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Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Deployment of United States Aircraft to Bosnia-Herzegovina

September 01, 1995

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

I last reported to the Congress on May 24, 1995, concerning U.S. support for the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) efforts in the former Yugoslavia. I am today reporting on the use of U.S. combat and support aircraft commencing on August 29, 1995 (EDT), in a series of NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina that were threatening the U.N.-declared safe areas of Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Gorazde. The NATO air strikes were launched following an August 28, 1995, BSA mortar attack on Sarajevo that killed 37 people and injured over 80. This tragic and inexcusable act was the latest in a series of BSA attacks on unarmed civilians in the safe areas.

By way of background, and as I am sure you are aware, the situation in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in particular the safe areas in the so-called "eastern enclaves," changed dramatically in the month of July. On July 11, 1995, the safe area of Srebrenica fell to the BSA following repeated BSA attacks. As a result of the fall of Srebrenica, over 40,000 persons were forced from their homes. Similarly, on July 26, 1995, the safe area of Zepa fell to attacking BSA forces with over 8,000 persons displaced. As a result of these actions by the BSA, intensive discussions took place between U.N. and NATO authorities to address what could be done to enhance protection of the remaining safe areas of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, and Gorazde.

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 824 of May 6, 1993, certain portions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the city of Sarajevo, were established as safe areas that should be "free from armed attacks and from any other hostile act." Additionally, under UNSCR 836 of June 4, 1993, member states and regional organizations are authorized, in close coordination with the United Nations, to take all necessary measures, through the use of air power, to support the United Nations Protection Forces (UNPROFOR) in the performance of its mandate related to the safe areas. This mandate includes deterring attacks and replying to bombardments on the safe areas. Consistent with these and other resolutions, and in light of the recent events described above, the United Nations requested and NATO initiated air strikes on August 29, 1995. The air strikes were fully coordinated with the simultaneous artillery attacks by the Rapid Reaction Force.

On July 25, 1995, and August 1, 1995, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) approved a number of measures designed to meet further BSA attacks on the remaining safe areas with a "firm, rapid and decisive response." Specifically, the NAC agreed that a "direct attack (e.g., ground, shelling, or aircraft)" against any of the remaining safe areas would initiate air operations as determined by the common judgment of NATO and U.N. military commanders. The NATO air strikes commencing on August 29, 1995, are pursuant to the NAC's decision of August 1, 1995, and are an appropriate and necessary response to BSA actions. The NATO and U.N. operations are intended to reduce the threat to the Sarajevo safe area and to deter further attacks there or in any other safe area. These operations will continue until NATO and U.N. commanders determine that they have achieved their aims.

During the first day of operations, some 300 sorties were flown against 23 targets in the vicinity of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Gorazde, and Mostar. The aircraft struck a variety of BSA targets, including heavy weapons emplacements, command and control facilities, communications sites, air defense sites, and ammunition facilities. Initial reports suggest that the strikes were successful in damaging or destroying a number of BSA targets. No U.S. aircraft were destroyed during the strikes nor were any U.S. personnel killed, wounded, or captured. At the same time that the air strikes were being conducted, the U.N.'s Rapid Reaction Force fired over 600 artillery and mortar rounds at BSA heavy weapons systems and ammunition storage sites around Sarajevo.

I authorized these actions in conjunction with our NATO allies to implement the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and NATO decisions. As I have reported in the past and as our current diplomatic actions clearly indicate, our efforts in the former Yugoslavia are intended to assist the parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict. I have directed the participation of U.S. forces in this effort pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed about developments in the former Yugoslavia, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I am grateful for the continuing support that the Congress has provided, and I look forward to continued cooperation in this endeavor.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Strom Thurmond, President pro tempore of the Senate. This letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 2.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Congressional Leaders Reporting on the Deployment of United States Aircraft to Bosnia-Herzegovina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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