NATO's arrest effort a 'watershed'
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- NATO's failed attempt to arrest former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Thursday was the first time the alliance had tried to seize the International War Tribunal's most wanted man since he went on the run six years ago.
Karadzic is wanted by The Hague to stand trial for genocide
Dana Allin is Balkans policy analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. On Thursday she told CNN how the operation could have gone wrong, and what signals the effort sends.
CNN How could NATO have botched its attempt to capture Radovan Karadzic?
DA Well, its intelligence is not perfect, or Karadzic may have been tipped off. Karadzic has been at large for six to seven years and during all that time he is believed to have been in Bosnia, which is nominally run by NATO troops.
I do not know if they botched it, but it does signal their intent. In the past they have always called off any action -- I know of one incident in particular involving U.S. troops.
The fact that they went ahead with this is a watershed. It is hardly surprising either. To prevail on the Yugoslav government to hand over Slobodan Milosevic despite the problems it would cause in Belgrade and not to get Karadzic to the Hague to face justice would be a little rich.
CNN It has been suggested that Karadzic would surrender himself to The Hague and testify against Milosevic in exchange for a lighter sentence. Does Thursday's action imply this is unlikely?
DA It is fairly obvious that it does suggest no deal exists for him. The three main men to be tried at The Hague, I believe, are Milosevic, Karadzic and Radko Mladic. It would be difficult for the court to propose and the judge to do such a deal.
CNN What kind of message does NATO's attempt to arrest Karadzic give?
DA It is very clear that speculation has been building up for a while that NATO would have to move against Karadzic. I do not think that Karadzic will not be arrested. This is the first publicised concerted attempt to nab him. They have tried once, they will try again until they get him.
CNN Why has it taken since 1995, when the International War Crimes Tribunal indicted him, for NATO to take action?
DA Probably there were exaggerations about the consequences of carrying out such an action. The initial IFOR philosophy was not to rock the boat. They mounted an almost traditional peace-keeping operation where they would have to seek the consent from Serb authorities to carry out such an action.
This greatly changed after 1997 but still there was some fear that it would be particularly hard to capture him because of imagined resistance.
Major preparations were made by the U.S. to get him but they were called off by the former President Bill Clinton based on pessimistic scenarios from the Pentagon.
The fears were not completely unfounded, but they should not be exaggerated. It is unlikely that a major revolt will rise up to protect him at the barricades, and it is also unlikely that any military conflict would take place between NATO troops and Serbs. Any danger of this happening has subsided over time.
CNN How strong is the support for Karadzic among the Serbs?
DA I think there has been support, which has ebbed and flowed with Serb nationalist sentiment. But specific support for Karadzic reached a high-mark in 1997.
It has not recovered since Bilijana Plavsic (a former political leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina who gave herself up to The Hague in 2001) broke away and denounced him for running a petty thiefdom.
There is a worry that some hardened people, who possess guns, still support him. But one thing that happened when Plavsic went against him was that he lost access to criminal income to pay for bodyguards. He probably still has some armed support, but not a match for NATO. And he cannot summon up popular support.
CNN How difficult is the terrain for NATO to carry out an operation?
DA I do not think it is easy to find him, but it is not impossible. Bosnia-Herzegovina is very mountainous, but it is not an Afghanistan or north-west Pakistan. I do not think he has the same support that for example as Osama bin Laden has.
I do not want to suggest that the job is easy, but for much of the past NATO has not tried to get him. The degree of unwillingness to take any military action has over-ridden any problems so far to capture him.
CNN If Karadzic is jointly indicted with Mladic, shouldn't NATO adopt a joint operation?
DA It has always been suggested that Mladic would be more difficult to capture because he enjoys the support of the Serb army which is still fairly strong. There have been different reports on where Mladic might be, but he is probably in Serbia proper, enjoying the protection of the Serb soldiers.
Karadzic evades NATO arrest
February 28, 2002
Bosnian Serb genocide suspect freed
September 06, 2001
Bosnia urged to hand over Karadzic
March 27, 2001
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