do you see signs of what everybody refers to as mission creep?
SEN. WARNER: I discussed that at length today with the senior intelligence and operational officials at the Joint Chiefs, and there's a defined mission, and we're doing everything we can to stay within the confinement of that military mission. Two things today, of course, we fell short in receiving the full information about the full inventory of weapons on the warring sides, and as you mentioned in your opening piece, the full disclosure and exchange of POW's falling behind. But on the whole, I think great credit is owing to all for the accomplishments today.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Kerry, what do you think about the interpretation of the mission? When you were there, did it seem about right to you? Do you think it's going too far one way or the other, too much mission creep, or too little?
SEN. KERRY: Well, that's really one of the principal reasons that I went. Remembering the lessons of Vietnam, I thought it was very important at the early stage to just listen to troops. And I spent a lot of time trying to walk among them and talk to people and just ask, you know, do you understand this mission, do you know what the rules of engagement are, do you think you're being sent on mission impossible, do you feel like you have the support systems necessary? And I was very impressed by both the level of morale, the understanding, the commitment, and the sense that there really is a, a huge caution factor that is working its way right down to the troops on patrol with respect to this possibility of mission creep. None of us want to see this become suddenly a "nation building" or war criminal prosecuting or political refugee asylum effort or anything else. It has to be an effort strictly to provide the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the federation, an opportunity to be able to make the peace they've longed for, but it is absolutely up to them to deliver, not us.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: On the other side, Sen. Kerry, there have been some criticisms, particularly from the Bosnian government, that the implementation force, IFOR, is considering, is looking at taking its mandate too narrowly. For example, the criticism we've read recently in the press that freedom of movement hasn't been really guaranteed yet, is that a danger, do you think?
SEN. KERRY: Well, it's always, of course. There are dangers on all sides here, but I think John Warner and I and most of the Senate would share a conviction that it's better to be on the narrow side to start with than to make a grievous error. There will be tricky choices here. I would prefer to see an international police effort press the question of collection of war crimes data, but it's imperative that we do trust it, and if they are not given free access, I personally think that it would fall within the Dayton agreement for just the access, not the collection, but the access to be secured by our troops. But these are the bridges yet to be crossed as we go down the road here. The most important thing that has to happen is an election, and the politics on the ground are what have to come together now. And my sense is that that will be greatly enhanced by a sense among the civilians that they do have the freedom of movement, and I believe it's just going to take time for them to trust that and to test it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Warner--
SEN. WARNER: I'd like to pick up on that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes.
SEN. WARNER: I agree with my friend and colleague. He pointed out the inadequacy of the local police force. Essentially, it just hasn't come into being, the international police force, and therefore, the civilians understandably turn to IFOR to provide it. And we've got to be cautious not to play the role of policeman. Also, as these graves are discovered, therein rests a tremendous emotional stress on all sides. And it has to be addressed by the proper tribunals, the war crimes tribunal, and the role of IFOR should be limited very carefully not to exhuming any of the alleged graves but perhaps just to give safety of transit for the appropriate officials.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you would support, Sen. Kerry said that IFOR, in fact, would do that after they had said it wouldn't. You would support just the transport of the investigators?
SEN. WARNER: I spoke with Sec. Perry a day or so about that, and it's not clear yet, so I don't want to get an agreement. But let me make one thing clear. Although I was very strongly opposed to the addition of the ground forces, I think the mission has gone well, and I'm not, nor are others, standing around waiting for a mistake or a tragedy to happen and say, well, we told you so. We're all behind our troops now and, indeed, to try and see that this policy is carried out as quickly as possible and as safely as possible for all.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Warner, how important do you think the war crimes tribunal issue is, though?
SEN. WARNER: Very important, because the human rights was one of the principle reasons for our beginning to get more heavily involved in this tragic civil war.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So IFOR really does need to help out with that in some way?
SEN. WARNER: Well, now let's be very cautious. IFOR's role should be clearly defined by the President, as it has thus far, the Secretaries of State and Defense should agree on this together with our allies, it's a partnership arrangement with the other countries.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do you agree with Sen. Kerry that the tough times are really beginning now, that this is not--that there are much tougher times ahead?
SEN. WARNER: Well--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What are your concerns?
SEN. WARNER: Of course, my concern is primarily for the safety of our people. Yes, there will be tough times. You've got the difficulty of the mines. We're now training the indigenous forces to remove the mines. But they're ever present. I talked to one senior officer today. Mud and cold is a serious impediment, but our troops are the "can do" spirit, let's get it done. So the tough times are ahead, and you'll have strong emotions when we have to (a) begin arming and training the Bosnian forces so they can be a deterrent against future aggressions, when the graves are opened up, when the elections come, but thus far, the forces, and particularly American forces, have performed very well.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Kerry, let me move to another point now. This has been a historic week in another respect. Russian troops are cooperating with American troops under, I know it's a little confused at the moment, but under U.S. leadership in Bosnia. What do you think about that? Do you think that has a lot of potential for very good developments in the future, or are you worried about it?
SEN. KERRY: Oh, I'm not worried about it, no. I must say I attended a briefing in Tuzla, and it was quite remarkable to be introduced to the Russian liaison officer who was sitting in the middle of this briefing and cooperating, and we had an interesting conversation, a very brief one but interesting. I think any time we can have that kind of cooperation it serves all of our international interests. Obviously, with the events in Russia, with the great dangers to Yeltsin's administration, with the huge transition yet ahead in Russia, any opportunity for Russian troops to understand a different set of interests, a spirit of cooperation, the capacity for a--literally a new order is to everybody's advantage. So I say have at it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what about the civilian part of this mission, Sen. Kerry? It's been much slower in getting off the ground than the military mission. In fact, it's barely off the ground at all.
SEN. KERRY: Well, that's inevitable. I mean, you know, this is a place that has been torn apart. There is great distrust still. That is going to be the toughest part of it, which is why I said, you know, the military piece is really the easy piece of this. What has got to happen now is an all-out effort, and one of the concerns that I came away with was the sense that Carl Bildt needs to step that up.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Carl Bildt is the leader and main administrator of the civilian operation.
SEN. KERRY: Correct. The main European designated leader, and it's his responsibility to pull the politics of it together, and that effort I think has got to be geared up by all concerned. There must be an election within six to nine months. The success of this effort will depend on an election taking place. But we were very struck. We had a meeting in Tuzla. The president met and the congressional delegation met with, with an extraordinary array of families, Croatian, Serbian, Muslim, the leaders of each of the religions. I mean, you had the cardinal there, you had the leading Muslim leader. You had the Orthodox Church. You had President Izetbegovic. You had the mayor of Sarajevo, the mayor of Tuzla, the mayor of Banja Luka. It was an extraordinary gathering of people, all of whom said, we want this to happen, and that, in fact, the federation challenge in Mostar was really a challenge that was coming from maybe 100 people or so and doesn't represent the desires of the majority of the people. So we have to hope that the political structure, the infrastructure of holding a social fabric together can be put on place on the ground in order to permit what I think is the genuine desire among the majority of the people to have peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Kerry, Sen. Warner, thank you very much for being with us.