Abstract and Keywords
Pardew takes the new T&E team to Sarajevo and Belgrade to introduce them to the situation and the difficulty of melding two Federation armies into one. European and other opposition to the T&E Program begins to take shape. Milosevic recognizes his personal relationship with Pardew, but opposes the T&E Program. The Bosniaks solicit Richard Perle and other American “neocons” to oversee the T&E Program.
With a concept approved, an organization in place, and the drawdown of US equipment authorized, the T&E team left Washington for the former Yugoslavia region as the calendar turned to the new year. The first step was to explain the US program to the recipients, potential donors, and skeptics in Europe. The next priority was to find international donors to pay for training and for equipment not available from US stocks. These resources, we hoped, would give the US program the necessary leverage to break the linkages to Iran and extremists and to integrate the two Muslim-Croat Federation armies into one structure. These goals were lofty.
Zagreb was the first stop. Once again, Croatia was very important to US policy in Bosnia. Geographically, Croatia had a long border with Bosnia and was critical to the movement of people and equipment into the country. Most importantly, Croats in Bosnia looked to Zagreb for guidance on their activities. If there was to be any hope of bringing Croatian military forces into an integrated defense structure in the Federation, Zagreb had to cooperate.
Below Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, the most important figure in Croatia was Goiko Susak, the craggy, chain-smoking Croatian defense minister who had built the Croatian military into a capable fighting force. As an immigrant in Canada, Susak was rumored to have had great success in the pizza business, but after independence he returned to Croatia to help his homeland. He had been a critical figure in talks with the Croatians during the Dayton negotiations, and he became the central figure in Zagreb to make the Croatian component of the T&E Program work.
Susak was pleased that the United States had decided to make the T&E Program a program for the Federation as a whole instead of a Muslim-only effort. He understood that the condition for receiving the benefits of the T&E effort was cooperation from the Bosnian Croats in the integration of the Federation military into a single structure. Although Croatia had allowed (p.152) the Iranian arms to flow into Bosnia, the Croatians worried about the link between Bosnia and extremist groups. Susak also liked the T&E Program as leverage to break that link.
Susak made two important concessions in the first meeting. Croatia would allow the Iranians and others to leave the region through Zagreb. More importantly, he authorized the use of the Croatian port of Ploce on the Adriatic Sea as a free port for the shipment of T&E equipment for Bosnia if the program fairly benefitted Croats in the Federation.
We took a ragged Ukrainian-operated UN charter flight, jammed in with a frozen-food shipment, from Zagreb to Sarajevo. The Sarajevo airport was still operated by the UN and was a mess of makeshift sandbagged and scarred buildings. The wreckage of a military transport aircraft sat just off the runway.
In the evening, we joined Mo Sacirbey, the Bosnian foreign minister, and Mabel Wisse-Smit for dinner at the Jez, the wartime restaurant that had offered security from shelling in central Sarajevo. Over dinner, Sacirbey informed us that he would be the primary contact in the Bosnian government for the T&E Program.
President Alija Izetbegovic and other senior Bosniak and Croatian leaders approved the US T&E concept in our meeting with them the next day, January 6, 1996. Izetbegovic confirmed that Sacirbey would be the primary Bosniak point of contact.
The two militaries in the Federation—the ABiH and the Croatian Army in Bosnia (Hrvatsko Vijece Obrane, HVO) were separate forces under separate ministries of defense. In Sarajevo, General Rasim Delic of the ABiH and General Zivko Budimir of the HVO listened to our presentation on the T&E Program with obvious suspicion about its seriousness.
Carl Bildt, the EU representative at Dayton, had recently arrived in Sarajevo as the international high representative for Dayton implementation. Like many others, Bildt was not enthusiastic about T&E, but he accepted it as a fact of life. The transparency of the program helped eased his concerns, but he warned me that the British authorities were strongly opposed to T&E and that I could expect serious problems from them. Bildt particularly noted the opposition by General Michael J. D. Walker, the senior British military officer in Bosnia.
This warning was of no concern at that point. I had attended a meeting between Secretary Perry and British defense minister Michael Portillo in which Portillo had stated that the United Kingdom did not favor T&E (p.153) but would not cause difficulties in implementation. Unfortunately, the rest of the British government and the military did not seem to get the word. I never expected the Europeans to contribute significantly to the program. Neutrality toward T&E would be enough, but even that was not to be.
We left Sarajevo for Belgrade to present the T&E Program to Milosevic and General Momcilo Perisic, the chief of the Yugoslav army General Staff. After a warm greeting from the Serbian president, I explained the program and argued that in the end the Federation army would present no threat to Serbs. In fact, the United States would ultimately like to see all military forces in Bosnia brought into a single structure. Here again the transparency of the program was an important selling point.
“Jim, I’ll have better arguments against your program the next time we meet. I wish you had not taken this particular job after Dayton,” Milosevic said.
Milosevic dismissed the Bosnians’ security interests and proposed instead that Bosnia be demilitarized. He believed that giving military capability to the Muslims was neither necessary nor wise.
Back in Washington, T&E policy was now a hot topic, and the demand was high for briefings to the media, Congress, Contact Group embassies in Washington, and others.
The Bosniaks needed technical and political help in Washington and turned to sympathetic Americans who had helped them during the Dayton negotiations. Richard Perle was one such adviser. Perle, with his background in US national security and his experience at Dayton, was a natural fit.
Holbrooke had been cautious with Perle at Dayton, but I had worked through the military annex with Perle. His style was direct and intellectually tough. I found him difficult but not unreasonable or impractical in the T&E Program.
Early on, an influential group long sympathetic to the Bosnian Muslims and composed largely of national security hawks called on the T&E team to discuss its role in assisting the Bosniaks. The group constituted the brain trust of the neoconservatives in America—Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, (p.154) and Douglas J. Feith. Wolfowitz, a former State and Defense Department official, would become the deputy secretary of defense and Feith the undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration. These men went on to become primary cheerleaders for the unnecessary war in Iraq in 2003.
The team’s relationship with all of them was rocky and occasionally adversarial. Perle made it clear that he did not believe the T&E team was adequate for the job and criticized the effort as far too small and cheap. He created a standing organization, the Acquisition Support Institute (ASI), to handle daily business, and the ASI remained active throughout the T&E Program. We rejected some of the institute’s proposals, such as putting international donor money in the stock market and converting the US draw-down to an open-ended access to US equipment, but accepted the more practical ones.
Overall, Perle and the ASI were helpful. They were tough and effective negotiators on behalf of the Bosnians regarding the contract for military training. They served as a double check on the program as it went forward, and they put forth some sound proposals. Their pressure offset critics of the program in the United States, and they were often helpful in explaining the nature and rationale of US policy to their clients in Bosnia.