MARCH 27, 1996
General George Joulwan was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to brief Pentagon officials on the status of the mission in Bosnia. He talked with Jim Lehrer about how the mission has gone so far and what is next for U.S. troops stationed in the former Yugoslavia. Click here for more on Bosnia.
JIM LEHRER: General, welcome. From your perspective, how are things going in Bosnia, the mission in Bosnia?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe: Well, we are now just over three months into the mission, and on the--what the military task that we have been asked to execute are going fairly well. We have deployed the force in good fashion. We have about 60,000 forces on the ground now.
JIM LEHRER: Twenty thousand of them American, right?
GEN. JOULWAN: Roughly 20,000 Americans, and the first mission was at D plus 30, which was the separation of the force, four kilometers separation. That went well. We then at D plus 45 transferred land from, as we say, one entity to the other. That went well. We're now at D plus 90, where the gaining entity could come in. We had some tense moments around Sarajevo. But now we're at about D plus 90 plus, and we're looking at the next phase which is where the, where the former warring factions now will withdraw to cantonment areas or designated areas. So we'll have this breathing room. They'll move back 10 kilometers. Then they'll move back into designated areas and stay there. That is what we hope to have by D plus 120, which will be April 18th, as I recall.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what about the problem with the Bosnian Muslims over the Iranians, where does that stand? They were there training, the Muslims, and some of them are still there, is that correct?
GEN. JOULWAN: That's right. First of all, I think it's important to say that many had departed, and we found one camp that was we considered a threat to IFOR. That was raided. Some Iranians were then captured in that raid. We've put a lot of political pressure on both from NATO and the United States to get rid of foreign forces and comply with the Dayton Agreement. There are still some, and the number is fairly soft, but there are still some that we consider that are there in violation of the Dayton Agreement, and we would like those forces out.
JIM LEHRER: How many?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, it's between I would say a hundred to two hundred.
JIM LEHRER: Soldiers, military people?
GEN. JOULWAN: Primarily. Some of them have been integrated into one of the warring faction forces. Some have been given passports. We're watching that very closely. If they present a threat to IFOR, action will be taken. Politically there's a lot of pressure on the government to get rid of these forces.
JIM LEHRER: What, what is the threat? What's the problem?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, the problem is that some come from the terrorist branch from Iran, and we think that poses a direct threat to not only Americans but to IFOR forces. This camp that was raided had terrorist paraphernalia, booby traps, mines, sniper rifles, false documentation, those sorts of things. That gives us great concern. Force protection is very important to us, and we think that compliance is needed, that all foreign forces should be removed from the country, and we need to insist on that.
JIM LEHRER: And under the Dayton Accords, April the 18th is the deadline for them to be out, right?
GEN. JOULWAN: Actually, it should have been done--
JIM LEHRER: Already.
GEN. JOULWAN: --in January, and as I said, hundreds were sent out. And I think what has to happen now is that the pressure needs to continue to be applied politically primarily to get them removed. I assure you if they pose a--if we find a military threat, that we will take action.
JIM LEHRER: What about--you've talked to--obviously, your bailiwick is the military mission.
GEN. JOULWAN: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: How's the rest of it going?
GEN. JOULWAN: We knew at the beginning that the civilian side it would take time to get organized. There is a good working relationship developing between the military command and civilian leadership. That is going to take some time. It is not going, in my opinion, as fast as we would like it on the civilian side, and we need to do more to try to assist--I'm talking nations in particular--on the military side, we have provided an enormous amount of assistance in the way of what we call civil military cooperation where we have sent in teams of what we call CIMIC teams that will facilitate this integration of the, of the civilian mission and the military mission. We think that's very important. Both missions are clearly linked. But on the, on the military side, our effort is to create this secure environment throughout the country, and we're about--we think by D plus 120, if I can use this terminology, which will be about April 18th, we hope to have roads open throughout the country. We're trying to prevent checkpoints, prevent bunkers from reappearing in the zone of separation, and we would like to get freedom of movement for all these civilian agencies, so gas and water and those basic functions can be restored. We also look forward to working with these civilian agencies and are doing so now when refugees return, that elections can be held in the August/September time frame. That is all part of the total mission, and we have a role to play in that. Our role is to maintain this freedom of movement, to keep the former warring factions separated in their cantonment areas, and then let these civilian agencies operate. And that's what we're trying to do.
JIM LEHRER: What is it that concerns you about the pace thus far of the civilian part of the operation?
GEN. JOULWAN: It's an organizational problem that has to take place. There are many different agencies, and I think--
JIM LEHRER: Such as--
GEN. JOULWAN: The, the High Commission on Refugees, International Commission of the Red Cross. There's a whole reconstruction effort, the World Bank that is going to take part in it. There are about 120 non-governmental organizations that are involved. All of that has taken time to put together and to synchronize. It is coming together now, and we are assisting within our capabilities these civilian agencies, but I want to make it very clear, we have primary military tasks that we will do, and it's, it's keeping the former warring factions separated, keeping them in these cantonment areas at D plus 120, keeping the roads open, moving out to the international boundaries so there's freedom of movement throughout the whole country. That takes a great deal of military effort. And--but that is the climate, that is the secure environment we want to prevail, and we're looking forward to D plus 120, when that will happen.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of the climate and the warring factions, has there been any reduction at all in the basic hatred and hostility between and among all these folks?
GEN. JOULWAN: To be very candid, that's going to take time. I, I think that what we--reconciliation is a key part of this. We, we hope that by opening up the country that could lead to some reconciliation, but equally important is the reconstruction effort that has to take place, common services, electricity, water, schools, medical facilities open, and there are numerous agencies that are structured to do just that, and we hope that momentum for peace, as I like to call it, it's--it's started now, and we hope it can continue. And if, if that happens, I think that will assist in the reconciliation.
JIM LEHRER: As you probably know, General, there are increasing number of stories back here in the states that say that the only thing that is keeping these folks from each other's throats is the IFOR, is your force, and that if you all were to leave, boom, the war would start again.
GEN. JOULWAN: I think there's some validity in that. Remember, we're just a little over three months into this, and I think a great deal has been accomplished in three months, that many people three months ago would tell you that, that you couldn't have accomplished. I think we've accomplished a great deal, but these animosities go back three or four years, in some cases centuries. So I think that's going to be there, but at one point, they did live in a multi-ethnic society, and we hope that we can, we can at least set the foundation for them, and that's going to take some time for that healing to take place. But I think there's a war weariness in the country, and I think the majority of the people want peace. We need--we need to break through--for example, what we hope by our presence there, we will, we will break the cycle of what I call a Spring offensive. It has happened every year for four years in the Spring. They've started this fighting again. We hope to prevent that. That, to me, would be a very positive sign, and if that then could lead to elections in August or September, and that's another positive sign, and I think you have to take step by step through this and try to build this confidence.
JIM LEHRER: General, do you see a time coming when somebody, the leaders of NATO, are going to come to you and say, Gen. Joulwan, can we meet the December deadline, should we leave, or should we stay behind December?
GEN. JOULWAN: I think that we'll be an item of discussion within not only NATO but other countries as well. Remember now, we have 30 plus countries now working with us, 16 NATO and the rest are non-NATO, to include Russia. So there will be a lot of voices about what direction we're going to go. And right now I, I think it's premature to make that--even have the discussion. I think it's very important to see what happens at the D plus 120, that if we can get this separation, if we can get the former warring factions back in their cantonment areas, if we can break this Spring offensive cycle, I think that would create the condition to really let us build this momentum for peace. But I also say very quickly that I think it's okay to talk about what we're going to do a year from now. What I really would like to focus on is what we can do in the next nine months, and I think talk prematurely about what we're going to do in a year may stall or, or not move as quickly all the agencies and programs that need to get started now, but we will have this, we will have this discussion, and we will do an assessment and provide our military advice on, on what may occur later.
JIM LEHRER: How's the thing going with the Russians? This is an unprecedented operation.
GEN. JOULWAN: It's going fairly well. I just was in Moscow on Saturday with the contact group meeting, and I also met with some of the Russian leadership, military leadership. We have worked out an arrangement where the Russian forces are deployed, primarily what we call Multinational Division North, which is the U.S.-led area. They visited the brigade with the Secretary General of NATO about 10 days ago, and it was really encouraging to see the cooperation that's taking place between all members of that brigade, but particularly between the Americans and the Russian soldiers. I felt if I can get it down at the soldier level, we would, we would really, I think, see the future developing and trying to get over this suspicion that we have. But they're now conducting joint patrols together along their boundaries, and I never thought in my 35 years I would see Russians and Americans running patrols together and training together, running artillery exercises together in an operation trying to bring peace to a country. And we're doing that, and I'm very optimistic. I think, as you rightly say, that this has meaning much more beyond Bosnia. It has a meaning for future security relationship in Europe, and I think we're now developing this trust and confidence that I think is so important.
JIM LEHRER: General, finally, Mrs. Clinton was just, was just in Bosnia. There were some suggestions here that this was a political trip on her part to embellish or refurbish her, her political image. Was that how it was seen by the troops in Bosnia?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, I think it was very well received, and she, Mrs. Clinton not only went to Bosnia, she went back to Baumholder, and, and we have a lot of families there that are sacrificing, young American families who have sent their husband or wife.
JIM LEHRER: You're talking about in Germany.
GEN. JOULWAN: In Germany, right. And the President visited there before the troops deployed, and Mrs. Clinton and--went back there before she went to Bosnia, the day before, very well received, talked to a lot of the families, met with some of the schoolchildren. This demonstrates I think the great strength of America. We take care of our own. We don't forget them, and I think that message was very clear in, in Tuzla, in Tuzla and in Bosnia as well. I think the troops really appreciated her visit.
JIM LEHRER: General, thank you very much.
GEN. JOULWAN: My pleasure. Thank you.