Partnership for Peace, SFOR, and the Bosnian Situation
General William W. Crouch
Commander-in-Chief United States Army Europe
I would like to offer just a few comments about Partnership for Peace, which I believe has benefited both NATO and non-NATO nations alike. The exchange of professional ideas within PFP, the establishment of personal contacts, and the relationships that have developed, from sergeant to general, have deepened our cooperation, developed our capability to conduct peace-support operations, and truly promoted stability.
Largely because of Partnership for Peace experience and the great operational foundation the program has given us, SFOR Command and Control, Rules of Engagement, and cooperation on civil-military support all work. The SFOR Headquarters serves as an example of the interdependency that has developed among nations. Each day, soldiers of the 24 nations that comprise my headquarters are able to overcome tremendous challenges, largely through the relationships and the interpersonal understandings that have been established during many PFP exercises. These understandings in turn have led to the proficiency in checkpoint operations, convoy operations, and mine awareness that is necessary for successful Partnership for Peace exercises.
Let me share with you the result of one PFP relationship. Two years ago, while I was visiting an exercise in Poland, I ran into a very sharp Polish lieutenant-colonel who had just returned from a peace-support operation and was willing to spend three hours with me detailing techniques for training troopers to be effective on checkpoints--techniques that I had not thought about. Because of this I changed my training guidance just before we started to train for deployment of troops to Bosnia.
Personal contacts that are forged during a two-week exercise or in the build-up to that exercise are absolutely critical to success. For example, we have a Russian brigade operating with SFOR. About 10 months ago, the entire command structure of both the U.S. division and the brigade changed, although the two commanders knew each other. Eighteen hours after the division change of command, and just as the new brigade commander stepped off the airplane, a firefight erupted in the Russian brigade sector. Rapid assessment of the situation, dispatch of reinforcements, clear communications, and the ability to overcome--all enabled through the interpersonal contacts that had been established previously between the two commanders and between the two units--allowed successful resolution and no friendly loss of life. I cannot give you a more graphic or direct example of success. These two people quickly worked it out on the ground, and underscored what our investment in these kinds of operations truly means.
THE SITUATION IN BOSNIA
Let me turn for just a moment to a brief status report. The military situation in Bosnia now is stable. We have accountability of weapons, containment sites, and troops. When there is a violation by the military, and this occasionally happens--a tank moves out of a containment site, a weapon system is turned on, a training activity is conducted without adequate preparation or authority--then whatever is appropriate is done to ensure that discipline and control are maintained and that the situation remains under control.
More importantly, however, we are able now to continue to engage with other agencies--the international community--to help with the development of common institutions, such as the public telephone and telegraph backbone system that was engineered by an SFOR brigadier, the towers that are being lifted by SFOR Chinooks, the rail system that my very capable Italian railroad regiment is now building, and the OSCE planning cell whose 25 soldiers are working on election activities. And though there has been no publicity about them because they have been non-violent, I would also like to draw your attention to the 15,000 boundary-line crossings by people from both sides, Serpska and Bosnia, for such things as religious holiday visits, cemetery visits, and various commemorations. Six months ago there were almost no crossings, but there was sporadic violence.
At the local level, much of the progress is due to SFOR troopers and their leaders, the captains, the majors, the lieutenant-colonels who are willing every day to step into uncertain situations and try to help. For example, there is the Czech battalion, a mechanized battalion, a very capable unit. The leaders of these units have repeatedly faced potentially tough circumstances and with their troopers resolved the confrontation without resort to violence. There is the Franco-German brigade, which, along with the Italian brigade, provided security for Pope John Paul's incident-free visits a couple of months ago. You have given me great troops. I am very proud of them. I want you to be also.