- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2000

The House yesterday joined the Senate in seeking to limit the involvement of U.S. ground troops in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.
The administration warns that such restrictions are a threat both to peace in Kosovo and NATO's future.
In a bipartisan 264-153 vote, the House said the president must certify by April 1, 2001, that European allies have met their financial commitments to the program to rebuild Kosovo. Without that certification, the president would have 30 days to submit a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Rep. John R. Kasich, leader of a bipartisan group sponsoring the amendment to a defense authorization bill the House will vote on this week, said it is time "to send a strong message to European allies."
"The more heat we keep on, the more effective it is not just for our soldiers but also for the American taxpayer and I think for mutual security," the Ohio Republican said.
On the Senate side, a military construction spending bill now on the floor would require U.S. troops to leave Kosovo by July 1, 2001, unless the president requests and Congress approves an extension.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican sponsor of the provision with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat says it is time to recognize that Congress, which has the constitutional power of the purse, deserves an equal role in determining U.S. policy.
But Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said Tuesday that a self-imposed deadline for the withdrawal of American peacekeeping troops would precipitate similar pullouts by European nations, setting the stage for more violence in Kosovo and calling into question NATO's viability.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned yesterday that any "premature" withdrawal would be interpreted in the Balkans as a sign of weakness. "We cannot afford that in a region where weakness attracts vultures."
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely Republican presidential nominee, has opposed the Senate plan as "legislative overreach."
Mr. Cohen has said he would recommend that President Clinton veto the $8.6 billion military construction bill which also contains $4.7 billion in emergency funds for U.S. operations in Kosovo and anti-drug efforts in Colombia if the Warner-Byrd language is not removed.
Sens. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, plan to offer alternative language under which the Kosovo operation would continue unless Congress specifically votes to end it.
About 5,900 U.S. troops are in the NATO-led, 37,000-strong peacekeeping force stationed in Kosovo since the 78-day air war to drive Yugoslav troops out of the province ended last June.
The debate over Kosovo is the latest clash between the White House and Congress over who should have the ultimate say in the stationing of American troops abroad. Congress demanded a voice in the Persian Gulf war and has sought, largely unsuccessfully, to put limits on U.S. military actions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Mr. Clinton, like past presidents, has defended his authority to deploy troops in multinational and peacekeeping missions.
Rep. Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat, said it would be "foolish and counterproductive" for Congress to intervene with a date certain for withdrawal.
"It is undermining the ability of the commander in chief you know we can only have one president at a time," he said.
But Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, a co-sponsor of the amendment, said it was "the reddest of red herrings" that their aim was to force a withdrawal of American troops.
Their purpose, he said, was primarily to get European nations to live up to their pledges to contribute to the civilian administration, reconstruction and policing of Kosovo.
Mr. Kasich said European allies promised $402 million for the rebuilding of the war-torn province, but so far have only provided $93 million.
He offered a similar measure last March but it was defeated 219-200. This time he softened the language slightly, giving the president the authority to waive the withdrawal requirement for periods of up to 90 days if U.S. or allied forces were involved in hostilities or the imminent threat of hostilities in Kosovo.

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