- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

BRUSSELS Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld proposed yesterday that NATO cut its forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina by up to a third because the police work there has begun to strain armies needed to fight terrorism.

At a meeting dominated by the September 11 attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson also urged NATO countries to work now to increase military spending to fight terror "while these lessons are still fresh in the minds of people everywhere," as Mr. Rumsfeld put it.

The NATO countries must improve their intelligence, their precision weapons and especially their defenses against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as they brace for possible future surprise attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

"As we look at the devastation they unleashed in the U.S., contemplate the destruction they could wreak in New York, or London, or Paris, or Berlin with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons," Mr. Rumsfeld told defense ministers from the 19-nation alliance meeting here.

Mr. Robertson warned that success "comes with a price tag."

NATO has cited terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction as major threats since 1999. Nevertheless, the alliance is still heavily geared toward fighting wars to defend its members' land, not to fight against those who might strike using computers or single missiles.

Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding treaty, declaring that the attacks on the United States were the equivalent of an attack on all 19 countries.

It has sent Airborne Warning and Control System radar planes to the United States to help fly patrols over cities. Otherwise, it has had no frontline role in the war in Afghanistan, and none is foreseen.

Individual countries that belong to NATO, however, have provided key support.

On Bosnia, Mr. Rumsfeld's proposal to cut one-third of the NATO troops there, about 6,000 of the 18,000, was designed as an extension of a British proposal to restructure the NATO forces there and in Kosovo and Macedonia under one command, which could lead to troop cuts.

U.S. troops make up about 17 percent or about 3,100 of the 18,400 NATO troops now in Bosnia, and Mr. Rumsfeld's proposal would mean that about 1,000 of those would leave, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Americans hope it can be accomplished by next fall, the official said.

"Civil security is not an effective use of NATO's valuable military assets," Mr. Rumsfeld told his fellow defense chiefs. It has put "increasing strain on both our forces and our resources when they face growing demands from critical missions in the war on terrorism."

The United States is not proposing a reduction in the NATO force in Kosovo, the senior official said, but that might logically be something to consider in the future. NATO has 39,000 troops in Kosovo and Macedonia, 5,700 of whom are American.

Mr. Rumsfeld made clear that the United States would not remove troops from Bosnia on its own, but only work in agreement with NATO, Mr. Robertson said.

[Bosnia said it was not alarmed by Mr. Rumsfeld's proposal to cut NATO peacekeeping forces, Reuters reported. A Foreign Ministry official, however, said the cut "has to be accompanied by economic, political and military stabilization and that is an ongoing process."]

The United States also wants to refocus some NATO troops across the Balkans to watch for terrorist threats, the senior official said. Mr. Robertson noted that NATO troops in Bosnia recently arrested some suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

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