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Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia

February 17, 1994

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

On October 13, 1993, I provided a further report to the Congress on the deployment of U.S. combat-equipped aircraft to support efforts of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to achieve peace and stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As part of my continuing efforts to ensure that Congress is fully informed, I am again writing to you, consistent with the War Powers Resolution, to inform you that the United States has expanded its participation in this important effort to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Beginning with United Nations Security Council Resolution 713 of September 25, 1991, the United Nations has actively sought solutions to the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. In Resolutions 781 and 786 (October 9 and November 10, 1992), the Security Council established a ban on all unauthorized military flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Responding to "blatant violations" of the no-fly ban, in Resolution 816 (March 31, 1993) the Security Council extended the ban and authorized Member States and regional organizations to take "all necessary measures" to ensure compliance with the no-fly zone. NATO agreed to enforce the no-fly zone and "Operation Deny Flight" commenced on April 12, 1993.

Under Security Council Resolution 824 (May 6, 1993), certain parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina have been established as "safe areas." Sarajevo is specifically included as a safe area that "should be free from armed attacks and from any other hostile act." In addition, authority for the use of force in and around Sarajevo to implement the U.N. mandate is found in Security Council Resolutions 836 and 844 (June 4 and 18, 1993), which authorize Member States, acting "nationally or through regional organizations," to use air power in the safe areas to support the United Nations Protection Forces (UNPROFOR), subject to close coordination with the Secretary General and UNPROFOR.

As my previous reports to you have described, the participating nations have conducted phased air operations to prevent flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina that are not authorized by UNPROFOR. The United States has played an important role by contributing combat-equipped fighter aircraft, along with electronic combat and supporting tanker aircraft, to the operations in the air-space over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The no-fly zone has eliminated air-to-ground bombings and other air combat activity in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Most violations have involved rotary-wing aircraft. Our enforcement operations have been conducted safely with no casualties to date.

Recent heavy weapons fire in the Sarajevo area has resulted in a continuing heavy loss of life as well as serious injuries among the civilian population. An attack on February 4, 1994, killed ten people, and the following day a Sarajevo civilian marketplace was hit by a mortar attack that caused numerous civilian casualties, including 68 deaths. The United Nations Secretary General thereafter requested NATO to authorize, at the request of the United Nations, air operations against artillery or mortar positions determined by UNPROFOR to have been involved in attacks on civilian targets in the vicinity of Sarajevo.

On February 9, 1994, NATO accepted the U.N. Secretary General's request and authorized air operations, as necessary, using agreed coordination procedures with UNPROFOR. In addition, NATO took the decision to set a deadline for the withdrawal of heavy weapons (including tanks, artillery pieces, mortars, multiple rocket launchers, missiles and anti-aircraft weapons) from within 20 kilometers of the center of Sarajevo, with the exception of an area of two kilometers from the center of Pale, or for their regrouping and placement under U.N. control. After ten days from 2400 GMT February 10, 1994, all heavy weapons found within the Sarajevo exclusion zone, unless controlled by UNPROFOR, will be subject to NATO air strikes. In addition, NATO's decision provides the flexibility to act outside the 20-kilometer zone in response to any further artillery or mortar attacks on Sarajevo and authorizes the initiation of air attacks to suppress air defenses that would represent a direct threat to NATO aircraft in carrying out these operations. Further, U.S. airborne indirect-fire-locating units may be deployed to support these NATO operations. Importantly, U.S. forces assigned to NATO to conduct these missions retain their prerogative to take all necessary and appropriate action in self-defense, consistent with applicable NATO rules of engagement.

In my earlier reports I have informed you about the contribution of U.S. aircraft to participate in NATO air operations in Bosnia. In view of recent events, I have further directed the Secretary of Defense to take appropriate steps to ensure, in conjunction with our allies, that the assets necessary to implement the February 9 NATO decision are available in the region for the conduct and support of the NATO operations described above. At this point, more than 60 U.S. aircraft are available for participation in the authorized NATO missions.

In addition to no-fly zone operations and preparations to conduct air operations pursuant to the NATO decision, U.S. forces have conducted more than 2,200 airlift missions to Sarajevo and more than 1,200 airdrop missions in Bosnia. U.S. medical and other support personnel continue to provide critical services in support of UNPROFOR. Our U.S. Army light infantry battalion in Macedonia is an integral part of UNPROFOR monitoring efforts in that area. Finally, U.S. naval forces have completed over 18 months of operations as an integral part of the multinational effort to enforce the economic sanctions and arms embargo imposed by the Security Council.

I am taking these actions in conjunction with our allies in order to implement the NATO decision and to assist the parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict. It is not now possible to determine the duration of these operations. I have directed the participation by U.S. armed forces in this effort pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief.

I am grateful for the continuing support the Congress has provided, and I look forward to continued cooperation with you in this endeavor. I shall communicate with you further regarding our efforts for peace and stability in the former Yugoslavia.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Robert C. Byrd, President pro tempore of the Senate.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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