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Context of 'August 4-8, 1995: Croatians Launch Operation Storm, Expelling Serbs from Krajina'

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Peter Galbraith.Peter Galbraith. [Source: CBC]US President Bill Clinton and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake decide that they will give the Bosnians a “green light” for the arms supply pipeline from Iran to Croatia. The CIA is not consulted. Lake passes the word on to US ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith by “cleverly” telling him that they have “no instructions” for him with regard to the Iranian arms shipments. (Wiebes 2003, pp. 167- 168) Two days later, Galbraith passes the “no instructions” message on to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, making it clear that the US government is giving him a green light for Croatia to conduct arms deals with Iran. (Beelman 1997)

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Richard Holbrooke persuades the State Department to license Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, to provide training to the Croatian army. (Ripley 1999, pp. 81-82, 90; Jennings 3/2/2001) According to MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, the firm exists so that “the US can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army.” (Grigg 5/10/1999; Serbian National Federation 8/1999)

The Croatian military launches Operation Storm, a massive assault aimed at seizing Krajina, a Serb-populated region located within Croatia’s borders that, a year and a half earlier, had declared itself an independent state. As the Croatian force of 200,000 approaches the city of Knin, Krajina’s 40,000-strong army quickly retreats. Over the next two days, the Croatian army fires some 3,000 shells on Knin. According to two senior Canadian military officers who are present during the attack, the shelling is indiscriminate and targets civilians. (Danner 10/22/1998; Bonner 3/21/1999; Rakate 12/31/2000) Col. Andrew Leslie, one of the Canadians, will later say that no more than 250 shells hit military targets, leading him to believe that “the fire was deliberately directed against civilian buildings.” He will also recall seeing corpses of dead Serbians at Knin Hospital “stacked in the corridors… in piles.” (Edwards 4/9/1999) The operation results in a mass exodus of as many as 150,000 Serbian residents, who flee their homes in tractors, cars, and horse-drawn carts. (Danner 10/22/1998; Bonner 3/21/1999; Rakate 12/31/2000) This event will be remembered as the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing to have occurred during the Yugoslav war. (Danner 10/22/1998) A 150-page report later issued by an international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, titled “The Indictment. Operation Storm, A Prima Facie Case,” finds that the Croatians were responsible for a number of atrocities. “During the course of the military offensive, the Croatian armed forces and special police committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including but not limited to, shelling of Knin and other cities. During, and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared,” the report will say. “In a widespread and systematic manner, Croatian troops committed murder and other inhumane acts upon and against Croatian Serbs.” (Bonner 3/21/1999) During the preceding year, Military Professionals Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, had been providing Croatian military officers with training—ostensibly in “Democracy Transition.” After the assault on Krajina, observers will suggest that MPRI’s team of instructors, made up of former US military generals, had actually trained the Croatians in a set of military tactics, known as “AirLand Battle 2000,” which were then used against the Serbs in Krajina. (Danner 10/22/1998) A number of media accounts will even report that MPRI personnel helped plan the Croatian occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Serb-populated region. “Even the Foreign Military Training Report published by both the State Department and Department of Defense in May refers to these allegations against MPRI not entirely disparagingly,” UPI reports. (armies- 7/18/2002) There is also evidence that the US provided Croatian President Franjo Tudjman with a green light just a few days before the operation. (Danner 10/22/1998) In September 1995, USAF General Charles Boyd, who was Deputy Commander in Chief European Command at the time condemns the Clinton Administration for having “watched approvingly as Muslim offensives began this spring, even though these attacks destroyed a cease-fire Washington has supported. This duplicity, so crude and obvious to all in Europe, has weakened America’s moral authority to provide any kind of effective diplomatic leadership. Worse, because of this, the impact of US actions has been to prolong the conflict while bringing it no closer to resolution.” (Boyd 9/1995)

Bosnia has so far raised only $200 million for its defense program budget. Half of that amount exists in the form of refurbished US military equipment given to the Bosnians. The other half has been donated by Muslim countries for training and additional weapons systems. Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) of Alexandria, Va. is providing the first year’s training at a cost of $40 million. Richard Perle complains to the APF Reporter that the Clinton administration’s “equip-and-train” program in Bosnia is “too feeble an effort,” and questions the administration’s sincerity. In 1996, the Institute for Defense Analyses estimated that Bosnia would need about $700 million to meet the first stages of its defense program. (Beelman 1997)

British SAS teams, US Special Forces, and representatives from Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) are actively training KLA fighters at bases in Northern Albania (see Late June-Early July 2001). (Sherwell 4/18/1999; Bruce 3/27/2001)


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