A four-year war started in Bosnia and Herzegovina when Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) broke up at the end of the Cold War.
NATO's involvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in 1992. In June of that year, NATO foreign ministers stated that, on a case-by-case basis, the Alliance would support peacekeeping activities under the responsibility of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (subsequently renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). A month later, in July 1992, NATO began monitoring operations in the Adriatic in support of the UNSCR 713 and 757 imposing an arms embargo and sanctions in the former Yugoslavia.
By October 1992, NATO AWACS aircraft were monitoring operations in support of UNSCR 781, imposing a no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina. And in November, NATO and the Western European Union began to enforce the sanctions and embargo imposed by UNSCR 787. By the end of the year, NATO declared that it stood ready to support peacekeeping operations under the authority of the United Nations.
NATO's first ever military engagement
After the United Nations authorised the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO began Operation Deny Flight in April 1993. On 28 February 1994, four warplanes violating the no-fly zone were shot down by NATO aircraft in the Alliance's first military engagement.
At the request of the United Nations, NATO provided close air support to the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) on the ground and carried out air strikes to protect UN-designated safe havens. Air strikes were conducted against targets such as tanks, ammunition depots and air defence radars.
NATO’s air operations against Bosnian Serb positions in August and September 1995 helped pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement. The operation, Deliberate Force, lasted for 12 days and helped shift the balance of power between parties on the ground. It also helped persuade the Bosnian Serb leadership that the benefits of negotiating a peace agreement outweighed those of continuing to wage war.
On 14 December 1995, after negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, the General Framework Agreement for Peace was signed in Paris, France. The Dayton Peace Agreement establishes Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single, democratic and multiethnic state with two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.
And the first major crisis response operation
IFOR was the Alliance's first major crisis response operation. It was set up to implement the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, when NATO took over responsibility for military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina from UNPROFOR. IFOR’s goals were essentially completed by the September 1996 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, as the situation was still potentially unstable and much remained to be accomplished on the civilian side, NATO agreed to deploy a new Stabilisation Force (SFOR) from December 1996.
Mission hand-over to the European Union
At their Istanbul Summit in June 2004, NATO leaders decided to bring SFOR to a conclusion by the end of the year as a result of the improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region.
The SFOR mission was officially ended on 2 December 2004. In its place, a European Union-led force is deployed, known as Operation Althea. The Alliance is providing planning, logistic and command support for the EU mission, in the framework of a package of agreements known as "Berlin Plus". These agreements provide the overall framework for NATO-EU cooperation.
NATO HQ Sarajevo
The primary role of this NATO Military Liaison and Advisory Mission (NATO HQ Sarajevo) is to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina with defence reform. It also aims to help the country meet requirements for its participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme.
NATO HQ Sarajevo undertakes certain operational tasks such as counter-terrorism while ensuring force protection, support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, with the detention of persons indicted for war crimes, and intelligence-sharing with the European Union. In sum, the NATO HQ Sarajevo complements the work of the EU mission with specific competencies.