NATO Secretary General speaks to SFOR

First published in
SFOR Informer#137, April 25, 2002

“I am visiting the NATO-led Peace Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) this week, along with members of the North Atlantic Council. Our main aims are to see for ourselves progress on the ground throughout the country, and to review SFOR's structure and size.
The size and composition of SFOR has changed noticeably since it began. Today, it consists of about 18,000 troops - roughly one-third the size of NATO's original force here. The force also looks very different from the way it was back in December 1996. SFOR has members from 35 different countries, including non-NATO nations such as Argentina, Baltic countries, Ireland, Morocco, Russia and Sweden.
I cannot say what SFOR's future size and composition will be, nor can I say whether or not its mission will evolve. This will be decided when the North Atlantic Council meets in mid-June 2002. But I can say that any force restructuring will not diminish our military effectiveness.
More than six years after the fighting stopped in BiH, SFOR remains as relevant and important as ever. Its mission, to maintain a safe and secure environment, has not changed significantly since the end of 1996.
Through the successful execution of its mission, SFOR has helped create the necessary pre-conditions for important nation-building activities such as the return of displaced persons and refugees to their pre-war homes, the creation of a modern police force, the modernisation of the legal system, and the running of democratic elections.
That said, more challenges lay ahead for SFOR. There are still persons indicted for war crimes to be detained and brought to justice. There are still tens of thousands of illegally held weapons hidden throughout the countryside to be collected and destroyed. There are still two Entity Armed Forces in BiH when there is a legitimate need and funding for only one force.
Every time I visit SFOR, I am impressed with the performance of the soldiers, airmen and sailors who are serving in BiH. Your professionalism, hard work and expertise are greatly appreciated - not only by me, but also by your countries individually and the Alliance as a whole. Together, you continue to make SFOR one of the most successful missions NATO has ever been involved in.
As NATO looks at its future commitments, we must not lose sight of the fact that NATO's engagement in the Balkans has been an impressive success. Instead of fighting, the communities here are rebuilding. And who would deny that Milosevic would still be in power in Serbia without concerted NATO action?
Keep up your good work and take pride in the fact you are making a visible difference to the lives of the citizens of BiH.
You can see the tangible improvements if you look around you - the new shops opening up in the town centre, the repairs to previously abandoned homes in the countryside, the crops growing in freshly tended fields, the increased road traffic along your patrol routes.
I wish all of you continued good fortune and success on your tours of duty with SFOR.”

Related link: Historic moments

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Photo: PO Susan Rose

NATO Secretary General, Lord George Robertson, on his arrival at Sarajevo airport, April 18.


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Photo: Combat Camera

NATO Secretary General, center, with COMSFOR, SFOR personnel and members of the North Atlantic Council.