Reuters US to retain strong role in Bosnia, diplomat says
INTERVIEW-US to retain strong role in Bosnia, diplomat says
01 Nov 2006 15:44:11 GMT
By Nedim Dervisbegovic
SARAJEVO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The United States will withdraw its last ground
troops from Bosnia by next month but it is building a big new embassy that
symbolises its future commitment, the U.S. ambassador told Reuters in an
The U.S. Army first moved into Bosnia in 1995 when the 1st Armored Division
crossed the Sava River to lead the biggest peacekeeping operation in the
history of NATO, an initial force of more than 60,000.
That was after Washington brokered the 1995 Dayton accord that ended the war
in Bosnia. With the European Union it has been the main military and
political sponsor of the Balkan country's recovery, but the EU has gradually
been taking over.
"It is not as though the United States is abandoning this region,"
ambassador Douglas McElhaney said on Tuesday.
"I think in the future the United States will be there bilaterally and it is
certainly not the case that our influence will be any less here."
The 150 U.S soldiers about to be withdrawn are all that is left of about
20,000 deployed in the winter of 1995-96. The EU force EUFOR took over
peacekeeping two years ago but the peace largely has kept itself.
"I would hope that people would take it as positive sign that we feel
comfortable after we look at the whole situation to say we don't need to do
this any more," McElhaney said.
The United States has also had a prominent role in the office of the
powerful international peace overseer, currently Germany's Christian
Schwarz-Schilling, that will be closed next year and be succeeded by a
lighter EU representative body.
Militarily, the United States will maintain a presence in Bosnia through a
NATO headquarters in Sarajevo under the command of a U.S. general with
dozens of U.S. officers.
McElhaney said the construction of a new U.S. embassy in Sarajevo drove home
the point about the continuing political presence in the former Yugoslav
republic, one of Europe's poorest countries with about 4 million people.
"It's going to be quite large, there are embassies that are larger but for a
country of some millions of people let's put it this way...it will have
hundreds of people and it will be a good-sized embassy," he said.
He said the most important thing for Bosnia, however, was for its leaders to
take the country's affairs into their hands.