Historyof the NATO-led
Stabilisation Force (SFOR)
in Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 14 December 1995 the General
Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) was signed in Paris,
after it had been negotiated in Dayton, Ohio. On 16 December
the Alliance's North Atlantic Council launched the largest
military operation ever undertaken by the Alliance, Operation
Based on UN
Security Council Resolution 1031, NATO was given the mandate
to implement the military aspects of the Peace Agreement.
A NATO-led multinational force, called the Implementation
started its mission on 20 December 1995. IFOR was given a
Its primary mission was to implement Annex
1A (Military Aspects) of the Peace Agreement. It accomplished
its principal military tasks by causing and maintaining the
cessation of hostilities; separating the armed forces of the
Bosniac - Bosnian Croat Entity (the Federation) and the Bosnian
- Serb Entity (the Republika Srpska) by mid-January 1996;
transferring areas between the two Entities by mid March;
and, finally, moving the Parties' forces and heavy weapons
into approved sites, which was realised by the end of June.
For the remainder of the year IFOR continued to patrol along
the 1,400 km long de-militarised Inter-Entity Boundary Line
(IEBL) and regularly inspected over 800 sites containing heavy
weapons and other equipment. In carrying out these tasks it
opened 2,500 km of roads, repaired or replaced over 60 bridges,
and freed up Sarajevo airport and key railway lines.
Due to IFOR's early success, a secure environment was established.
This enabled the High
Representative (nominated at the London Peace Implementation
Conference of 8-9 December 1995) and other organisations to
start their work with regard to the implementation of the
civil aspects of the peace agreement, and to create conditions
in which the return to normal life could begin in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. Within the limits of its mandate and available
resources, IFOR provided substantial support to the High Representative
and to the other organisations. One important element was
the priority support given to the Organisation for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
in preparing and conducting the September 1996 elections.
From IFOR to SFOR
After the peaceful conduct of the September
1996 elections, IFOR successfully completed its mission of
implementing the military annexes of the General Framework
Agreement for Peace. However, it was clear that much remained
to be accomplished on the civil side and that the political
environment would continue to be potentially unstable and
On 25-26 September, one week after the Bosnian elections,
informal meeting in Bergen, Norway, NATO Defence Ministers
concluded that the Alliance needed to re-assess how it might
continue to provide support for the establishment of a secure
environment after the end of IFOR's mandate in December. One
month later, the North Atlantic Council approved detailed
political guidance for a study to be undertaken by the NATO
Military Authorities of post-IFOR security options.
In November and December 1996, a two-year consolidation plan
was established in Paris and elaborated in London under the
auspices of the Peace Implementation Conference. On the basis
of this plan and the Alliance's own study of security options,
NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers concluded that a reduced
military presence was needed to provide the stability necessary
for consolidating the peace. They agreed that NATO should
organise a Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which was subsequently
activated on 20 December 1996, the date the IFOR mandate expired.
The role of IFOR (Operation Joint Endeavour)
was to implement the peace. The role of SFOR (Operation Joint
Guard / Operation Joint Forge) is to stabilise the peace.
The difference between the tasks of IFOR and SFOR is reflected
in their names.
SFOR's Role and Mandate
Security Council Resolution 1088 of 12 December 1996,
SFOR was authorised to implement the military aspects of the
Peace Agreement as the legal successor to IFOR. Like IFOR,
SFOR operates under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (peace enforcement).
SFOR has the same robust rules of engagement for the use of
force, should it be necessary to accomplish its mission and
to protect itself.
The primary mission of SFOR is to contribute to the safe and
secure environment necessary for the consolidation of peace.
Its specific tasks are:
· To deter or prevent a resumption of hostilities or new threats
· To promote a climate in which the peace process can continue
to move forward.
· To provide selective support to civilian organisations within
Initially, SFOR's size was around 32,000 troops
in Bosnia and Herzegovina - approximately half that of IFOR.
Building on the general compliance with the terms of the Peace
Agreement, the smaller-sized SFOR was able to concentrate
on the implementation of all the provisions of Annex 1A of
the Peace Agreement, i.e.:
· Stabilisation of the current secure environment in which
local and national authorities and other international organisations
· Providing support to other agencies (on a selective and
targeted basis, in view of the reduced size of the forces
SFOR Command Structure
The Stabilisation Force has a unified command
and is NATO-led under the political direction and control
of the Alliance's North Atlantic Council, as stipulated by
the Peace Agreement (Annex 1A). Overall military authority
is in the hands of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe
(SACEUR). As from
19 February 2001, Allied Forces Southern Europe (AF
South) has become Joint Force Commander (JFC) for SFOR,
as it has been for KFOR
since 18 January 2001.
Gen. William E. Ward is the current Commander of SFOR
Participation of non-NATO Nations
As was the case with IFOR, every NATO nation
with armed forces has committed troops to SFOR. Iceland, the
only NATO country without armed forces, provides medical personnel.
However, SFOR is more than a NATO operation. The following
is a summary of contributing/participating nations:
As of March 2003
NATO nations: Belgium,
UK and USA.
Slovenia and Sweden.
By special agreement with UK: Australia
and New Zealand
Total troops number: Initial SFOR - 32,000 approx. Following
several restructuring - 12,000 approx.
Non-NATO forces have been incorporated into the operation
on the same basis as NATO forces, taking orders from the SFOR
Commander via their respective multinational Brigade Headquarters.
Contributing non-NATO countries are represented by liaison
officers at SHAPE. They have been involved in planning operations
and the process of generating the necessary forces through
the SFOR Co-ordination Centre. At NATO headquarters, contributing
non-NATO countries are consulted at key junctures and are
given the opportunity to express their views on NAC decisions.
This is achieved with the so-called NAC+N - North Atlantic
Council meeting with non-NATO contributors. Participation
by non-NATO countries not only contributes to the accomplishment
of the SFOR mission but also has a wider significance. It
provides all the participating forces from Partnership Countries
with practical experience of operating with NATO forces. It
shows that NATO and non-NATO countries can work closely in
NATO-led operations in the cause of peace. This has a broader
impact on the region and contributes to enhanced security
in the whole of Europe and beyond.
The NAC, in consultation with non-NATO contributing countries,
SFOR and SHAPE, reviews SFOR force levels and tasks every
six months. This periodic review is the basis upon which NATO
assesses future force requirements and mission accomplishment.
On October 25, 1999, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) decided,
having taken into account the improved security situation
in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to implement, between November
1999 and April 2000, a revised structure for the Stabilisation
This process has continued with a re-structuring to about
12,000 troops by the very beginning of 2003. In the new structure
SFOR continues to have its HQ in the Sarajevo area (transferred
in 2000 from the Sarajevan suburb of Ilidza to the purpose-built
Camp Butmir). Below this are three multinational Brigades
each of which is commanded by a Brigadier and contains distinct
Battle Groups (BGs). These BGs can be multinational and are
essentially reinforced battalion task forces with their own
In addition there are now dedicated Tactical Reserve Forces
able to intervene anywhere within the Theatre of Operations.
These can in turn be augmented by the Operational Reserve
Force, which is principally composed of Over-The Horizon Forces,
mainly deployed in Kosovo, and U.S. helicopter assets.
The participation of Russia in IFOR and SFOR
is an example of how NATO and Russia can work together successfully.
It is a major step in the evolving NATO-Russia co-operative
relationship. Russian forces joined IFOR in January 1996 and
continue to contribute to SFOR. Participation is subject to
special arrangements between NATO and Russia. In Theatre,
the Russian Military Contingent (RMC) is under tactical control
of the US-led Multinational Brigade (North).
For lasting peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
full implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement
is crucial. By continuing the implementation of the military
aspects of the GFAP, NATO is helping to ensure a secure environment
conducive to civil and political reconstruction.
The civilian aspects of the Agreement are being carried out
by appropriate international organisations, under the co-ordination
of the High Representative. In view of the importance of the
civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement, SFOR continues to
provide support for civilian tasks. However, with fewer forces
at its disposal, SFOR has had to prioritise its efforts and
select carefully where they will be applied. To be effective,
SFOR and the other organisations will continue to plan together
and identify objectives to ensure that SFOR support is applied
where and when it is needed.
Among the institutions and organisations implementing the
civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement are the Office of
the High Representative (OHR),
the - now disbanded - UN International Police Task Force (UNIPTF),
the European Union Police
Mission (EUPM), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR), the Organisation
for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
(ICTY). Many other inter-governmental
and non-governmental organisations are also playing an important
Directed by the North Atlantic Council, SFOR provided a secure
environment for the national elections in October 1998, municipal
elections in 1997 and April 2000, special elections in Republika
Srpska in 1997 and general elections in November 2000. It
has also provided support to the OSCE in the preparation and
conduct of these elections. SFOR will continue to support
the OSCE in its role of assisting the Parties in the implementation
of the Confidence-and Security-Building Agreement and the
Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement. The latter Agreement
limits the holdings of heavy weapons by the Parties in order
to eliminate the danger of a sub-regional arms race and to
bring about an overall reduction of heavy weaponry in the
SFOR is also continuing to support UNHCR in its supervising
tasks for the return of refugees and displaced persons. Returns
to the Zone of Separation were negotiated among the various
organisations concerned and the Parties to the Peace Agreement.
SFOR is helping to implement procedures designed to facilitate
these returns, for example by ensuring that no weapons other
than those of SFOR itself are brought back into the Zone of
Separation. Any exceptions need specific COMSFOR approval.
SFOR aims to prevent any conflict with regard to the return
of refugees and displaced persons. However, it is the responsibility
of the Parties to restore order and normal conditions if an
incident takes place.
SFOR continues to work closely with the UN International Police
Task Force (IPTF), like its predecessor IFOR. It is available
to support the IPTF in its role of promoting local law and
order, which is essential for establishing a lasting peace.
SFOR worked with the authorities of BiH to ensure a secure
environment for the important Balkan Stability
Pact Summit held in Zetra Ice Stadium, Sarajevo, 29 to
30 July 1999. This Summit brought together many key world
leaders and all those involved or interested in helping the
Balkans find the level of stability needed to rebuild and
become a full partner in Europe and the world.
The implementation of the Brcko Arbitration Agreement of 5
March 1999 was fully supported by SFOR, by providing a secure
environment in and around Brcko and by supporting the Brcko
Supervisor, the IPTF, UNHCR and other agencies involved in
SFOR oversaw the complete de-militarisation
of the Brcko District. These combined efforts led to the official
of the Brcko District on 8 March 2000.
SFOR fully supports the International Criminal Tribunal for
the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in carrying out its mandate.
SFOR has detained 27 persons indicted for war crimes (PIFWCs)
since June 1997. Another three have been killed in attempts
to bring them to justice. This includes the provision of security
and logistic support to ICTY investigative teams, and surveillance
and ground patrolling of alleged mass gravesites. Multinational
SFOR soldiers moved to detain Radovan Karadzic on Feb. 28
and March 1, 2002. While Karadzic was not detained, these
raids clearly demonstrate SFOR's determination to bring PIFWCs
to justice. As Lord Robertson, Secretary General of NATO,
said to PIFWCs: "Your time is running out. One day, whether
it is tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, SFOR will
come to you."
This page is updated by Chief Command Information