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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 18:15 GMT
US to slash Bosnia force
US peacekeeper in Bosnia
Almost a quarter of the troops will be withdrawn
The United States has confirmed plans to withdraw more than 1,000 troops from Bosnia, reducing its military presence there by about a quarter.

The move comes as the US and its Nato allies review the structure of the Nato-led S-For troops in Bosnia with an eye to possible further reductions in the size of the six-year-old peacekeeping operation. No cuts are planned in neighbouring Kosovo.

President Bush
Bush is scpetical about the US role in peacekeeping
Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Phillips, said the troop withdrawal - along with helicopter and armoured units - did not represent a significant change of mission and would have no impact on S-For's capabilities.

"We do not have at present a military plan to withdraw from the Balkans that I am aware of," he said.

CBS television, however, reported that the new administration of President George W Bush has developed a plan that would cut the US military presence in Bosnia by 80% within two years.

US 'staying the course'

Under the plan, US troops would turn over the job of conducting foot patrols to civilian police, and would only be responsible for responding to outbreaks of fighting, CBS said.

A senior official speaking on the condition of anonymity said on Wednesday that Secretary of State Colin Powell's pledge to stay the course in the Balkans remained in effect, but that this commitment did not rule out some reductions.

The troop reduction was being accomplished by not replacing soldiers who have completed their tours in Bosnia, where 4,400 US troops are on duty, he said.

Mr Bush, said on Tuesday evening: "We must tell our European allies that over time we expect them to put the troops on the ground.

"But this administration will not precipitously withdraw from commitments that previous administrations made."

Consulting with allies

General Powell said during his Senate confirmation hearings in January that Mr Bush had promised to "look closely at our commitment in the Balkans, with the hope of reducing our troop levels there over time and in consultation with our allies".

A White House official said that the cutback was the result of a review concluded in December.

Mr Bush registered scepticism about US involvement in peacekeeping operations during his presidential campaign.

But General Powell, in his debut last month at Nato headquarters in a diplomatic role, promised worried Europeans that the United States "would avoid any steps that jeopardise" Nato's unity.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Americas
US softens line on Balkans troops
19 Sep 00 | Americas
US acts on Kosovo misconduct report
22 Oct 00 | Americas
Candidates clash over Balkans role
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