There’s an interesting piece from the same issue of the Spectator on the role that the Bosnian conflict may have played in the development of Al Qaeda. Here’s an extract:
“According to a report in the Los Angeles Times in October 2001, from 1992 as many as 4,000 volunteers from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, ‘known as the mujahedin’, arrived in Bosnia to fight with the Muslims. Richard Holbrooke, America’s former chief Balkans peace negotiator, has said that the Bosnian Muslims ‘wouldn’t have survived’ without the help of the mujahedin, though he later admitted that the arrival of the mujahedin was a ‘pact with the devil’ from which Bosnia is still recovering.
By the end of the 1990s State Department officials were increasingly worried about the consequences of this pact. Under the terms of the 1995 Dayton peace accord, the foreign mujahedin units were required to disband and leave the Balkans. Yet in 2000, the State Department raised concerns about the ‘hundreds of foreign Islamic extremists’ who became Bosnian citizens after fighting against the Serbs, and who pose a potential terror threat to Europe and the United States. US officials claimed that one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants had sent operatives to Bosnia, and that during the 1990s Bosnia had served as a ’staging area and safe haven’ for al-Qa’eda and others. The Clinton administration had discovered that it is one thing to permit the movement of Islamic groups across territories; it is quite another to rein them back in again.
Indeed, for all the Clinton officials’ concern about Islamic extremists in the Balkans, they continued to allow the growth and movement of mujahedin forces in Europe through the 1990s. In the late 1990s, in the run-up to Clinton’s and Blair’s Kosovo war of 1999, the USA
backed the Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbia. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post in 1998, KLA members, like the Bosnian Muslims before them, had been ‘provided with financial and military support from Islamic countries’, and had been ‘bolstered by hundreds of Iranian fighters or mujahedin …[some of whom] were trained in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist camps in Afghanistan’. It seems that, for all its handwringing, the USA just couldn’t break the pact with the devil.”