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Intelligence Chief Assesses Bosnian Situation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 1996 – The situation in Bosnia has become more complex as the country moves to implement the civil side of the Dayton peace accord, said Army Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes.

Hughes, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee the NATO Implementation Force has been a success and has paved the way for the civil phase of the agreements. But, he said, continued international engagement is needed to build a stable Bosnia.

"The former warring factions have generally complied with the cease-fire provisions and other elements of the settlement," Hughes said. The NATO peace implementation force, or IFOR, has overseen the withdrawal of Bosnian Federation and Bosnian Serb forces along the zones of separation and demobilization of those forces to about half their previous strengths, Hughes said.

He said all anti-aircraft radars are down and there has been no significant air activity. In addition, IFOR has supervised the movement of forces and heavy weapons into cantonment areas. He said there is some resistance, including attempts to hide weapons and other equipment, but the former warring factions have complied when faced with determined IFOR resolve.

However, Hughes continued, compliance with the Dayton accords and IFOR direction have become more selective. The former warring factions are dragging their feet more, and IFOR must keep up its guard, he said. Land mines, accidents, random acts of violence and the threat of terrorism remain the main hazards facing NATO troops, Hughes said.

"The threat environment for IFOR has increased slightly, primarily due to steps taken to implement the civil aspects of the Dayton accord," he said. These include the pressure that forced indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic from power as well as the status of other indicted war criminals.

Hughes told the legislators the nationalist parties will likely hold their voters in the Bosnian elections -- set for Sept. 14. One wild card is the status of the Serbian Democratic Party in the election. He said the party leadership is likely to impede the elections or engineer a Serbian boycott if the party is banned from the ballot.

Composed of Muslim and Croats, the Bosnian Federation is unsteady, Hughes said. "It was our belief that the Bosnian Croats would continue to work toward de facto integration with Zagreb [Croatia's capital]," he said, so the Bosnian Croats have been reluctant to give the federation any real authority.

The city of Brcko in the American sector remains a flashpoint, he said. The status of the city, located in the Posavina corridor connecting two Serb areas, was not handled in the Dayton accord; the issue was too divisive because both the Serbs Bosnian Federation demand control.

"There appears to be some, but precious little, maneuver room between the demands of both sides," Hughes said. "Dissatisfaction on this key territorial issue could sow the seeds of future conflict in the area."

The challenge facing the international community is that Bosnia may break into two or three parts, he said. "This trend has represented a slide rather than a rush toward partition, the results of which could potentially be confirmed by the upcoming election unless more moderate political elements, which are currently weak and fragmented, are given a chance at challenging the three main political parties."

The former warring factions' strategic political goals have not changed, Hughes said. International pressure and engagement must continue if a viable Bosnian state is to be built.

"Without such continued engagement, it is, in my opinion, likely the former warring factions will turn once again to violent conflict in an attempt to achieve their goals," Hughes said.

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