Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Congressional Leaders
Q. Mr. President, have you decided to change your strategy in Somalia, perhaps not go after General Aideed out of concern, perhaps because of congressional criticisms of the mission?
The President. No. The United Nations strategy on the ground has not changed. But I have emphasized to them that every nation involved in that, from the beginning, was in it with the understanding that our first goal was to restore the conditions of normal life there, to stop the killing, to stop the disease, to stop the famine. And that has been done with broad support among the Somali people, with the exception of that small portion in Mogadishu where General Aideed and his supporters are.
So the enforcement strategy did not change, but what I wanted to emphasize at the U.N. yesterday was that there has to be a political strategy that puts the affairs of Somalia back into the hands of Somalia, that gives every country, not just the United States, every country that comes into that operation the sense that they are rotating in and out, that there is a fixed date for their ultimate disengagement in Somalia, because there's so many other peacekeeping operations in the world that have to be considered and that we owe that to all the nations we ask to participate in peacekeeping over the long run.
So there's been no change in the enforcement strategy, but I have tried to raise the visibility or the urgency of getting the political track back on pace, because in the end every peacekeeping mission or every humanitarian mission has to have a date certain when it's over, and you have to in the end turn the affairs of the country back over to the people who live there. We were not asked to go to Somalia to establish a protectorate or a trust relationship or to run the country. That's not what we went for.
Q. But do you have broader concerns about Bosnia? I mean, there's a similar problem there with no date certain, no exit strategy.
The President. I think there, in that case, the United States is in a much better position to establish, I think, the standards and have some discipline now on the front end. To be fair, I think that everyone involved in Bosnia is perhaps more sensitive than was the case in the beginning of this Somali operation about the— [inaudible]—of it, the dangers of it, and the need to have a strict set of limitations and conditions before the involvement occurs.
Q. Given the current situation in Somalia, Mr. President, how do you go about fixing a date certain for withdrawal?
The President. I think one of the things we have to do is assess the conditions. Keep in mind, what we see every night reported now is a conflict between one Somali warlord who started this by murdering Pakistanis in a small portion of Mogadishu. It has very little to do with the whole rest of the country where tribal councils and village councils are beginning to govern the country, where most of the people are living in peace with the conditions of normal life have returned. There are lot of things that need to be sorted through there. And I think that what you'll see in the next few weeks is a real effort by the United Nations to articulate a political strategy. The country can be basically given back to the people who live there.
Q. Do you think you'll be sending troops to Bosnia?
The President. I've made it clear what I believe will happen.
NOTE: The exchange began at 11:16 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Congressional Leaders Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217975