On April 21, 2016, under the cover of darkness, a U.S. military plane landed on Sarajevo international airport. The mysterious guest was greeted by Osman Mehmedagić, the chief of the Bosnian intelligence agency – the Intelligence-Security Agency (OSA).
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. 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. 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.” Obviously, there was much he could not tell as his book had to be approved for publication by the CIA censors.