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NATO Unveils Plans for Follow-on Force

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 11, 1998 – A slightly smaller force, with a new, 800-strong multinational security unit aimed at maintaining public order, will conduct the next phase of NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, supreme allied commander Europe, unveiled his plan for the follow-on force to NATO authorities here April 29. The plan, labeled Joint Forge, received "overwhelming endorsement" from NATO authorities, said a senior NATO official.

The plan was provisionally approved by the North Atlantic Council May 6. The approval means the plan goes to countries contributing troops and other support so they have a chance to ask questions and seek clarification before it receives the council's final approval May 25.

At present, about 35,000 troops from 36 countries are involved in NATO's Balkan mission, Operation Joint Guard. The U.N. Security Council mandate for the stabilization force ends in June, and a new U.N. mandate is expected shortly to authorize the follow-on force.

Plans call for slightly reducing headquarters support and cutting the operation's current 27 maneuver battalions to 26, the NATO official said. "It's not clear what that will mean in terms of manpower because some battalions are as small as 250, others are as large as 1,000 troops."

The U.S. contribution will drop from 8,000 troops to 6,900 when the present U.N. mandate ends in June, he noted.

There is no shortage of troops for the mission, he said. Member countries have offered more troops than NATO needs, he said. Specific shortfalls exist in areas such as operations, strategic reserves, communications, transport, engineering and air support. These are not serious shortfalls, the official said, but they are areas where NATO will be looking for a larger contribution.

While the command structure, rules of engagement and most other aspects of the operation remain unchanged, the plan features three new elements: an 800-strong paramilitary security unit, a detailed transition strategy for force reductions and eventual withdrawal, and an information program to help ensure unbiased news reporting in Bosnia's media.

The new Multinational Security Unit will be part of the stabilization force under NATO command, the official said. About half the specialized troops will come from Italy, with the remainder provided by several nations including Argentina and Poland.

The unit will assist, but not replace, the International Police Task Force and local civilian police, the official said. These paramilitary soldiers will help deal with riots and other major civil disturbances beyond the scope of local authorities' capabilities, he said.

"The idea is not to make this Multinational Security Unit into a permanent police force," the official said. The special unit will have the means to pacify situations, return control to local police authorities and then withdraw, he said. Coordination procedures between the new unit and civilian police authorities remain to be worked out, he added.

A new transition strategy sets benchmarks for the reduction and eventual withdrawal of NATO forces. "This mission will be open-ended with no cutoff point determined in advance," he said.

NATO military authorities in conjunction with the Office of the High Representative and civilian organizations will conduct six-month reviews to evaluate progress. The first will occur after municipal elections in September.

The ultimate goal is to shift responsibility for peace implementation "further and further onto the shoulders of the civilian agencies and local political leaders, with the final objective being a complete withdrawal as early as possible," the official said.

Military authorities have recommended a number of benchmarks that will help the North Atlantic Council evaluate whether the mission is on track, the official continued. "The operations plan lists about 12 benchmarks we will look at to assess if it is safe to draw down troops."

These benchmarks include progress in democratization, refugee returns, detention of war criminals, and the election of new political leaders. Two benchmarks particularly highlight Clark's major concerns -- demining and eliminating corruption, the official said.

"As SACEUR pointed out," he said, "although lots of mines have been cleared, mostly mines remain in areas where the ethnic communities are separated. Those minefields are making it difficult to put the country back together again because they prevent people traveling from one entity to the other."

Clark said peace efforts are being hindered by corruption. Millions of dollars in foreign aid are being diverted from legitimate state coffers to Swiss bank accounts.

"Corruption is endemic at all levels," the NATO official reported. "It's being used to fund political parties. It's being used to fund security forces. There's a great need to train policemen in anti-corruption measures and to have a legal framework which makes it clear what is corruption in terms of public behavior."

Another benchmark is determining the success of local governments to represent minority as well as majority views, the official said. After recent municipal elections, some newly installed governments discouraged minority participation in town council meetings. "Only one voice is heard," the official said. "That is very far from our idea of what constitutes good government. We want to see more progress being made in terms of democratization at that level."

The transition strategy's benchmarks are meant to help measure progress, not to be an exhaustive list, the official noted. "The North Atlantic Council reserves the prerogative to determine if enough progress has been made to pull out troops."

Information operations are being given more prominence than in previous operations plans. NATO authorities plan to use SFOR information strategies and techniques through radio, television and newspapers to promote reconciliation. They want to ensure local media comply with fair standards of objective reporting and help international organizations develop unbiased media.

"So there is more focus on the whole business of using information to get our message across in favor of Dayton [peace accords], and [eliminate] anti-Dayton, inflammatory messages."

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