IFOR: Successes and Challenges
Admiral Leighton Smith
Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe

Every country that has contributed forces to IFOR can be very, very proud of its soldiers. They have done a magnificent job, and they represent all of us in ways that none of us could have imagined.

It is sometimes necessary to remind ourselves that IFOR is a combined land, air, and sea operation. On the sea, Sharp Guard, which has just been suspended, successfully conducted embargo operations for a number of years. It was the first out-of-area operation in which NATO and WEU joined forces and very effectively carried out United Nations and North Atlantic Council instructions to block traffic to the former Republic of Yugoslavia and other countries. Just one example of Sharp Guard's success is the motor vessel Lido incident, during which Commodore Alastair Ross proved that a decisive on-the-scene commander with clear political guidance, good rules of engagement, and the right forces can make things work the way they are supposed to work.

In the air, Deny Flight changed to air support operations Operation Joint Endeavour. Mike Ryan did a wonderful job, not only in handling operations before IFOR but in continuing the air cover and air support to the IFOR operations. These operations were very effective in providing close air support to UNPROFOR and conducting some strike operations. Without last September's strike operations, which were so professionally planned and executed, I am convinced we would not be where we are today.

The ground operations, which have involved 34 different nations, can be described in one word: successful. Any way you cut it, we have carried out the missions we were given in Annex 1 of the General Framework Agreement on peace in Bosnia--and the soldiers have performed magnificently. The dying has stopped. Roads are open. Railroads are being opened. When we first went in, we had one airfield; now we have four, which can be opened to commercial traffic as soon as the parties decide they want commercial traffic to start. We do have some mine clearing to do around the Sarajevo airport, but we expect it to open to commercial traffic in the very near future.


We do still have a few problems. Freedom of movement does not exist in Bosnia to the degree we desire, even though we have created the conditions in which freedom of movement can occur--that is, a secure environment and roads on which people can travel. While our surveys indicate that over 30,000 civilian vehicles crossed the inner entity boundary line during a six-day period in late May-early June, about 50% of the buses that have crossed it with larger groups, specifically Muslims going into the Republic of Serbia territory, have been stopped. We are continuing to work on this problem.

Another continuing problem is harassment on all sides: Muslims against Croats, Croats against Muslims, Serbs against Muslims and Croats, and so on. We see this as an indicator that great fear, suspicion, and even hate still remain in that country. But we must remember that IFOR has accomplished a great deal.


One reason for IFOR's success has been Partnership for Peace participation. Twelve nations have provided forces ranging from engineering to infantry battalions to operations and medical personnel. This participation has demonstrated that the exercises we initially envisaged for the PFP exercise program were probably modest and thus we can conduct more complex exercises in the future, using IFOR as a model.

Another major part of IFOR's success has been my colleagues, the commanders-in-chief of Allied Forces Northwestern Europe and Allied Forces Central Europe, and the training of their forces conducted before arriving on the scene. We could not have survived in AFSOUTH and in IFOR and in Sarajevo if such talented people had not been sent to assist us.

Both AFNW and AFCENT were directly involved with Partnership nations in the certification process before forces were sent to us. Once personnel were in country, Liaison Control Elements worked with them to immediately iron out any problems that occurred with their initial introduction, command and control procedures or communication. Most of those Liaison Control Elements have now been extracted because they were no longer necessary. Another success, any way you cut it.


Where are we going from here? We're going to build on our successes but remember that there are still problems that we have to address.

In the very near future, important elections will take place, and IFOR will be providing support needed by the OSCE to make the elections a success. We will also provide help, as we have in the past, to other civilian agencies. We will continue to assist in any way we can to ensure that economic reconstruction gets on track and stays on track, that the environment remains secure, and that conditions continue to improve. We plan to keep the momentum going, and come out of this operation with a full-blown success.

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