[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 3, 1998]
[Pages 325-326]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 325]]

Message to the Congress on United States Armed Forces in
March 3, 1998

To the Congress of the United States:
    I hereby certify that the continued presence of U.S. armed forces, 
after June 30, 1998, in Bosnia and Herzegovina is required in order to 
meet the national security interests of the United States, and that it 
is the policy of the United States that U.S. armed forces will not serve 
as, or be used as, civil police in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    This certification is presented pursuant to section 1203 of the 
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, Public Law 105-
85, and section 8132 of the National Defense Appropriations Act for 
Fiscal year 1998, Public Law 105-56. The information required under 
these sections is in the report that accompanies this certification. The 
supplemental appropriations request required under these sections is 
being forwarded under separate cover.
    America has major national interests in peace in Bosnia. We have 
learned from hard experience in this turbulent century that America's 
security and Europe's stability are intimately linked. The Bosnian war 
saw the worst fighting--and the most profound humanitarian disaster--on 
that continent since the end of the Second World War. The conflict could 
easily have spread through the region, endangering old Allies and new 
democracies alike. A larger conflict would have cast doubt on the 
viability of the NATO alliance itself and crippled prospects for our 
larger goal of a democratic, undivided, and peaceful Europe.
    The Dayton framework is the key to changing the conditions that made 
Bosnia a fuse in a regional powder keg. It is decisively in American 
interests to see Dayton implemented as rapidly as feasible, so that 
peace becomes self-sustaining. U.S. leadership is as essential to 
sustaining progress as it has been to ending the war and laying the 
foundation for peace.
    I expect the size of the overall NATO force in Bosnia and 
Herzegovina will remain similar to that of the current SFOR. However, 
the U.S. contribution would decline by about 20 percent, as our Allies 
and partners continue to shoulder an increasing share of the burden.
    Although I do not propose a fixed end-date for this presence, it is 
by no means open-ended. Instead, the goal of the military presence is to 
establish the conditions under which Dayton implementation can continue 
without the support of a major NATO-led military force. To achieve this 
goal, we have established concrete and achievable benchmarks, such as 
the reform of police and media, the elimination of illegal pre-Dayton 
institutions, the conduct of elections according to democratic norms, 
elimination of cross-entity barriers to commerce, and a framework for 
the phased and orderly return of refugees. NATO and U.S. forces will be 
reduced progressively as achievement of these benchmarks improves 
conditions, enabling the international community to rely largely on 
traditional diplomacy, international civil personnel, economic 
incentives and disincentives, confidence-building measures, and 
negotiation to continue implementing the Dayton Accords over the longer 
    In fact, great strides already have been made towards fulfilling 
these aims, especially in the last ten months since the United States 
re-energized the Dayton process. Since Dayton, a stable military 
environment has been created; over 300,000 troops returned to civilian 
life and 6,600 heavy weapons have been destroyed. Public security is 
improving through the restructuring, retraining and reintegration of 
local police. Democratic elections have been held at all levels of 
government and hard-line nationalists--especially in the Republika 
Srpska--are increasingly marginalized. Independent media and political 
pluralism are expanding. Over 400,000 refugees and displaced persons 
have returned home--110,000 in 1997. One third of the publicly-indicted 
war criminals have been taken into custody.
    Progress has been particularly dramatic since the installation of a 
pro-Dayton, pro-democracy Government in Republika Srpska in December. 
Already, the capital of Republika Srpska has been moved from Pale to 
Banja Luka; media are being restructured along democratic lines; civil 
police are generally cooperating with the reform process; war criminals 
are surrendering;

[[Page 326]]

and Republika Srpska is working directly with counterparts in the 
Federation to prepare key cities in both entities for major returns of 
refugees and displaced persons.
    At the same time, long-standing obstacles to inter-entity 
cooperation also are being broken down: a common flag now flies over 
Bosnian institutions, a common currency is being printed, a common 
automobile license plate is being manufactured, and mail is being 
delivered and trains are running across the inter-entity boundary line.
    Although progress has been tangible, many of these achievements 
still are reversible and a robust international military presence still 
is required at the present time to sustain the progress. I am convinced 
that the NATO-led force--and U.S. participation in it--can be 
progressively reduced as conditions continue to improve, until the 
implementation process is capable of sustaining itself without a major 
international military presence.

                                                      William J. Clinton

The White House,

March 3, 1998.

Note: This message was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on 
March 4.