Joint Endeavor Succeeds, But Job Not Finished, Admiral
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Sep. 20, 1996 The implementation force assembled to enable peace in Bosnia has so far succeeded, but the job is not finished, according to Adm. Leighton W. Smith Jr.
The U.S. military did what it set out to do, Smith, the former NATO commander in Bosnia, told the Naval Institute Symposium here recently. "We have separated the [warring factions], the weapons have been withdrawn from the former line of confrontation, and the areas that were agreed upon at Dayton [Ohio] to be transferred from one entity to another have been transferred."
Opposing factions meeting at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, initialed an agreement Nov. 21, 1995. As a result, Smith was tasked to form, command and employ the implementation force. Adm. T. Joseph Lopez succeeded him July 31.
"Weapons have or are being placed in storage areas, and we are now beginning to consolidate those storage areas so that there are fewer to monitor," Smith continued. "The armies are downsizing, demobilizing and restructuring ... soldiers are going back to barracks and ... not being allowed in certain ... 'zones of separation,' and IFOR is now engaged in verification for compliance."
Smith said he made it clear to the warring factions IFOR would be different than the United Nations force that preceded it. "We laid down the marker on the very first day: 'We will not be humiliated, we have a very robust force here, we intend to use it if we have to,'" the admiral said he told Serb leaders.
The implementation force was well trained, well equipped, well disciplined and well led, he said, with responsibility pushed down to the lowest level. "I made the point to the Serbs that if our forces are threatened, they will respond ... and by the way, we have no shoot-to-wound policy."
Freedom of movement also improved under the implementation force, Smith said. "We just went where we wanted to go," he said. The IFOR staff worried about whether the forces formerly under U.N. control would make the psychological transition from "a blue hat to a green hat." But within an hour, he said, they were "knocking down check points and going across the lines into places where UNPROFOR [U.N. Protective Force] had never gone."
But Smith warned the job is far from finished. "We're still shutting down illegal check points, still finding soldiers in the zones of separation and ... soldiers with [weapons]." The admiral also cited a decision by Bosnians to put off municipal elections that "will ... give us trouble whenever they are held in the future."
Smith said he believes the peace agreement won't be achieved by Dec. 20, when American troops are slated to pull out of Bosnia. "I believe [a follow-on force] is necessary to protect the investment we have made, the stability of the Balkans and the security framework of Europe," he said.
Any follow-on force must be narrowly focused, Smith added. "The objective should be quite simple: Prevent the outbreak of hostilities.
"We have created an environment in which peace can prosper, [but] there is no peace in Bosnia today. There is an absence of war ... an environment in which the political bodies can continue to work out their differences and the people can learn again to live next to each other. A force in there for a finite period of time is probably a good idea in order to give these people an opportunity for the peace they so richly deserve and want."
Smith said the Bosnians are "bone-tired" of fighting and killing. "They want it to stop. They want to rebuild their homes."
The admiral praised the combined effort of air, land and sea forces of the United States and other countries involved in the operations. He said, however, Joint Endeavor won't, by itself, produce peace.
"We can bring an environment in which peace can flourish," Smith said, "but it's up to [the Bosnians] to decide whether or not [they] want peace...are willing to make the sacrifices...do the negotiating, sit side-by-side and make it work."