NATO is planning a sharp reduction in the number of peacekeeping troops it maintains in Bosnia even as its forces spread out across Kosovo, alliance officials said today.

The latest NATO plan would involve cutting the Bosnia Stabilization Force nearly in half, from 31,000 to 16,500, with more than 2,000 GIs to be sent home. The U.S. share of the deployment would thus decline from 6,200 soldiers to about 4,000.

"We have seen a situation turn from one of fear to one of hope," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said here today in a visit to the main U.S. base in northern Bosnia. If progress in bringing peace and stability to Bosnia continues, he said, "we can look forward to [more reductions] in the future."

Cohen said the Pentagon will not transfer troops from Bosnia to Kosovo but will rotate the Bosnia-deployed troops home as scheduled and send fresh troops to Kosovo. The 6,200-member U.S. contingent in Bosnia is an Army mechanized detachment based at Fort Hood, Tex. At its peak, the Bosnia peacekeeping force numbered 60,000, a third of them Americans. The overall force in Kosovo is expected to grow to more than 55,000, but the U.S. contingent will peak at about 7,000.