WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 13) -- President Bill Clinton's announcement Saturday that he will commit up to 4,000 American troops for a peacekeeping force in Kosovo is meeting with mixed reaction on Capitol Hill.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton said he reached the decision to send troops because "World War II taught us that America could never be secure if Europe's future was in doubt."
"America cannot be everywhere or do everything overseas, but we must act where important interests are at stake and we can make a difference," Clinton said, adding that the conflict in Kosovo could move into other Balkan countries.
"The time to stop (the conflict) is now," he said.
National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said there will be a clear exit strategy for the troops.
"It's very important that we establish certain benchmarks and that when these benchmarks are reached, the force should leave," he said.
But Clinton's decision to involve U.S. troops in another international peacekeeping operation isn't sitting well with some Republicans.
"I do think we are in danger of trying to be the world's policeman," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "If we think the United States has the responsibility to go into all those civil conflicts, we're going to dissipate our resources or we're going to have such a heavy burden on our taxpayers that we will never be able to remain the superpower that we are."
Rep. George Gekas, R-Pennsylvania, said he considers deploying U.S. troops to Kosovo a "worrisome development" but conceded that Clinton has the authority to do so.
"But consultations with and briefings of the Congress are absolutely necessary to make sure that the people, through their representatives, understand every phase of this, including the exit strategy, which is so important in the commitment of troops around the world," he said.
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, circulated a statement calling the previous international intervention in Bosnia "a mess" and warning that "the president must define a mission, a goal and an exit strategy for our troops before sending them into another mess."
But Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, said events justify sending troops.
"We can't stand by and let that killing continue," he said. "That kind of brutality should not be allowed anyplace in the world because it encourages it in other places."
The U.S. troops would make up about 15 percent of a NATO peacekeeping force. By contrast, in Bosnia U.S. forces made up about 37 percent of the international contingent.
The troops would be sent to Kosovo only if ethnic Albanians and the Yugoslav government reach a peace deal during negotiations now underway in France. The Pentagon also wants assurances that the troops will not be used to perform non-military tasks, such as police work or escorting refugees.
The exact number of troops will depend on the numbers contributed by other NATO countries but will not exceed 4,000, Pentagon sources say.
Sources say current plans call for 2,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, now on ships in the Mediterranean, to be dispatched to Kosovo until more heavily armed Army troops can be brought in from Germany.
The Marine unit, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is currently aboard the USS Nassau, the USS Nashville and the USS Pensacola. The unit is trained to deploy without notice and has the ability to sustain itself for 30 days without being resupplied.
Saturday, February 13, 1999
Decision to send troops to Kosovo gets mixed reaction on Capitol Hill
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