Americans should realize that some U.S. soldiers will be killed if they are sent to police a peace agreement in Bosnia, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe said Wednesday.
"We won't go through that operation and not lose an American soldier," Gen. David Maddox said. "Hopefully, I won't have a Beirut. But we're going to have some fights there. . . . We'll take some losses, but we'll get the job done."
The four-star Army general commands the 85,000 U.S. Army troops in Europe, from where the potential peacekeepers are expected to be drawn.
Maddox said he would expect casualties even under the best conditions, including a formal peace agreement by the three warring parties.
President Clinton has pledged to obtain congressional approval before ordering U.S. ground forces into the region and has indicated Washington would contribute half the number needed for an international force.
Maddox said he has drawn up numerous outlines for the size and structure of the U.S. contingent, but he will not define its exact size and composition until he knows exactly what job it will be given.
"I've worked numbers ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 (troops)," he said, emphasizing that the units should be strong enough to protect themselves.
Bosnian Serbs launched three rocket-propelled grenades Wednesday at government troops in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, prompting a gunbattle that violated a U.N. cease-fire.
The skirmish around the Jewish cemetery in downtown Sarajevo ended after the U.N. commander in Bosnia, Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, threatened to send in British U.N. troops. No casualties were immediately reported.
Serb artillery also fired Tuesday on the Muslim town of Breza, just north of Sarajevo, said a U.N. spokesman, Lt. Col. Bill Aikman.
While the two attacks clearly breached the 3-week-old U.N. cease-fire, they apparently were not serious enough to trigger a NATO air strike under the alliance's Feb. 9 ultimatum.
Problems with aid convoys continued. U.N. officials had suggested they would get tough with Serbs to ensure smooth movement of relief convoys, but two of them remained stranded Wednesday.