[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 29, 1998]
[Pages 1706-1707]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Deployment of United 
States Forces in Response to the Situation in Liberia
September 29, 1998

Dear Mr. Speaker:  (Dear Mr. President:)
    Liberia is just emerging from a 7-year civil war. Since democratic 
elections were held in July 1997 there have been moments of instability 
in that country. In the past 10 days, conflict erupted between Liberian 
security forces and supporters of another former faction leader, 
Roosevelt Johnson.
    On the morning of September 19, Liberian government security forces 
fired on a small group of Liberians led by former Ulimo Krahn faction 
leader Roosevelt Johnson, who was speaking with U.S. Embassy officials 
outside the Embassy compound, after Johnson and his group were initially 
refused refuge. When Liberian government security forces opened fire on 
the group, the Embassy officials fled into the U.S. Embassy, and in the 
chaos were joined by the Johnson party. Two Americans were wounded in 
the melee and four members of the Johnson party were killed. The U.S. 
personnel injured in the gunfire were a government contractor and an 
Embassy staff member.
    Responding to a U.S. request for enhanced security, forces of the 
Economic Community of West Africa Observer Group (ECOMOG) subsequently 
positioned themselves in a defensive perimeter around the Embassy. 
Later, a group of 23 supporters of Mr. Johnson was discovered hiding on 
the Embassy grounds. After extensive negotiations between President 
Taylor and representatives of the U.S. Government and western African 
states, permission was obtained to airlift Mr. Johnson and his party to 
Freetown, Sierra Leone. This was accomplished without incident on 
September 25, 1998.

[[Page 1707]]

    The situation in Monrovia continues to be uncertain and could 
deteriorate. Although ECOMOG forces remain in the vicinity of the 
Embassy compound, their numbers have been reduced. Our Embassy believes 
that security could deteriorate rapidly during President Taylor's 
absence for an official visit to France. The Embassy does, however, 
project that, barring further incidents, security should significantly 
improve over the course of the next several weeks as factional tensions 
ease in the wake of Mr. Johnson's departure. There are approximately 230 
non-official American citizens in Liberia and 29 official Americans at 
the Embassy.
    On September 27, 1998, due to the tenuous security situation and the 
potential threat to American citizens and the Embassy in Monrovia, a 
stand-by response and evacuation force of approximately 30 U.S. military 
personnel from the U.S. European Command deployed to Freetown, Sierra 
Leone. About half of this unit has moved onto the Navy's coastal patrol 
craft, USS CHINOOK (PC-9), which is operating in the waters off 
Monrovia. The U.S. military personnel are prepared, if needed, to 
augment the Embassy's security unit in Monrovia and to conduct an 
evacuation of American citizens, if required. Although the U.S. military 
personnel are equipped for combat, this action is being undertaken 
solely for the purpose of preparing to protect American citizens and 
property. The U.S. forces will redeploy as soon as it is determined that 
the threat to the Embassy compound has ended or, if an evacuation is 
necessary, it is completed.
    I have taken this action pursuant to my constitutional authority to 
conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief 
    I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the 
Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I 
appreciate the support of the Congress in this action to assist in 
Embassy security and the security of American citizens overseas.

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: Identical letters were sent to Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House 
of Representatives, and Strom Thurmond, President pro tempore of the