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Head of Bosnian mission is realistic about future


August 30, 1996
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT)

From Correspondent Patricia Kelly

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- With a little more than two weeks to go before the elections in Bosnia, NATO's top military commander, U.S. Gen. George Joulwan, has been touring Bosnia, assessing the readiness of his Implementation Force (IFOR) troops in case of trouble.

Eight months ago NATO gave Joulwan the authority to put 60,000 troops from all over the world into Bosnia. His mandate to oversee the transition from war to peace expires on December 20.

icon But it's the outcome of the Bosnian elections that will determine how and when this NATO-led multi-national force goes home. Joulwan is not ready to say when that might be. As the elections loom closer, Joulwan gets regular updates from his commanders on the ground. (272K AIFF or WAV sound)

"Bosnia is a dangerous place," he said. "It will remain a dangerous place and our troops understand that. I would be less than candid if I didn't tell you I was concerned as we come up to the elections because of the possible tension that will exist between the different factions and different parties as they carry out the right to vote. But we are prepared for this."

icon After a rocky start, the general is pleased with cooperation between civilian and military authorities. (272K AIFF or WAV sound)


Everywhere he goes, Joulwan tells his troops they must not get complacent. They must stay focused on providing security as the September 14 elections loom closer.

"I hope that we will not have conflict, but we are prepared in the event it does occur," he said.

IFOR could start moving out as soon as the elections are over. "The rate of redeployment will depend on the assessment we make at the time whether it's a steep slope or whether it's going to be more gradual," he said.

Keeping troops in Bosnia beyond December 20 needs approval from higher up in NATO -- the politicians. But it's a good bet that many of these soldiers and airmen will still be where they are now well into next year.


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