BFP Exclusive- What is Cooking in the Bosnian Pot? CIA Director’s Visit to the Balkans

The preparations for the new stage of the U.S.-Russia Cold War in S. Europe

On April 21, 2016, under the cover of darkness, a U.S. military plane landed on Sarajevo international airport.[1] The mysterious guest was greeted by Osman Mehmedagić, the chief of the Bosnian intelligence agency - the Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA).[2]

Mehmedagić was appointed to this position recently (November 2015) and replaced the long-time OSA director Almir Džuvo who held the position for more than 10 years. Mehmedagić's appointment was not without controversy concerning his activities during the Bosnian war in the 1990s. He was one of the closest associates of the then-Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović and had allegedly coordinated the arrival of various Islamic militants from the Middle East to fight on the Bosnian Muslim side.[3] These militants later committed some of the most heineous crimes against the Christian (Serb and Croat) civilians. Their recruitment and financing could be linked to the military-intelligence structures of Saudi Arabia and Turkey on one hand and Iran, on the other. Paradoxically, but not surprisingly, it appears that these states, though opposed in other areas of the world, developed an indirect common front in Bosnia.

There are some credible sources who claim that the U.S. intentionally turned the blind eye to these comings and goings of radical Islamists. These sources also directly implicate Michael Hayden, who later became the head of both the NSA (1999-2005) and the CIA (2006-2009), as the key person who let this happen under his watch.[4] At the time, in the early 1990s, Hayden was the director of U.S. European Command Intelligence Directorate which was operationally responsible for the Balkans. Hayden occasionally accompanied the chief U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke on his missions to Croatia and Bosnia. Holbrooke's dealings with the warring Bosnian factions can best be described as Machiavellian. His priority was to insure the permanent U.S. military presence in the Balkans at any price, no matter how this would impact the possibility of the long-term, sustainable peace and stability in the region. Was Hayden's later leadership position in the NSA and, then, the CIA, a reward for his efforts on this issue as well?

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the CIA was well-aware of what was taking place in Bosnia in the mid-1990s regarding the strategic positioning of the militant Islamic groups in close proximity to the Western European targets. The ex-CIA officer, turned prolific writer, Robert Baer discussed in detail his Bosnian covert activities in the 2012 book "The Company We Keep: A Husband-Wife True-Life Spy Story."[5] Obviously, there was much he could not tell as his book had to be approved for publication by the CIA censors.

The mysterious visitor?

The first reports in the Bosnian and other regional media were that the mysterious visitor came unannounced.[6]  It later emerged that this was only a surprise for some, but hardly for all Bosnian politicians and high-level security officials.

After all, this is a standard CIA operational procedure. It’s called ‘compartmentalization’: in the know are only those who need to know. The CIA director John O. Brennan's visit to Sarajevo was actually carefully planned and scheduled at least two months in advance at the time of Mehmedagić's first visit to the U.S. Brennan flew into Sarajevo directly from Riyadh where he accompanied the U.S. President Barack Obama and attended a meeting of the regional Arab security heads.[7]

Brennan's links to Saudi Arabia go a long way back to the time when he was the CIA station chief in Riyadh in the mid-to-late 1990s. Just like Hayden, he must also have been aware of the Saudi logistical and financial support for the Islamic militants in Bosnia. As can be clearly seen from later developments, neither he nor any of his superiors did anything about that. Today the Balkans (Bosnia and Kosovo in particular) represent the key European recruiting, logistics and weapons hubs for Islamic fighters (whether under the Al-Qaeda or ISIS labels). It should be kept in mind that the U.S. and NATO have troops stationed in both Bosnia and Kosovo and that there is also the heavy presence of the Western intelligence agencies personnel.

Those who trust in the official narratives probably believe that all these Western military and intelligence structures in the Balkans have had a positive effect on what is referred to as the "fight against terrorism." However, the opposite appears to be the case. Since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, there have been at least five violent attacks on soldiers and civilians attributed to the followers of radical Islam.

The best known occurred in October 2011 when Mevlid Jašarević sprayed with bullets the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and wounded a police officer on duty. Not long afterwards, he was hit by a sniper and arrested. Jašarević claimed that he "does not have to explain why he attacked Americans. They fight against Islam and Muslims, they kill Muslims and rape their wives. Americans, together with Serbs and Croats, are preparing a new massacre of Muslims."[8]

There is no doubt that this kind of twisted rhetoric and hate-filled state of mind was caused directly by the radicalization perpetrated by the imported Islamic militants that the West could have stopped in the mid-1990s. Instead, they were allowed to establish themselves and even augment their presence. This is yet another example of the short-sighted post-Cold War geopolitical vision fueled by the private gain-oriented myopia among the Washington and Brussels decision makers. In other words, had the process of the Yugoslav dissolution not been “assisted” from the outside, radical and extremist views would never have had a chance to gain prominence in the region. In the case in point, while Jašarević was sentenced to 15 years in prison, many of his ideological associates have remained on the loose, open to planning and perpetrating similar acts of terror.

The most recent terrorist attack in Bosnia occured in November 2015 when Enis Omeragić killed two Bosnian soldiers and wounded one in Sarajevo after which he committed suicide.[9] It is curious to note that this incident happened just a few days before Mehmedagić officially assumed the position of the OSA director. Was this attack planned as a welcome gift for the new chief? It certainly does not bode well for the future.

What does the CIA want?

Some experts claimed that Brennan's visit to Sarajevo should be viewed in the context of the recently completed operation "Balkan Trigger" which involved more than 5,000 police officers in several countries and was directed against weapons smuggling.[10] It is true than a dozen people were arrested and a fairly large quantity of weapons and ammunition was seized. It is also true that most of the weapons used in the recent terrorist attacks in Western Europe can be traced back to the Balkans. However, in my opinion, this does not seem to be so important as to warrant a personal visit on such a high level. There must have been some other things involved as well.

Considering that the CIA is hardly oriented toward the past (it acts according to the moto - "what's done is done"), let's hypothesize what its future "headaches" in Bosnia might be caused by. In this respect, it should be noted that for the past 20 years the CIA has considered Bosnia and Kosovo as its key regional strongholds.

However, its unilateral intelligence domination over the large portion of the Balkans has recently been challenged by the increased Russian involvement. It has become obvious at least since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine and the Russian military involvement in Syria that Russia will try to oppose the U.S.-dominated international order in any and all regions of the world in which it can find allies.

In the Balkans, Serbia has been a traditional Russian ally since the 18th century and today's Bosnia includes the Serb Republic [Republika Srpska] as one of its autonomous components. If we look, for instance, at the recent public statements by the autocratic president of the Serb Republic Milorad Dodik, we will see a much more pronounced praise of Russia and the Russian influence in the Balkans than ever before.[11] There is no hiding that it is precisely this that has caused a major wave of concern in the U.S. intelligence community. The rub (in Hamlet's sense) is that the Russian ‘footprint’ will not go away any time soon. In fact, I expect the Russophile tendencies to intensify all across the Balkans, not only in Bosnia, but also in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Greece (the two latter being the members of both NATO and the EU). In this connection, it should be noted that Brennan's hosts in Bosnia did not include any of the top Serb Republic officials. So the “lines of exclusion,” which can quickly deteriorate into the “lines of fire,” have been drawn.

All this leads me to think that there is a strong possibility that the issue of Islamic radicalism in Bosnia was only a convenient cover story for the actual discussions and preparations for the new stage of the U.S.-Russia Cold War in Southern Europe. The latter, in my opinion, was the primary reason for Brennan's visit. In this new stage of the perennial struggle with the “Main Enemy,” both the ISIS fighters and their helpers in Bosnia and beyond will also, no doubt, have various roles to play. From the useful idiots to the cynical and murderous proxies.

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Filip Kovacevic is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at

[1] http://www.slobodna

[2] "Osa" means a wasp in Bosnian-Croat-Serb language.











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  1. VoiceOf Arabi says:

    I have enjoyed reading your article, thanks.

    I guess what is cooking is just more power grabbing by any means (crazy ideology) and at any (human) cost. This game seems to have been played all over the planet in the last 100 years or so..

    Two things that puzzle me…
    1st, Why is the game still the same old one (sometimes exactly the same), when the players have changed on the surface, at least since the old solders are either dead, or in veg state by now..
    2nd why are certain groups (bodies) choose to play when it is clear that they are just being used as fuel for the fire, for example, Muslim Brotherhood, or ISIS (Al Qaeda) (which in my opinion are both exactly the same.)

    I guess few people at the top in these organizations are just agents, and following orders.. but i can’t understand why the masses are following orders.. I guess blindly following religion and faith is a major reason here….

    Off course, ultimately, i blame religious leadership that left the barn door open for anyone to hijack religion and use it for whatever they want this week.. off course, if they did not, then they will lose all the power..

    So, just like a 100 years ago, this is a power game were the 80% of the population is going to be used for fuel, and at the same time cull the population into more manageable numbers

    • Hi VoiceOf Arabi.
      100 years..Back in Times..
      I end up here..In 1917..!
      Whit a Proclamation by Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude.
      What happens next..
      In Those Day’s..!
      It’s break My Heart.
      Over and over again.
      Yes..100 years or so…
      When Will We ever Learn.
      Best Regards
      Jens and Bornholm.

      • VoiceOf Arabi says:

        Hi Jens,

        Thanks for sharing that… it makes an interesting reading…

        Sadly, in those days, the average Iraqi was better off than the average Iraqi today, so it appears life is getting worse, not better…

        I think, local society is to blame also, as they fail to produce “good” leaders, and as a result, we have been hijacked by others from strange lands with our own choice.. (off course, it does not help that the super power will either corrupt or murder any person showing good leadership skills that might benefit the local community.

  2. Who knows..?
    Where We will Be…
    In a 1000 Years…!
    Am I, just a Raven of Odin..!
    Sitting, on the Shoulders of the..
    Phoenix Bird…Whispering…
    Very softly..
    Best Regards
    Jens and Bornholm.

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