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Military Security post-IFOR
ICG Bosnia Project,15 April, 1996


The ICG Bosnia team contends that to increase the probability of important civilian aspects of the Dayton Accords having a reasonable chance of being implemented, the mandate of IFOR should be extended for a period of at least six months. A less acceptable alternative is the replacement of IFOR with a smaller version of itself for a similar period. The continuance of a military security umbrella is also necessary to minimize the risk of the outbreak of renewed ethnic conflict under the conditions which are likely to prevail at the end of IFOR's mandate period.The Bosnian army will not be able to fulfil this role, at least in the short term.

The need for a military presence post IFOR

After the expiry of almost one third of its approximately one-year mandate set by the Security Council, IFOR has completed on time those tasks set it in the Dayton Accords. However some major areas of implementation of the civilian aspects of the Accords are seriously behind schedule. It is possible that implementation could accelerate once the elections have been held in early September, but with only three to four months thereafter to the end of IFOR's mandate and the security umbrella which it provides for all other activities, it does not seem likely that the civilian goals of the Accords, particularly in the vital areas of reconstruction and resettlement, could be achieved. More importantly, the time remaining is insufficient to permit the substantial change in the atmosphere of mistrust, hatred and above all fear created by four years of war which would be necessary to bring about the reintegration of the country.

IFOR has been remarkably successful in establishing a stable and militarily secure environment, a necessary precondition to the implementation of the Accords both from the international perspective and that of the people of Bosnia. As time is running out, thought needs to be given now to the means of maintaining this environment for some time beyond IFOR's timeframe. In our view the only way is by the continued military presence of an international force on the ground in Bosnia.

It had been foreseen in the Accords that the Bosnian armed forces would provide the continuing security umbrella but this goal has proved unrealistic. Although regional stabilization of forces could well be underway later in IFOR's mandate, the redesign, training and equipping of the Bosnian army has hardly begun, not least because international funds have not been forthcoming. The Bosnian high command is itself most uncomfortable with the prospect of IFOR's departure and maintains that a continued and substantial military presence is needed to deter both interference from outside Bosnia and the serious risk of renewed internal military conflict. (Many nationalist politicians take a different view, namely that IFOR represents a block to their ambitions to partition the country and therefore should go.) Such conflict would probably start as localised inter-ethnic disturbances but in the continuing atmosphere of mutual distrust could easily escalate. Moreover the Bosnian army would not be able to operate freely like IFOR in the Republika Srpska and as a former party to the conflict would be likely in any case to be regarded with suspicion outside the Muslim areas for some time to come. Left to their own devices the present regimes in power would be likely to have recourse to force to sort out disputes. A balance of nationalist forces may provide stability in due course, but this is not likely by the end of IFOR's present mandate. True stability is more likely to come with a change of ruling regimes towards non-nationalist attitudes.

Force design

Most of IFOR's major tasks, the cessation of hostilities, the separation and transfer of forces, and the creation of zones of separation and zones of limited military presence, have all been accomplished successfully. IFOR expects the next big task, the military cantonment of forces and equipment, to be completed on schedule on 18 April 1996. The main conclusion to be drawn is that IFOR may now be able to maintain a militarily secure environment at a much reduced force level. This deduction is strengthened by the reality of IFOR's tooth-to-tail ratio: of the almost 60,000 troops in the theatre, less than17,000 are the combat troops directly engaged in enforcing the peace. In sum, there are indications that a significant out-of-theatre deployment is possible prior to the end of the current mandate without jeopardizing the security environment within Bosnia. As an estimate, a force size of 15 - 20,000 personnel would be sufficient to provide the necessary level of confidence and deterrence.

If, nonetheless, it should be decided to end IFOR and replace it with another force, this would need to be based upon the following considerations:

  • Assuming IFOR's size prior to mandate completion represents the lowest level acceptable to do the job, then the post mandate configuration should be a match in both size and appearance.
  • The transition should be seamless; any relief operation should be conducted with precision and competence in order to enhance transparency and therefore confidence.
  • The appearance, demeanour, operational capability and credibility of the new force must approach if not equal that of IFOR in all respects.
  • US military presence would be essential, demanding NATO command and control arrangements.

The basis of IFOR's present configuration is the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps consisting of three Divisions. The formula for the reduction of IFOR is likely to involve the thinning out of each of the three division to brigade size. The force design for reconfiguration or replacement should therefore be a multinational division of 15 - 20,000 personnel as follows:

  • a multinational headquarters (divisional level) whose main component is located in the current IFOR premises, with a rear component if necessary, located on the premises of the current ARRC headquarters;
  • three multifunctional, highly mobile combat ready brigades of 4000-5000, based upon the current three multinational divisions:
  • divisional level troops to augment the brigades consisting of helicopters, engineers and support as deemed appropriate.

The task of the new force would be to continue where IFOR left off for a further prescribed period. For those who contend that a total withdrawal is necessary in order to force the parties to tackle their problems themselves, and for those who worry about the solidifying effect of a Cyprus-like solution, a compromise would be to fix the period at about six months. This would represent roughly the extent of the virtual stalemate in the implemenation of much of the civilian aspects of the Accords in the first part of IFOR's mandate.


A military presence of the size and shape of IFOR is required beyond the mandate period of the Dayton Accords. While extension of the IFOR mandate is the preferred option, a replacement force would be acceptable if built in accordance with the conditions specified in this paper.

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