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NATO Discusses Follow-on Force for Bosnia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BERGEN, Norway, Sept. 30, 1996 – NATO officials are tasking military planners to look at possible follow-on missions for Bosnia, according to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.

"The international community should not abandon Bosnia," Solana said. In return, Bosnia must not abandon the international community and must comply with the Dayton accord, he said.

NATO defense ministers discussed the alliance's future role in Bosnia during the first day of meetings here, Sept. 24. Although they made no decisions during the informal sessions, Solana said, they reached consensus on a number of ideas.

All agreed to maintain the current force level in Bosnia through the municipal elections set for late November. They agreed to maintain the peace implementation force's current size through Dec. 20, the date it is set to withdraw. They also agreed to develop contingency plans for possible post-IFOR operations.

Many allies strongly support a post-IFOR military mission to build on the gains of the last year, a senior DoD official said. A number of allies have said publicly and consistently they will not participate in any future operation in Bosnia unless the United States participates as well, he said.

The United States, however, will not commit until NATO clearly defines the mission, the official said.

"I want to reserve all of my judgments on what I recommend as U.S. action until I see what the mission is and what the force structure is," Defense Secretary William Perry said upon arriving in Norway. "Everything hinges on that."

The North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body, will now task military authorities to look at four possible missions. Military authorities will analyze the political and military situations and determine force requirements and duration of the commitment involved in each option.

The four plans are:
- A complete withdrawal of the NATO military effort after IFOR completes its mission Dec. 20.

- A war-prevention mission.

- A war-prevention mission that also includes maintaining a secure environment to prevent incidents and military confrontations.

- Continuing IFOR's current mission, including the war-prevention and sustainment missions, as well as continuing support for a variety of other tasks with priority given to completing military tasks assigned.##

NATO officials agreed if there is a follow-on force, it will require NATO command and control and should be endorsed by the United Nations and accepted by the parties to the Dayton agreement. NATO officials will also have to consult IFOR's non-NATO participants, including Russia.

During the first day's session, military officials briefed ministers on their expectations for Bosnia through the end of the year, the official said. They outlined a plan to support the November municipal elections.

The ministers agreed on the need to protect the elections, a State Department official said. There is no such commitment under the existing IFOR mandate if the elections are postponed until after Dec. 20, he said.

IFOR's withdrawal will take place in the weeks after Dec. 20, although there will be some drawdown before that time, the official said.

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