THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GENERAL HOWELL ESTES OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF AND SAMUEL BERGER,
DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
The Briefing Room
12: 35 P.M. EST
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House Briefing Room. This afternoon we're going to have a special briefing for you today. Samuel R. -- Sandy Berger, the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Lt. General Howell Estes, the Director for Operations, or J three for the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, are going to talk about the President's forthcoming trip and the situation on the ground in Bosnia as we implement the Dayton-Paris Agreement.
I'd like to make a couple of points before they begin. The first is, Michael mentioned to you this morning that he would come down at some point and let you know a little bit more about what to expect in terms of the opening statement for this afternoon's press conference. He asked me to tell you that he would come back into your work area at around 2:00 p.m. this afternoon and give you an update on that.
The second point I'd like to make is, in this discussion today, as we've made clear all week as we've gotten toward this trip, we're not going to talk about specific locations and we're not going to talk about specific sequences and times for this trip for security and safety reasons. And that's something we're going to adhere to during this briefing as well. So if you would defer your questions on that until we get much closer to the actual arrival time.
Without further ado, Sandy Berger.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, David.
Let me speak very briefly at the outset about the President's trip to the Balkans over the weekend. I will begin by giving you an overview of the general elements of the trip and the goals for the President's visit. I will then hand the podium over to General Estes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will talk more about the military situation on the ground and the implementation process.
On Friday afternoon the President will depart from Nashville. He'll fly to Aviano Air Base in Italy. There he will visit briefly with U.S. troops who are participating in IFOR or supporting the IFOR mission. He'll make some brief remarks to the troops. He will then fly to Hungary and Bosnia to visit U.S. troops who are participating in IFOR.
He will be briefed by our military commanders -- General Joulwan, General Nash, and General Walker and Abrams, Admiral Smith, and others -- and address the troops in both countries. He will also view some of our military operations there. He will meet with President Izetbegovic of Bosnia, as well as with Hungary's President Goncz and Prime Minister Horn. And finally, the President will fly to Zagreb on the way back, where he will meet with President Tudjman.
The President has been eager to make this trip since the Paris signing of the Dayton Agreement on December 14th. He wants to show the American troops by his presence the deep gratitude and pride that he and the American people feel for the efforts that they are making in Bosnia. He hopes to speak to them personally about the importance of what they are doing in Bosnia, the importance to the Bosnians, the importance to the United States, the importance to the world. He hopes to gain firsthand understanding impression of the operation. And, finally, as he talks to the parties, he will emphasize the historic opportunity that they have to seize this moment to build an enduring peace, and he will urge them, of course, to comply fully with the agreement.
The President believes very strongly that the American troops are participating in this mission in Bosnia, performing heroic work under difficult circumstances. They are making a difference between a war that resumes and a peace that takes hold. The President believes they are also carrying out a crucial mission for American security by preventing a fire in the heart of Europe from reigniting into an even more dangerous conflict.
Now, the mission, if I can speak just briefly to what has happened in the past month or so, the mission, so far, in our judgment, is off to a generally good beginning. General Estes will speak more specifically about conditions on the ground and about logistics of the operation. But I would say that, once again, we have seen the ingenuity, the discipline, the training and the extraordinary can-do spirit of the American military when faced with one challenge after another.
In terms of compliance by the parties, although there have been some sporadic incidents in general, the cease-fire which was initiated on October 11th has now been in place for nearly three months and is generally holding around the country. The separation of forces around Sarajevo, which was to take place seven days after the transfer authority to the NATO mission, has been completed successfully. And we are also seeing very good signs in terms of the separation of the forces generally along the cease-fire line, which is expected to be completed next week. There has been generally good cooperation with IFOR, with the NATO mission by the parties, assistance in clearing mine fields, and generally a receptive welcome to the international forces.
There still are areas of concern. As you know, there have been some concerns by the Serbs around Sarajevo. We were pleased yesterday that President Izetbegovic of Bosnia announced a general amnesty for Serb soldiers, which we believe ought to be reassuring. And there are other measures that we have discussed with the Bosnian government that could be taken to have a greater sense of confidence around Sarajevo. We obviously want to foster an environment in which the Serbs there feel that they can remain in security.
Let me just say a word about the civil implementation effort before asking General Estes to talk about the military implementation. The civil implementation side of this being undertaken by the international community is, obviously, extraordinarily important. It did not have as long a gestation period in the sense as the military planning side. There has been planning going on at NATO for months and the civil implementation really began with the Dayton Agreement. But we believe that there are beginning now to be progress in establishing the elements of implementation of other aspects of the agreement.
Carl Bildt, who is the High Representative responsible for coordinating all of the civil elements of this agreement -- the elections, human rights, economic reconstruction, resettlement, all which will be conducted by individual international organizations -- Bildt's operation now is established in Sarajevo with two deputies; one a German, Michael Steiner, and one an American Jacques Covey.
Our full-time coordinator for civil implementation, Ambassador Bob Gallucci, is in the region this week. He's meeting with the parties and reviewing the situation, and he will be addressing full-time with his staff here our own participation with the international community in these civil implementation elements.
On the economic reconstruction side, in Brussels last week, the international community pledged $500 million for the first quarter of this year for economic reconstruction. And that is in addition to the $85 million in humanitarian assistance that the President had spoken about when he was in Paris.
The OSCE mission, which is charged with beginning to plan for elections, has been established under former U.S. diplomat Bob Frowick, a very respected former foreign service officer. That mission will be responsible for monitoring human rights and supervising the elections. And we are moving forward in Vienna last week, beginning the arms control process, which is part of the Dayton agreement.
So all of these civil efforts are moving forward even as the more limited and specific military missions being undertaken by our forces together with the other NATO and non-NATO forces are moving forward.
Let me say a final word on the trip, and then ask General Estes to speak more specifically and with charts, which I don't have, about what is happening on the ground.
As I mentioned, the President will be stopping in Hungary, which, as you know, is one of the principal staging areas for our soldiers who are going to Bosnia. The President is looking forward very much to thanking that nation for their support of NATO's operation in Bosnia.
We should not overlook this element of this mission. Less than seven years after the end of the Cold War, this former Warsaw Pact nation is providing critical support for a NATO mission in its own territory. This development, along with the dispatch of Polish, Czech, Russian, and Lithuanian troops to Bosnia, has been possible because President Clinton devoted himself over the last two years to building a Partnership for Peace within the umbrella of NATO and opening NATO's doors to new members. These efforts helped build a free, democratic and undivided Europe, are beginning to pay off because safeguarding the future of Europe, a continent for which and on which we have sacrificed so much for freedom, is ultimately essentially what the mission in Bosnia is about.
Let me now turn to General Estes and ask him to speak briefly about the situation on the ground.
GENERAL ESTES: Thank you, Sandy.
Good afternoon. I think I'll spend a few minutes trying to set a framework for what the President will see when he gets over into the Balkans. I think it's best to do that by trying to describe for all of you where we are on the deployment of forces and what the forces are doing once they arrive at their final destination. And I'll do that with a series of charts.
Put the first one up, please.
Now, these are charts we've used in some of the Pentagon briefings -- a couple of these -- and I think they will best describe where we are in the actual deployment because, as the President pays his visit to U.S. forces, this will give you some idea of exactly where we are and where we expect to go.
This chart basically lays out some of the key time lines across the top for what's in the Dayton Agreement. Some of these things have passed already. There have been some things that the Dayton Agreement called for that are not shown on here that we've had full compliance with, as Mr. Berger mentioned.
The key date, though, for us is this date right here, the 19th of January. And that's the date at which the Implementation Forces under NATO from all the countries that are there, within their own sectors, of which the U.S. has one, as you know, will start to monitor and enforce this zone of separation along the cease-fire line. So this is the primary and the largest task that NATO will have with its Implementation Force, and it starts on the 19th of January. So the key is that we need to be sure that the bulk of our force as we support this NATO mission is deployed and ready to carry out this task.
What you see here are the weeks since we started deploying what we call the enabling force which went before the actual peace accord was signed. This enabled the rapid movement of the main body force. That's why we called it the enabling force.
It deployed in early. The support force is the U.S. support force in Hungary. This is the main U.S. support forward location. And then we started with a command post in the Tuzla area and the security for it, the bridge being constructed, and then the main deployment of the forces -- aviation forces and ground forces.
The colors you see shown on the chart really say, here is today -- everything to the right of the line shows what's planned. To the left of the line is really a history report on, did we do it on time or were we a little late or were we a lot late based on the needs of the commander. And so you can see that some of the forces were a little late, but no major impact.
The problems with the bridge that you all are well aware of and were well reported on are shown here as well. The aviation brigade, initially a little late because of the bad weather, again, which we are all aware of -- but the bulk of the ground forces which moved by train have been essentially on time and are arriving on time and will be there on time to do the mission that's required by the 19th.
So what the President is going to see when he goes on the trip is a fairly sizable buildup of forces in Bosnia itself -- and I'll give you those numbers here in just a minute as to where we are in the U.S. sector. He will also see a fairly substantial flow of forces, which will be this part of the force as it's moving down through Eastern Europe, through Hungary, through Croatia into Bosnia itself.
Let's go to the next slide, please.
This shows the overall lay-down, of course, with this area being Bosnia itself and divided into three sectors, with the U.S. sector being in the Northeast; British sector to the west and southwest, and French to the east and southeast.
The forces themselves that were flowing in, they're coming by rail and road, are coming out of Germany, down through Budapest, down into this forward support location that Mr. Berger talked about, which is located at Taszar and Kaposvar. And this is where the large buildup of forces is taking places. Large amount of trains, in fact, over 220 trains have come down through this area, bringing our forces in. We then stage from this forward support base, move down across the Sava River, which is located right down here on the border between Croatia and Bosnia, as you all are aware. And it's right near Zupanja and then into Tuzla. So that's the flow in which U.S. forces are moving.
We have an air base that we're using, a Hungarian air base here at Taszar, and then, of course, an air base here at Tuzla and one at Sarajevo -- the primary U.S. support going into Taszar and Tuzla, although we have had some flights into Sarajevo as well supporting U.S. forces.
Over here, Aviano, you're well aware of what Aviano is. This is where our air presence is that is being used to support the NATO Implementation Force. We have the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force aircraft based there. Out here in the Adriatic Sea, of course, we have an aircraft carrier and a amphibious readiness group, Navy and Marines, that are there as part of the normal presence we have in the Mediterranean, although the amphibious readiness group is in direct support of the NATO Implementation Force. And so I would say, in general, this is the overall scheme with the bulk of U.S. forces going into the U.S. sector -- the bulk going there. That's where our primary mission is.
Okay, one more chart and then we'll get on to questions.
I think it's important that we take a look at the U.S. sector itself. This is a blow-up again of the northeast sector of Bosnia with this outer line being Bosnia-Herzegovina -- the line, the black line you see being the division between the Federation territory and the Bosnian Serb territory. So as I mentioned, we're flowing down out of -- this is Croatia in this area -- across the bridge at Zupanja, and then down this road network into Tuzla.
And what you see in the U.S. sector here, which is all of Bosnia-Herzegovina, both Federation side and Bosnian Serb side, is that we are deploying in our sector with other nations from NATO and non-NATO countries. And I'll just describe that to you. Down here in the sort of southern part, southern-western part of the U.S. sector, we will have a Turkish battalion. Many of the Turkish forces are already in place, more to come. There's a multinational brigade of the countries you see here, primarily Nordic, but other non-NATO countries as well supporting that multinational brigade that will be in this general area.
In the area of the Posavina Corridor, which is this Bosnian Serb land that runs in the northern part of the country to connect the two major parts of Bosnian Serb territory, we will have the 1st Brigade of the U.S. division. The Russian brigade will be in the northeast side, and in the southwest and south side here will be another U.S. brigade. So the two U.S. brigades, one in the north and northwest, and one in the south and southwest, with the other nations participating on either side of our force. And that's the general layout of what things will look like in our sector.
In terms of what's there now, elements of both of these Army brigades for the 1st Armored Division commanded by General Nash, are already in place. More are to come, as you can see from the flow diagram I showed you earlier. The Russians will start deploying their forces here in the next few days. Some of the multinational countries are already in place because they were there as part of the U.N. force. And they became part of the NATO force as we changed command in the theater back in mid-December. And more of them are yet to come. And as I described earlier, some of the Turkish battalion is already there with a few more to come.
Many of these forces will flow in, again, prior to the 19th, although all of them will not be there. But sufficient force will be there, according to General Nash, to be able to accomplish the mission of monitoring this zone of separation which will be along the black line approximately that you see depicted on this chart.
So what the President will see then is U.S. forces here and here in the U.S. sector. There are U.S. forces also down in other parts of Bosnia. This is not to say that all the U.S. forces are located in that sector. There are other forces which are located in other parts of Bosnia, Special Operations forces. And in Hungary he will see the primary supply lines as we push the forces down to conduct the operational mission which is oriented on the U.S. sector
And I think with that I'll stop and see if you have any questions. And Sandy, you may want to come up as well.
Q Are people totally accepting all of this, I mean, in general, and there have been no mishaps other than, I guess, some guerrilla sniper attacks in Sarajevo?
GENERAL ESTES: Yes, I think I would say that we have been extremely pleased with the very widespread compliance with the requirements laid out by the Dayton Agreement. Have there been exceptions? There obviously have. But they're basically few and far between, although some of them, the Sarajevo incident yesterday with the street car, a very serious incident.
But by and large, when you look at the magnitude of what has to take place based on the Dayton Agreement by the 19th of January that I showed you on the earlier chart, I think the NATO commanders would tell you they are very pleased with the activity they see on both sides. We've had general compliance with the major elements of the Dayton Agreement that were required by date.
Q Why do you think that's so?
GENERAL ESTES: That we've had compliance?
Q Yes. After four years of --
GENERAL ESTES: I think, again, Admiral Smith -- I think Admiral Smith's characterization that the Bosnian-Herzegovina people are ready for peace is exactly correct. That's why you have compliance.
MR. BERGER: Let me say, just to amplify that, I think there are a couple of elements. There clearly was an enormous price that the Bosnian people paid for this war and an enormous weariness with the war. And you can see anecdotally as well as what we are hearing from the military people a general desire to pivot, to move beyond war to peace.
I think, second of all, this rather imposing international presence which they asked for in the agreement obviously gives them a higher level of confidence that there will be compliance on all sides. So I think it's a combination of the strong international presence that is there to help them realize their peace, as well as a strong desire on the part of most Bosnians to seize this moment.
Q General, could you just give us a general idea of how many American soldiers are going to be in Bosnia when the President visits?
GENERAL ESTES: Sure, I'd be glad to. When the President visits there will be in the neighborhood of 7,000 to 7,500 U.S. forces in Bosnia. As we've told you before, we're building to approximately 20,000. And that force flow and the building of these forces, as I showed you earlier, goes on through about the 7th of February. The bulk of the force, though, the combat force required to do the mission will be there in time, by the 19th. What comes after the 19th is some additional combat force that will be required to do other things that are laid out by the Dayton Agreement, and then the sustainment of the force, the ability to support it long-term -- that's what comes later.
Q And the numbers in Hungary?
GENERAL ESTES: The numbers in Hungary -- of course, as we flow forces through, we have big fluctuations in those numbers in both Hungary and Croatia. But in Hungary and in Italy, the two rim countries, as we call them, the total is about 7,000. That's about the steady state. We won't go above that. And the steady state in Croatia, which is primarily support for the Implementation Force, will be no more than 5,000. So 20,000, approximately, inside of Bosnia. No more than 5,000 in Croatia. And no more than about 7,000 in Hungary and Italy, which is where the support is located.
Q About how many troops will be in Hungary when the President is there?
GENERAL ESTES: We would expect again in the neighborhood of about 7,000 in Hungary. There's about 7,000 U.S. forces in Hungary at the moment.
Q Sandy, although your reluctance to discuss the exact itinerary this far in advance of the President's trip speaks to it, to what extent did security concerns argue against the President's visit?
MR. BERGER: Well, the President has waited -- as I said, he's been anxious to go from the beginning to demonstrate his gratitude and support for our troops. He's waited to do that until he was assured by our military commanders and those responsible for security of two things: Number one, a visit would not interfere with the deployment. There was some concern in the very early days that they basically wanted a clear shot here, no outside visitors, even the Commander in Chief, so that they can spend all the time in those early weeks of getting the deployment off ground. And second, we would be at a point where we could be very satisfied with the security situation. The President has been assured by his military advisers and security advisors that both those conditions now pertain.
Q Are you able to tell us the delegation, members of Congress that are going with the President?
MR. BERGER: I don't have a complete list. I'm sure we can get that for you probably later today. There are about, I think, 10 members of Congress going with the President, bipartisan delegation.
Q Why did the President feel it was important to go early in the operation? In Haiti, for example, he waited until several months after the operation was established. What's the difference in this --
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the President -- I think, as I said, in the outset, I think the President has wanted very much to clearly express to these troops the gratitude that Americans feel, the pride they feel for the job they're doing, the importance of what they are doing for their nation, and by his presence, to manifest that as clearly as possible.
Q Why early and not wait -- that's the question.
MR. BERGER: I think he's wanted to do that as early as it was feasible to do it.
Q What are the living conditions that he'll see the American troops in? I mean, what kind of -- is it a primitive situation that they're in? Sort of describe what it is. And can you tell us anything about what are the security hazards that you worried about? I mean, as I understand, he's going to be on a military base the entire time. What is the threat to the President?
MR. BERGER: I'll answer the last question, and then --I won't answer the last question, and I will let General Estes answer the first question. Let me simply say that we're satisfied, and more importantly, the military and security people are satisfied that this trip will -- can be done in a manner that is safe and secure. And I'm not going to go beyond that. But now let me ask General Estes to describe living conditions in Bosnia.
GENERAL ESTES: As an airman who's not been there, it's difficult for me to put myself in a position of what a soldier is going through in Bosnia. You must understand that. But the reports I have are that the conditions are very difficult. We've had an early thaw. The weather is a little warmer than it would be expected this time of the year. There's a lot of mud. This is making the going tough. We must be very honest with this. And that's why you're going to see a great effort being put in terms of getting the base camps built to get the soldiers out of the muck. That's to put it very simply.
We're trying to get tents built. We're trying to put wooden floors in them with heat and light. A number of those have been built, and many more will be built. There are other facilities that the Army is putting in to allow the soldiers to come back off patrol and be in a little bit better conditions than living in a tent. That's called Force Provider, and over time you will hear more about this operation. Facilities for about 3,000 will be made in Bosnia to accommodate this little better living conditions than living in a tent.
But we must remember we're in the process of moving the force in now, and so it's very difficult to have your final end state living conditions right off the bat. And so as we build toward that we want to do it as quickly as we can to get the soldiers out of the conditions that they're obviously facing. We know the weather is tough, as the Balkans are tough this time of the year. It's been a little warmer, which some people say makes it better, except it's created -- instead of frozen ground, we're dealing with a lot of mud. You've seen pictures of that. We have the same problem in Bosnia. And so the commanders are working very hard to try to improve the conditions as rapidly as possible.
Q General, what would you hope the troops would get out of the President's visit?
GENERAL ESTES: Well, I think, speaking as a person who has been in locations where the President has visited as a member in uniform, it's a tremendously uplifting feeling to you as an individual to see your President come and express enough concern about what's going on, what you are personally doing, to take the time to come and visit. And so it's a tremendous morale booster that the soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines -- and we have all involved in the locations we've been talking about, in Hungary and in Bosnia -- see their President. This is a morale issue. It's a tremendously -- I mean, even here, to see the President is an uplifting feeling for people that don't see him very often. You all see him all the time; most Americans don't get a chance to. It's no different with a person in uniform, especially someone deployed away from their families, that the President would take the time to come pay them a visit.
Q Are there any diplomatic initiatives in the meetings with these leaders? Is the President -- is it just a meet and greet, or what's he doing with these --
MR. BERGER: There will be some opportunity to talk with some of the leaders in the region about issues of compliance that are of concern both to them and to us. I'm sure there will be discussions with President Izetbegovic about various compliance issues with respect to the agreement, as well as with President Tudjman. So there will be an opportunity for the President to make very clear how we see the obligations of the parties under Dayton, and if there are any areas in which we want to press them to move more quickly, we will do that.
Q What about the Serb leaders? Are they --
MR. BERGER: Well, the President will meet --
Q Have they been isolated totally?
MR. BERGER: No. This is -- one of the clear operating principles of the international force in Bosnia has been to proceed in an even-handed way. As the General indicated, forces are deployed both in Serb territory as well as in Federation territory. The President will see Bosnian Serb people while he is there. President Milosevic -- an announcement was made yesterday or a few days ago that Secretary Christopher will be going to Belgrade in a few weeks and will be meeting with President Milosevic. Bob Gallucci has been there, our Special Ambassador, in the last few days.
Q How about the two who were dubbed war criminals by the World Court?
MR. BERGER: We have no expectation of seeing --
Q Are they there in the vicinity?
MR. BERGER: Well, we have no expectation of meeting with them. And I think you're quite familiar with what the IFOR rules of engagement are -- that is, if they come within the control of the IFOR troops, then they will be taken into custody and detained.
Q Is he going to meet -- is the President going to meet with any ordinary Bosnians? Will he see orphans or hospital patients, anything like that?
MR. BERGER: Some of this is still a little bit unresolved and we continue to work on the schedule. And we'll be able to give you more details about that probably tomorrow.
Q Sandy, do you -- there's some talk that this would set the stage for either a major foreign policy speech or some sort of foreign policy section of the State of the Union. Do you expect the President to come back from here and immediately start talking about the U.S. role in the world --
MR. BERGER: Well, the President has been talking up until the last few weeks quite a bit the last few months about America's role in the world; gave a major speech at Freedom House, as you know, not too long ago. I would anticipate the State of the Union would address not only domestic, but international priorities of the President.
There may be other speeches the President gives in the near-term specifically on foreign policy and how Bosnia fits in within the larger effort that the United States has been undertaking to try to advance the process of peace, whether that's in the Middle East or Northern Ireland or Southern Africa or Bosnia.
Q With all the physical problems you described with the deployment, does a visit like this help slow things down even further with all the security and planning that's involved?
GENERAL ESTES: I'll answer that. Let me come back to the earlier question, though. I've got one other point I want to make. You asked me what the soldiers are going to get out of this trip. There is one other point, and I should have made this, and I think this is equally important. And that is the soldiers feel their Commander in Chief has taken the time to come see what they are doing and the conditions they are living in and will have a firsthand knowledge, which I think is also very important. So I want to mention that point.
Back to the issue of does a trip like this take away from the mission. I think the planning that's been done for this visit in the places the President will go is such that we have provided additional people and facilities to allow this to happen. So obviously, the commanders are going to be tied up with the President wherever he happens to visit. That takes time. But it's important -- we must remember, the President is our Commander in Chief. And we are pleased he's coming. Nobody views this as something that's taking up a lot of time and is going to prevent us from doing other tasks.
Clearly, the missions that General Nash has his people doing will go on and will be done to the level necessary during the President's visit, and that applies to wherever he happens to go. Nash's people, of course, are located in Hungary, Croatia and in Bosnia.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:15 P.M. EST