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Stabilization Forces Near Troop Ceiling

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 1997 – About 8,900 U.S. troops are now in Bosnia, including two engineer battalions dismantling IFOR base camps.

Operation Joint Endeavor gave way to Operation Joint Guard Dec. 20. NATO's 60,000-member implementation force completed its mission, and a 31,000-strong stabilization force deployed for the next phase of the alliance peace effort.

At the height of the IFOR mission, 19,000 U.S. troops served at 38 base camps in the northern sector. Today, U.S. forces are at nine camps in Bosnia and one in Croatia.

The United States committed 8,500 troops to the 18-month stabilization mission. "Our forces in Bosnia are part of a 32-nation coalition continuing to provide security and stability in Bosnia as work on civil reconstruction and other rebuilding continues," said Ken Bacon, Pentagon spokesman.

Germany is contributing troops for the first time, Bacon said. About 3,500 German troops are deploying to the French sector.

The SFOR mission is to prevent resumption of hostilities, maintain a secure environment and provide selective support to civilian organizations. SFOR troops are patrolling zones of separation, inspecting weapon storage sites, manning checkpoints and conducting liaison meetings with local government officials and other civil affairs missions, officials said. SFOR troops have conducted 120 inspections since Dec. 20, Bacon said.

During the year-long IFOR mission, NATO forces seized 758 tons of weapons and ammunition, Pentagon officials said. To date, SFOR seizures have been minimal, averaging less than three small arms per day and limited ammunition.

NATO officials are scheduled to review the SFOR mission at six and 12 months. They will consider the security environment and the status of the civil implementation plan to determine whether a shift to a smaller force can take place, a DoD official said.

U.S. forces in Bosnia are under the command of Maj. Gen. Montgomery Meigs. Troops are from the 1st Infantry Division -- 11th Aviation Regiment; 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry; and the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry -- and other support units of engineers, civil affairs, artillery and psychological operations personnel.

About 1,200 troops from the 720th Military Police Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 519th Military Police Battalion from Fort Polk, La., who deployed this summer, will remain as part of the stabilization force.

Major U.S. equipment includes about 30 M-1A1 Abrams tanks, 100 M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles and 40 helicopters, DoD officials said.#END#

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