Transcript for Oct. 7, 1993: President Clinton speaks about US policy in Somalia
Good afternoon everybody I'm Peter Jennings and ABC news headquarters we've erupt today because President Clinton is about to make an important statement from the White House. On what his Somalia policy is as you know he's been under tremendous pressure from members of congress not to mention from many people throughout the country. To resolve the issue of what American troops are doing in some odd given the fact that over the weekend in a very serious battle. There was some of the members of the militia of the warlord general Mohamed ID fourteen Americans were killed 75 wounded and at least one captured. And also according to the international committee of the Red Cross some 700 some Molly's. Were wounded and there is tremendous pressure on the president to tell the nation and the policy makers in Washington exactly what he intends to do now. In short we're pretty certain after meeting with congressional leaders for an extended period of time of the White House today he's going to tell the nation. And that he intends to get US forces out of some idea but not before what he regards as the job. Being done and he'll lay out what the job is. But in the meantime more American forces are going to go to support of those 4700 on the ground already fair and the president will undoubtedly tell us what the he's not gonna make a long address today but it is clearly an important one. Considering the concern all across the country so here's the president. My fellow Americans. Today I wanna talk with you about our nation's military involvement in Somali. A year ago we all watched with horror Somali children endlessly about who is of thousands. Dying the slow agonizing death of starvation. A starvation brought on not only by drought but also by the anarchy that then prevailed in that country. This past weekend we all reacted with anger and horror. As an armed Somali gang desecrated the bodies of our American soldiers. And displayed a captured American pilot. All of them soldiers who were taking part in an international effort to end the starvation of the Somali people themselves. These tragic events race hard questions about our effort Somali. Why are we still there what are we trying to accomplish. How did a humanitarian mission turned violent. And when will our people come home. These questions deserve straight answers. Let's start by remembering why our troops within the Somalia in the first place. We went because only the United States could help stop one of the great human tragedies of this time. A third of a million people have died of starvation and disease twice that many more were at risk of line. Meanwhile tons of relief supplies piled up from the capital of Mogadishu. Because a small number of Somali stop food from reaching their own country. Our consciences said enough. And our nation's best tradition we took action with bipartisan support. President Bush and then 28000 American troops is part of the United Nations humanitarian mission. Our troops created a secure environment so that food and medicine could get through. We stayed close to one million lives. And throughout most of Somalia everywhere but in Mogadishu's. Like begin returning to normal crops are growing markets are reopening sore schools and hospitals. Nearly a million Somalis still depend completely on relief supplies. But at least the starvation is gone. And none of this would have happened without American leadership and America's troops. Until June things went well with little violence the United States reduce our troop presence from 28000 down to less than 5000. With other nations picking up where we left off. But then in June the people who cost much of the problem in the beginning. Started attacking American Pakistani and other troops who are there just to keep the peace. Rather than participate in building the peace with the others. These people sought to fight and to disrupt even if it means returning Somalia's anarchy and mask them. And make no mistake about it if we were to leave Somalia tomorrow other nations would lead to. Chaos would resume the relief effort would stop and starvation soon would return. That knowledge has led us to continue our mission. It is not our job to rebuild Somalia society. Or even to create a political process that can allow some all his plans to live and work in peace the Somalis must do that for themselves. The United Nations and many African states are more than willing to help. But we we in the United States must decide whether we will give them enough time to have a reasonable chance to succeed. We started this mission for the right reasons. And we're going to finish. And the right way. It essentially came to Somalia to rescue innocent people in a burning house. We've nearly put the fire out but some smoldering embers remain. If we leave them now those embers will re ignited the flames and people will die again. If we stay a short while longer and do the right things we've done a reasonable chance of cooling off the embers and getting other firefighters to take our place. We also have to recognize that we cannot leave now and still have all our troops present and accounted for. And I want you to know that I am determined. To work for the security of those Americans missing or held captive. Anyone holding an American right now should understand above all else. That we will hold them strictly responsible. For our soldiers will be. We expect them to be well treated. And we expect them to be released. So now we face a choice. Do we leave when the job it's tough or when the job as well done. Do we invite a return of mass suffering or do we leave in a way that gives the Somalis but decent chance to survive. Recently general Colin Powell said this about our choices and Somali. Because things get difficult you don't cut in line you work the problem and try to find a correct solution. I want to bring our troops home from Somalia. Before the events of this week. As I said we had already reduced the number of our troops there from 28000 to less than five to house. We must complete that withdrawal soon and I will. But we must also leave on our terms. We must do it rock. In here is what I intend to do. This past week's events make it clear that even if as we prepare to withdraw from Somalia. We need more strength there. We need more armor more our power to ensure that our people are safe in that we can do our job. Today I have ordered 17100 additional army troops and a 104 additional armored vehicles to Somalia. To protect our troops and to complete our mission. I've also ordered an aircraft carrier and two amphibious groups with 3600 combat Marines to be stationed offshore. These forces will be under American command their mission what I am asking these young Americans to do is the phone. Forest they are there to protect our troops and our bases. We did not go to Somalia with the military purpose we never wanted to kill anyone. But those who attack our soldiers must know they will play a very heavy price. Second. They are they are to keep open and secure the road support. And the lines of communication that horse essential. For the United Nations and the relief workers to keep the flow of food and supplies and people moving freely throughout the country. So that starvation and anarchy do not return. Third they are there to keep the pressure on those who cut off relief supplies and attacked our people. Not to personalize the conflict but to prevent a return and fourth. Through their pressure and their presence. Our troops will help to make it possible for the Somali people working with others to reach agreement among themselves so that they can solve their problems and survive. When we leave. That is our mission. I'm proposing this plan because it will let us finish leaving Somalia on our own terms. And without the strong all the two administrations have accomplished there. Or if we were to leave today we know what would happen. Within months Somali children again would be dying in the streets. Our own credibility with friends and allies would be severely damaged. Our leadership in world affairs would be undermined at the very time when people are looking to America. To help promote peace and freedom in the post Cold War world. All around the world aggressors thugs and terrorists will conclude that the best way to get us to change our policies. Is to kill our people. It would be open season on Americans. That is why I am committed to getting this job done in Somalia not only quickly but also effectively. To do that I'm taking steps to ensure troops from other nations are ready to take the place of our own soldiers. We've already withdrawn some 20000 troops in more than that number have replaced them from over two dozen other nations. Now we will intensify efforts to help other countries deploy more troops to Somalia. To assure that security will remain when we're gone. And will complete the replacement of US military logistics personnel with civilian contractors who can provide the same support to the United Nations. While we're taking military steps to protect our own people and to help the UAE and can maintain a secure environment. We must pursue new diplomatic efforts to help the Somalis kind of political solution to their problems. That is the only kind of outcome that can endure. More fundamentally the solution to Somali as problems it's not a military one it is political. Leaders of the neighboring African states such as Ethiopia and Eritrea. Have offered to take the lead in efforts to build a settlement among the Somali people that can preserve order and secure. I have directed my representatives to pursue such efforts vigorously. And I've asked ambassador Bob Oakley. Who sort effectively in two administrations as our representative in Somalia to travel again to the region immediately to advance this process. Obviously even then there's no guarantee that Somali woman itself of violence or suffer. But at least we will have given Somalia a reasonable chance. This week some 151000. Somalis took to the streets to express sympathy for losses to thank us for our effort. Most Somalis are not hostile to us but grateful and they want to use this opportunity to rebuild their country. It is my judgment and out of my military advisors that we may need up to six months to complete the steps. And to conduct an orderly withdrawal. We'll do what we can to complete the mission before the all American troops will be out of Somalia no later than march 31. Except for a few hundred support personnel in noncombat roles. If we take these steps if we take the time to do the job right. I am convinced we will look. Lived up to the responsibilities of American leadership from the world and we will approve that we are committed to addressing the new problems of a new era. When our troops on in Somalia came under fire this last weekend. We witnessed a dramatic example of heroic fifty of our American military. When the first Blackhawk helicopter was down this week and the other American troops didn't retreat although they could. Some ninety of them formed a perimeter around the helicopter. And they held that ground under intensely heavy fire. They stayed where their comrades. That's the kind of soldiers they are. That's the kind of people we are. So let us finish the work we set out to do. Let us demonstrate to the world this generation of Americans have done before us that when Americans take on the challenges they do their job right. Let me express my thanks my gratitude. And my profound sympathy. To the families of the young Americans who were films mauling. My message to you is your country is grateful. And so was the rest of the world and sword the vast majority of this moment people. Our mission from this day forward is to increase our strengths. Do our job. Bring our soldiers out. And bring them home. Thank you and got listener.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.