The Bosnian Muslim army was covertly supplied with arms by the US during the 1990s
Friday, 22 June, 2001
An SFI Production for
and and NRK Brennpunkt
Producer/Director: David Hebditch
SFI Productions Ltd
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For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.
This is a story of espionage... bugging... covert military operations...
In an investigation across six countries, Correspondent has uncovered a series
of incidents which has tested the Western Alliance to breaking point.
[Norwegian Captain Oivind] MOLDESTAD (V/O):
"...the Americans were controlling the
entire Bosnian air space -- on their own"
[British General Michael] ROSE (V/O):
"My own office [...] was bugged by the Americans."
[American General George] JOULWAN (V/O):
"...how would I know what the State Department
or the CIA was doing?"
[ S-M note:
American General, George Joulwan was born in Pottsville, PA. At
the time he held the highest military position in NATO, the Supreme Allied Commander,
Europe (SACEUR). In this position he oversaw NATO's operations in Bosnia.
Even he was kept in the dark by CIA about secret arming of Bosnian Muslims
and their mujahedin allies. ]
This is a story about Americans behaving badly.
About thousands of un-necessary deaths. About an alliance in crisis.
The story begins when a multinational force was sent to Bosnia early in 1992.
It was called the UN Protection Force - UNPROFOR...
That mission was difficult from the start...
In terms of "peace-keeping", there was no peace to keep.
Former neighbours were "ethnically cleansed" from any territory that changed
hands. Lifelong friends became deadly enemies.
And a rift between NATO and the United Nations
opened up too.
To stop any further escalation of the war, the UN ordered that all flying --
other than by Western Allies -- was to be banned in Bosnian air-space. NATO
agreed to be the enforcer.
NATO is a war-fighting machine dominated by the United States. But the UN was
not in Bosnia to fight a war.
[ S-M note:
Let us not be naïve here. It is more than clear that "Operation
Deny Flight" was designed (by Clinton Administration) to deny flight of the
Serbian airplanes only!
The Moslems and Croats had no airplanes of their own. This way NATO got to be
their aviation, their spy in the sky and their arms supplier. At this time
when the Christian Serbs (who settled in Bosnia in 7th century) were fighting
for their bare survival in fighting resurrected Croat Nazism and Islam
fundamentalists among Bosnian Muslims, the Serbs were denied
this important military advantage.
"Deny Flight for the Serbs" should have been more honest and more to
the point. ]
Domestic US politics had ruled that a soldier from Britain, France or Pakistan
could be left to serve and die in some corner of Bosnia. Such an outcome was
preferable to the danger of CNN reporting the death of a soldier from Galveston,
[British General] ROSE: "They [Americans] find it very hard politically to put their young man
and women in harm's way... And they don't circulate amongst the community
in the way we are able to do in Britain. And that's a tremendous disadvantage -
which they will acknowledge."
What US Governments fear most about overseas military operations is being
accused of dragging America into "another Vietnam". That and public backlash
from scenes on television news of flag-draped coffins being unloaded from
And so, not a single American soldier patrolled this hostile terrain.
But there were plenty of other Americans in Bosnia. They were not part of the
UN Protection Force. Nor were they part of NATO. They were intelligence agents
working for the CIA and the Pentagon.
America's spies seemed mostly interested in learning about the activities of the
Thorvald Stoltenberg was the UN's Chief Peace Negotiator for much of the
conflict. We asked him when he'd first discovered that the Americans were
intercepting his telephone calls.
STOLTENBERG: "That I... I guess it must have been in '93, but I cannot say that
for sure... No! I believe it must have been in '93."
But Stoltenberg wasn't the only intelligence target.
ROSE: "My own office I think probably was bugged by the Americans, I always
suspected that and we were always very careful in what we said in that office.
And if we did say something, it was with deliberate intent."
Some of the bugging was done by General Rose's neighbours.
The CIA's office in the American Embassy next door was perfectly placed for the
use of a laser-beam. This picked up the vibrations made by human voices on
The Americans even loaned him a military satellite phone which had a bug built
ROSE: "We had an American team sweep my office and, as they left, they said
'Well there are no bugs in your office'. And I said to them 'Except for the
ones of course that you left behind.' And they had the good nature to blush."
SHEENA: "The story of one American intelligence agent is typical. The man,
calling himself "Major Guy Sands" deserves a medal for a determination which
outpaced his skills as a spy. In 1994, carrying UNPROFOR credentials, he would
hang around General Michael Rose's headquarters here in Sarajevo. In the bar he
would boast about his ten year tour of duty in Vietnam."
Guy Sands became the highest profile - and longest-serving - spook operating in
But "Major" Sands was no soldier. His claim to be a member of America's
Airborne elite was undermined when he was seen wearing his airborne wings on the
wrong side of his uniform.
An American military source remembers confronting Sands in bar in Sarajevo.
Sands told him he was a "contract employee of the CIA".
Guy Sands was expelled from General Rose's head-quarters - only to turn up six
months later in Tuzla [North-East Bosnia, under Muslim control].
From March 1995, Brigadier Haukeland was commander of UNPROFOR's Sector North-
HAUKELAND: "Everybody in Tuzla as well as... well, I think the whole of
Bosnia knew about the person you are talking about.
"He was actually in my headquarters in Tuzla. He was responsible for the co-
operation with the civilian relief organisations, especially with the UNHCR and
so on. ...
"I was suspicious of him because he didn't mind his own business. That was the
problem. And when you're in a headquarters and people stop minding their own
business, you get trouble.
Haukeland complained to Sand's Contingent Commander about his behaviour.
HAUKELAND: "Because criss-crossing... and he's not following the chain of
command, which will frustrate his colleagues as well as damaging the system."
When Sands was discovered snooping around Haukeland's intelligence unit it was
time again for the Red Card.
HAUKELAND: "All of a sudden he was ordered by his contingent commander who was
sitting in Zagreb to show up in Zagreb immediately... because it was too
dangerous for the Americans being in Bosnia..."
STOLTENBERG: "I never criticised the Americans for saying that this was a
European issue what we have in Yugoslavia and should be solved by the Europeans.
I understood that.
"My criticism applies to the fact that they did not actually go outside the
field and sit down and watch. No! They were standing on the sidelines shouting
in to the players."
The scale of America's espionage operations cannot
be understated. Hundreds of
personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency
and the National Security Agency were deployed in Bosnia during 1994 and 95.
The US contributed far more spies than infantry - but what UNPROFOR needed was
Washington wanted it both ways. It had no players
on the pitch, but that wasn't going to stop it trying to dictate the outcome
of the 'game'.
COVERT AIR DROPS
The United States had no faith in a negotiated settlement to the war. Senior
officials in the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council
believed that the only solution possible was what they called "lift and strike".
They wanted to re-arm and train the Croats and
the Muslims and then encourage
them to fight an all-out war against the Bosnian Serb Army. "Lift and strike"
was totally contrary to the UN mandate and in breach of the Arms Embargo. It
was Washington's secret agenda.
Correspondent can reveal that part of the American
administration went so far as to manipulate NATO resources in order to re-arm
the Bosnian Army -- BiH Army.
NATO's primary involvement in the Balkans was Operation Deny Flight - the total
ban on all unauthorised flying over Bosnia.
[Note from S-M: Again: Operation Deny Flight was actualy to deny flight of the
Serbian airplanes only. Moslems and Croats had no airplanes of their own.]
The North Atlantic Alliance was particularly well-equipped to perform this task.
Operating from high altitude, its E-3 AWACS are able to scan the skies over a
The AWACS - code-named "Magic" - always works with two fighters on "Combat Air
Patrol". Magic will send them to intercept and check any suspect flights.
But this vital operation was manipulated by the Americans in order to do exactly
what it was designed to stop - make covert, embargo-busting flights over Bosnia.
On the 10th of February 1995, Norwegian Air Force Captain Oivind Moldestad was
visiting UNPROFOR in Tuzla. The local base was at a complex called "The Blue
MOLDESTAD: "I'm up in Tuzla - I tried once in a while to get up for a weekend
with my colleagues and friends for some R&R. It's Friday night and we'd been in
the mess hall for dinner and I'm walking out with my CO. It's dark, it's a
clear evening. And as we walked out, we faced directly towards Tuzla town.
"And what I see, I see two fighter aircraft, twin engined, lit up like a
Christmas Tree - after-burners, nav lights, strobes - everything, flying in
circles, over the city... At about 3,000 feet. And this is very strange for me.
[...] They normally fly at 25,000 or higher. At night, all lights are off, so
nobody can see them."
"When I saw this, I saw that something was wrong... [...] So I go into the
squadron operations centre and I call down to my colleagues in Sarajevo, who is
dealing with the fighter planes. I speak to the duty officer who is a good
friend of mine, a British Tornado pilot."
"I asked him to confirm friendly over Tuzla... And he says 'Stand by' and he
checks his papers and comes back and he says no, nothing flying. NATO is not
operating tonight for some reason."
Of course, saying that NATO wasn't flying is not the same as saying the skies
As Moldestad and his colleagues watched the US Navy's improvised display, they
were about to realise that it was no more than a side-show to the main event.
[Norwegian] MOLDESTAD: "One of our guards
comes running over to me and he goes 'Sir, sir,
did you see the other aircraft?' And I said I'm looking at them now. He says
'No, no - the one that came behind here - the big one!.' What do you mean?
'There was a big aircraft coming behind Blue Factory towards Tuzla Air Base.
And I asked him if he could identify the aircraft. Anyway, was it a jet
aircraft, a propeller aircraft? The only thing he could say was a Hercules-type
aircraft. It was slow and flying towards Tuzla Air Base. [...] Tuzla Air Base
is closed, it's been closed for years."
Word of the incident soon spread rapidly up the UNPROFOR chain of command - to
Sarajevo and then on the Zagreb.
LEHMAN: "I remember one morning in an operation room where a message came
in... it must have been in the beginning of February, I believe. But a British
officer was on call and he reported a plane that had probably landed at Tuzla
Air Base in the middle of the night. And it was very silent afterwards and
those who usually spoke up said nothing.
"And the following morning when questions was asked about this there were no
comments at all and they said it must have been a misunderstanding.
"But we had no doubt at all that an air drop
had taken place in Tuzla. Of course we were not told who did it, but we had
When Moldestad got back to Sarajevo, UNPROFOR's new commander, British Army
General Sir Rupert Smith called him to his office.
MOLDESTAD: "He got a bit upset... to say it
that way. He ordered me not to talk to anybody about this. He said it's a
very serious incident and, if anybody had any queries about it, they were
to contact him personally."
Later that month, Moldestad and a number of colleagues flew from Sarajevo to the
air base at Vicenza in Northern Italy.
What was scheduled as a routine meeting between NATO and the UN turned out to be
a lesson in the arrogance of power.
MOLDESTAD: "We go into the meeting room and... his name was Colonel Cooper.
He starts the meeting with something like, you know... 'I wish
UNPROFOR would stop seeing all these unidentified flying objects. And I
would really like to meet the people that have initiated this bullshit. And it
made me a bit angry, so I raised my hand and I told him that I am the one who
reported this. And he... appears to be a bit surprised."
Moldestad was told to see the Chief UN Liaison Officer at Vicenza - a Dutch
"As I'm in there, Colonel Cooper comes into the office and he says to the
general, 'Excuse me, sir, but we need to talk to this officer. And whereupon
the Dutch General replies well, can't you see I'm talking to him now? And
Cooper grabs my arm and he says, well, I think we are more important than you in
this matter. And he leads me out of the office. [...]
Moldestad was then interrogated by a group of senior American officers.
"It's quite scary to find yourself in a situation like this. [...] What I
remember is that I gave them very vague answers to their questions. And I
referred them to General Rupert Smith. [...]
"As I walk down the corridor, I meet another UN officer, a Norwegian one, who,
as I pass him, puts a piece of paper down inside my jacket, and he's looking a
bit distressed about it. He said 'Read it on the aircraft on your way home.'
And I tried to reach for it and he said 'Not now! [...] Don't take it out before
you are on the aircraft."
"As we take off I take out this piece of paper and it is NATO's
flying programme for the 10th of February, Friday the 10th of February.
It's a classified document. Where he's got it from I have absolutely no idea.
But I'm sure he was not meant to have it."
The document records that, at 5pm, "Magic"
had been stood down.
It was replaced by a US Navy E-2 Hawkeye, a smaller, carrier-borne AWACS.
This was not "Magic" - this was manipulation.
One hour later, two F-18s took off from the same American carrier.
These were the two, twin-engined fighters seen flying low over Tuzla by
Moldestad and his colleagues.
"This indicates to me that, during this incident, this evening, not NATO, but
the Americans were controlling the entire Bosnian air space, on their own."
An intelligence report on the mysterious incident was written by this British
Army officer based at UN Sector North-East HQ at Tuzla Air base.
Lt Col Christopher Le Hardy got to the heart of the matter when he wrote that:
ASTON: "...the mission was carried out with the consent and support..."
ASTON: "...of the authorities commanding the AWACS and other aircraft in the air
at that time."
In other words - the Americans.
An enquiry team was set up by NATO. It was staffed only by senior US Air Force
Meanwhile, Cables passed between UN HQ in New York, NATO in Brussels and Vicenza
Some of these classified documents have reached Correspondent. We asked Ken
Connor to review the file. Connor, a 23-year veteran of the British SAS, is one
of the world's leading experts on the planning and execution of covert
The secret drops near Tuzla Air Base were made at
a highway airstrip known as
"Tuzla West". The airstrip was little more than a very wide, straight stretch
of public road.
Some years ago, that road was taken over by the US Army for helicopter flight
operations and re-named "Comanche Base".
On the airstrip, Ken Connor told me how the drops had been carried out.
CONNOR: "About three kilometres down that way there is a lake which is the final
navigational marker for the crew. Once they see that, they'll then be able to
pick up the drop zone lights.
"They come in at about 400 feet. The stores on the aircraft are on pallets,
they are on rollers. And once they hit the lake, they're going to do it, they
take the final restraining straps off.
"As the aircraft comes, it's slightly nose-up, its flaps are down, it's making a
lot of noise... flying at about 250 knots.
"The drogue 'chute goes, the pallets go, the aircraft picks up speed and
"But once the pallets hit, the 'chutes break away and drift off, the strobe
lights are flickering, the orders are given, the work parties come out to pick
up the load and, within a matter of a few short minutes, the area's clear and
off they go."
[American!] General George Joulwan was Supreme
Allied Commander, Europe - the head of the military side of NATO -
throughout 1994 and 95. How could it have been possible for Operation
Deny Flight to have been stood down on the nights of the air drops without
the approval of NATO at the highest level?
JOULWAN: "We had no information that that was taking place - personally. Just
to make it clear, that what was coming to me as the Supreme Allied Commander,
was that we had no confirmation that this was taking place. [...]
"What I was doing had nothing to do with what nothing to do with what the State
Department and the CIA was doing."
In spite of the evidence, America denied re-supplying the BiH Army in breach of
the UN arms embargo.
Correspondent decided to approach senior Muslim officers and ask them about the
[Bosnian Muslim] General Hasan Sadic was commander
of 2nd Corps in the Tuzla region until late in 1994. He admitted he had
planned the drop zone.
SHEENA: "So were the logistics men based right around the perimeter, or were
they based in different parts?"
SADIC: "We had the task of preventing civilians from coming to this location in
order to protect them from injury. Secondly, we had to attend these drops
regularly at certain locations... and after collecting the cargo, take it to the
Sadic could tell us no more about the drops. He was sent to Turkey as Military
The UN Sector North-East Report written by Lt Col Le Hardy contained another
intriguing piece of information.
ASTON: "At 2025 Alpha an armoured patrol reached the Tuzla Highway Strip..."
ASTON: "Cargo-handling activity was observed..."
ASTON: "Five heavy trucks, BiH personnel and some cargo on the ground was
identified by the use of night vision goggles..."
ASTON: "On their way back to the air base, the armoured patrol was fired on by
BiH [Bosnian Muslim] soldiers."
We asked contacts in Tuzla which unit of the BiH Army had attacked the patrol.
They told us to look for the man on the right in these photographs.
Brigadier Refik Brdjanovic, former commander of the
Black Wolves Special Forces
Unit [Alija Izetbegovic's Islamist shock troops], was in charge if security for
the air drops. It was his soldiers who had shot at the UN patrol.
Concerned about his personal security, Brdjanovic proved difficult to track
We finally caught up with him in Switzerland. Brdjanovic confirmed that the
Americans organised the covert operation.
BRDJANOVIC: "I understood that Americans are leading these operations because
before any air drops took place there were American planes flying over the
Help was at hand on the ground, too.
BRDJANOVIC: "When we were off-loading these aircraft there
were civilians who were talking English. I do not know if they were
Americans but they were speaking English."
Some days after the drops, an aid worker was driving along a road close by Tuzla
airstrip. He was taken by a call of nature.
PER KJELL: "I found a nice place to stop in front of... I would say
it was a big garage with two... or maybe it was three doors at the front,
and there was a good place to park outside.
"So I stopped the car there and got out and... around the corner to 'do my
thing'. There was a small door and the door opened. Inside there I saw three
guys sitting, and I knew them - I'd talked to them and I'd seen them and I knew
they were American.
"They were looking into two boxes that were a little bit short of two metres...
and since they were sitting on it, it was approximately the height of a chair -
40, 50, maybe 60 centimetres high, and maybe the same width of it. It was
green, so it was not an ordinary box, it was some special kind of box.
"And one of them that was nearest me, jumped up and smashed the door in and
"[...] I knew these guys. [...] I was very confused about why they did
that to me."
Six years after the incident, this man still fears for his safety.
BRDJANOVIC: "They were big packages and
inside there were boxes on which it was written "US Army" and
also unmarked boxes [...] Mainly grey, although there was some green."
The boxes contained valuable "Stinger"
ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank guided weapons to be used
against the superior armour of the Bosnian Serb Army.
Brdjanovic also told us that this man was involved in
arranging the covert
supply of weapons from Iran. He was the Bosnian Military
Attache in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Gen Hasan Sadic, it seems, had not told us all he knew.
We then asked Brdjanovic to name the most
senior American involved in what was
called "Operation Rescue".
BRDJANOVIC: "I remember Jim Campbell. Before he came to Bosnia his people were
scouting the region for this operation. The name of his assistant was Jack
Jim Campbell turned out to be Major General James L Campbell of the US Army.
We asked his commanding officer to comment.
JOULWAN: "I don't think he was with NATO. He may have been with the US Army in
Europe. But not with NATO."
As well as being commander of NATO, General Joulwan was also commander of all US
Forces in Europe. Either way, he was Campbell's boss.
JOULWAN: "I have no idea what his tasking was and... I don't know. You'll have
to ask General Campbell."
It seems remarkable that General Joulwan was uninformed about the activities of
one of his most senior staff officers.
JOULWAN: "I had no idea he was involved in these covert operations. If he was
involved in it, I had no knowledge of it."
Far from ending the conflict, the American "lift and strike" plan
poured fuel on the fire.
LEHMAN: "There was one particular issue that
impressed us much and that was the American participation in the build-up of the
army, or the forces of the Croat...
"And when it came to the offensive in the Krajina in August, they participated
actively in giving air support to those forces. So they were on both sides
in a way. They were in the UN systems with the hospital and some staff officers and
at the same time they were supporting one of the parties actively and
Military training was also banned by the UN arms
The Americans insisted they'd only trained the Croatian Army
in human rights.
If so, that training proved ineffective.
LEHMAN: "On the 16th August 1995, the Sector South HRAT - which is a
humanitarian officer - viewed four dead bodies in the village of Zagovic.
"All appeared to have been dead for at least one week. Two of the bodies, both
men, by the side of the main highway, both men had bullet holes in their heads."
Defence analyst Tim Ripley believes that the US plot to train and equip the
Bosnian Muslims directly led to the terrible death-toll at Srebrenica later in
RIPLEY: "The Bosnian [Izetbegovic's Islam
fundamentalist] Army [...] lurched from one disaster to the next. It
went on the offensive in March, in two places in Central Bosnia, got defeated.
It launched a major offensive around Sarajevo in May and got defeated with
several thousand casualties. And come June and July [...] General Mladic, the
commander of the BSA, decided that, if the Bosnians were going to keep on
attacking, he was going to strike back and hit the Bosnians in the place they
were weakest, the Srebrenica enclave.
"So you could say these air drops were, in military terms,
an 'own-goal' in that they gave the Bosnians a false sense of their
military power. [...] And it back-fired spectacularly on
[S-M: Blunt lie about Srebrenica deleted here. Notice also that
the term "Bosnians" in Western heads firmly applies
to Alija Izetbegovic's loyalists. The Serbs who are born in
Bosnia for more than THOUSAND years somehow are still not
Bosnians. Orwellian indeed!]
In their determination to push ahead with the "lift and
strike" plan, the Americans made one huge mistake.
They were concerned that their allies would learn about the covert operations
and mis-use of NATO resources. So they shut down the supply of all satellite
reconnaissance photography and signals intelligence - telephone tapping.
Ståle Ulriksen is deputy director of Norway's prestigious Foreign Policy
Institute. He is particularly well-informed about intelligence matters.
ULRIKSEN: "It was very provoking because intelligence is one
of the main assets in that the Americans bring to NATO. [...] Europe has
depended on, and chosen to depend on, America for supplying this data...
so it was an incredible provoking act to stop it.
SHEENA: And this was influenced by what was happening in Bosnia?
ULRIKSEN: "Probably... Of course! Definitely!"
The black-out even applied to countries
with whom they had long-standing pacts for sharing such intelligence -
Britain and Norway. Both governments were
ULRIKSEN: "It threatened to break
up NATO... it could have been the death of NATO.
The first public sign of dissent within the Western Alliance was when the
British and French agreed a plan for extensive military co-operation.
Senior political and diplomatic sources on both sides of the Atlantic told
Correspondent off the record that they were "shocked" at the development.
The Anglo-French agreement was signed at St Malo in Brittany.
RIPLEY: "St Malo is the first time the British and French governments at the
highest level had contemplated a non-NATO military co-operation for serious
military operations - as opposed to peacetime exercise co-operation. It was the
genesis for what is now know as the Euro-Army.
"It showed that the British Government, who had been the stalwart American ally
since the year dot, was finally looking for [...] European-based military
options outside the NATO structure.
"It's a matter of public record that there is a distinct lineage from St Malo to
the Euro Army."
Once the French had won Prime Minister Tony Blair to their cause, the
establishment of a European Rapid Reaction Force -- the "Euro-Army" - was
There is a reluctance in Washington and Brussels
to talk openly about a possible end to the Transatlantic Alliance.
But the pace at which the Euro-Army is being established seems to indicate a
determination for it to take over as the leader in future peace-keeping
When the proposal was put to the European Council of Ministers in Helsinki in
December 1999, not a single country dissented.
Many defence analysts believe that the Balkans Conflict has tested the Western
Alliance almost to destruction.
RIPLEY: "...for the first three years of the Bosnian War, the Americans were
engaged rhetorically but disengaged militarily and diplomatically. For the
Europeans that was an immensely frustrating and disillusioning event.
"[...] they were there with their troops on the ground, being shot at. You had
General Rose doing his stuff in Sarajevo but the Americans were just not
prepared to go that extra mile to back him up."
STOLTENBERG: "We, the Europeans, and the United Nations have a
lot to learn from Yugoslavia, but I think also, Washington should take
notice of the fact that we might have had peace earlier if they had
supported the agreements negotiated. [...] The main moral issue was
to get people to stop killing each other.
But it's hard to forget that unilateral actions by America - the "World Super-
power" - encouraged the fighting in Bosnia to start again.