"The operation was a success, but the patient is
still in danger of dying."
BOSNIA'S DEFINING MOMENTS IN 1996 February 3 -- Opposing armies withdraw along a thousand-mile line, leaving a "zone of separation" between them. March 19 -- Bosnian Serb military withdraws from Sarajevo, ending four years of horror for a divided city. Hundreds of emotional reunions follow as families and former neighbors meet again. May 7 -- War crimes trials open in The Hague. A Bosnian Serb is accused of raping and killing Muslims at three prison camps. Dozens have been indicted, including Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military leader Ratko Mladic. The first conviction comes November 29. September 14 -- National elections held. A Muslim, Alija Izetbegovic, is elected to head a three-person presidency. November 15 -- President Clinton announces that U.S. troops will stay as part of NATO force until 1998. Bosnia still reaps "a bitter harvest of hatred," he says.
For the first time in five years, the news out of Bosnia was not heart-breaking. The fighting, the bombings and sniper attacks, the massacres, the rapes, the destruction of historic towns had stopped. At the beginning of the year, watched by 60,000 NATO troops -- one-third from the United States -- the opposing sides withdrew along a thousand-mile line that separated what would become the two states of the new Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mostly Muslim government army and its ally, the Croat militia, on one side; the Bosnian Serb militia on the other.
In September, in accordance with the 1995 Dayton peace accords, national elections were held. As expected, Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, was elected to head a three-person presidency, joined by a Serb and a Croat.
|Children play in Sarajevo -- 673K QuickTime movie|
|Clinton announces plans for U.S. troops in Bosnia -- 312K AIFF or WAV sound|
But, though peace ruled and the plan was executed almost faultlessly in 1996, there were ominous signs for the future.
The goal of the plan was a democratic, multi-ethnic Bosnia, with two states -- one a republic of Serbs, and the other mostly Muslims and Croats. But the Bosnian Serb state was threatening to unite with Serbia to the east, and the Croats with Croatia to the west. Serbs boycotted the opening of the new parliament. Results of the national election were contested; and municipal elections put off until 1997.
And it wasn't certain what would happen when NATO withdrew. Or when it would withdraw. In November, President Clinton announced that new forces would be sent -- including 8,500 from the United States -- and would stay through the middle of 1998. The president had originally said U.S. troops would be out of Bosnia by the end of the year.
"The conditions for peace still do not exist in Bosnia," U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said. "Putting it in simple terms, the operation was a success, but the patient is still in danger of dying."
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