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
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
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
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
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