What's Next for IFOR?
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BERGEN, Norway, Sept. 23, Oct. 1, 1996 As NATO defense chiefs gathered here for their annual informal meeting, a flock of international reporters asked: "Will NATO stay in Bosnia after IFOR's mission ends Dec. 20?"
While some European officials had already begun making public predictions, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said it was still too soon to tell.
"I think there will clearly be a responsibility for the international community to work in Bosnia to sustain the progress that has been made there in the last year," Perry told reporters aboard his plane. "At this stage, I don't know the extent to which that is going to involve military activity, and I certainly don't know the extent to which it is going to involve U.S. participation."
NATO members met Sept. 24 to 26 to discuss NATO's future role in Bosnia, expanding NATO/Russian relations, preparing NATO for postCold War operations and accepting new members into the 16nation security alliance.
Perry was also to meet separately with several individual defense ministers and Russias new defense minister, Army Gen. Igor Rodionov.
"We have to build NATO/Russian relations on the very positive experience we've had with Russia working with IFOR," Perry said. "Meeting Russias new defense minister and starting to build a relationship with him [like] I had with his predecessor is one very important objective."
He said the NATO meetings would kick off a deliberate, stepbystep process leading to a decision on Bosnia. Once NATO formally defines a mission, Perry said, U.S. officials will then make a decision as quickly as possible. "I want to reserve all of my judgments on what I recommend on U.S. action until I see what the mission is and what the force structure is," Perry said. "Everything hinges on that."
On the eve of the meetings, a DoD spokesman said NATO officials would discuss prospects for the last three months of the implementation force mission, including setting up nationallevel political institutions following the national elections. They would also talk about running municipal elections now set for late November, advancing arms control and how to promote further economic and political progress, he said.
Ministers would consider the kinds of problems that may arise by year end, including the risk of a return to fighting, he said. They would outline potential alternative missions including preventing the war from restarting.
The next step in the process would be for the North Atlantic Council, NATO's decisionmaking body, to task NATO military officials to develop alternative force structures needed to carry out various possible missions.
The military planning is necessary, the spokesman said, before NATO members, including the United States, can decide if the situation is in their interest and if they will contribute to a military force, if a force is required.
While NATO ministers prepared to discuss a possible future role in Bosnia, U.S. troops there had already nicknamed it. "They're calling it 'IFIVE." said Steven Komarow, a USA Today reporter who recently spent two weeks in Bosnia interviewing service members.