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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Mulls Extending Bosnia Troop Presence

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said Wednesday he would recommend renewing the deployment of American troops to Bosnia next year if NATO decided instability prevented its peace forces from leaving.

Perry stressed that no decision had been made but warned that the Atlantic alliance would not let its expensive efforts to cement peace go to waste in unsettled Bosnia.

A force of 60,000 NATO-led peacekeeers, including Americans, is due to be withdrawn from Bosnia at the year's end after a 12-month mission to help implement the Dayton peace deal which ended 43 months of conflict in the former Yugoslav republic.

Continued opposition to ethnic re-integration by rival nationalists has dimmed hopes of a quick return to stability in Bosnia, pushing the issue of a continued NATO military presence to the top of the agenda.

"If they [NATO] make that decision [to stay in Bosnia], it would be my recommendation that the United States participate in any force that is so designated -- including ground troops, including whatever is determined," Perry said.

"I can't forecast the answers to that [discussion], but I do know that NATO will not want to simply give up on the investment they have made in Bosnia," Perry told reporters accompanying him on a visit to the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Perry's comments were the first open signal Washington might again send troops to Bosnia after its 18,000 peace implementation force, or IFOR, soldiers are removed this year to fulfill a promise by President Bill Clinton to restrict duration of their service.