COMSFOR New Year's
10 January 2004
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to Camp Butmir and this New Year Reception. I am
pleased that you can spend some time with us and celebrate
the accomplishments of 2003 and look forward to a bright and
The year 2003 has departed and we find ourselves moving quickly
into 2004. I believe it appropriate to look back at the past
year and to look forward to what 2004 may bring us.
The year 2003 brought many changes in the Armed Forces of
The adoption of the Defence Reform Committee report led to
the adoption of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Defence Law in November.
The Military Doctrine of the Armed Forces of BiH was accepted
at the state level. Documents on training are waiting to be
accepted by the Standing Committee for Military Matters or
the new Minister of Defence.
The restructuring and downsizing of the VF and VRS to meet
NATO compatibility has begun. The new defence reform will
provide this country with a new defence structure based on
parliamentary oversight, state-level command and control and
creating a defence ministry. Never the less the implementation
of the Defence Reform can only be set into practice when the
structures are agreed upon and put in place.
Last year saw a concerted de-mining effort by the Entity Armed
Forces de-mining teams, supported by SFOR staff.
The Entity Armed Forces de-mining activities contributed 22
percent of the national de-mining effort during the 2003 campaign,
leading to an improvement in the freedom of movement for the
people of BiH. I am pleased to say that there were no SFOR
casualties during 2003, and due to a coordinated Mine Risk
Education campaign by both SFOR and BHMAC, civilian casualties
were reduced from 43 in 2002 to 27 killed in 2003. But every
victim is one too many and so the goal of us all should be
to have NO CASUALTIES in 2004.
The BiH Defence Law now allows the formation of a centralised
organisation for the de-mining effort in BiH. Once operational
this should allow BiH to offer a potential niche capability
Combining the efficiencies arising from the reorganization
and new demining techniques, it is assessed that the timescale
to make BiH free from the effects of mines could be reduced
from 70 years to nearer 20 years.
Also the Entities Armed Forces and the Local Police continues
to work closely with SFOR.
We all continue to work to remove weapons and explosives from
society. Harvest Operations continue to be successful. Every
weapon; every hand grenade removed, reduces the chance of
Last year over 11,000 handguns and rifles and 45,000 hand
grenades were taken in but there remain far too many dangerous
We applaud the efforts that the RS has made to take local
control of Harvest operations.
It is a good effort but not enough has been done.
In addition, we look forward to the Federation's public commitment
to conduct these same operations. The Spring Harvest should
see unprecedented cooperation by all parties.
After the tragic accident at Derventa last June; SFOR agreed
to assist the RS in their efforts to destroy the dangerous
ammunition they were holding. I must emphasize, the responsibility
for destruction of unsafe, unstable and unserviceable ammunition
lies with the EAF but SFOR stands ready to assist.
Approximately 1,700 metric tons of ammunition and explosives
must be destroyed. This situation is not unique to RS as the
Federation also has large quantities of dangerous ammunition
that needs to be destroyed. SFOR will work with them also,
but again, the EAF are responsible and should assume the lead.
2003 was a good year but 2004 brings great promise.
The first three months are critical to the success of the
year. Work done during this period will help to form the Partnership
for Peace process and the decision to be made in Istanbul
in June. The Joint Military Commission meeting on January
30 must have tangible results.
The Joint Military Commission will need to confirm and adopt
the final structure of the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Once adopted, these changes must be implemented. The militaries
of the Entities will be reduced to 12,000 professional soldiers
and 60,000 reserves. I recognize the leadership challenges
posed by the requirement to provide support for those soldiers
made redundant but it is nothing the people and the government
Accession to the Partnership for Peace Program requires that
BiH fully cooperate with the ICTY.
This means a top priority for 2004 must remain the capture
of PIFWCs. While SFOR will detain these fugitives as part
of our mandate, as signatories to the Dayton Peace Accords,
the governmental bodies of BiH are primarily responsible for
These people are leeches, bleeding the economy of your nation
and stifling progress. They are denying Bosnia its future
They will be caught; they will be brought to justice; and
this country will be the better for it.
Changes are coming to SFOR. Because of the progress made towards
a secure and safe environment both by SFOR but more importantly
the citizens of BiH, SFOR will reduce in size to 7,000 personnel
by mid-year. With the restructuring will come new operating
procedures but we will retain our ability to conduct verification
inspections and surge forces to support operations.
Let us not forget, although SFOR remains committed, the people
and institutions of BiH must reduce their dependency on SFOR.
Make no mistake; SFOR will continue to make an impact and
NATO remains committed.
The level of commitment can be seen in the upcoming visit
of the new Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
next week and the NATO reinforcement rehearsals that will
take place in May and September.
Let me also take this time to thank all the nations that have
and continue to contribute to the SFOR mission. It is through
your professionalism and courage that we can partner with
the people and institutions of BiH to achieve integration
into Euro-Atlantic Alliances.
There is no doubt, 2004 will bring its share of challenges.
We sincerely hope that BiH can achieve the standards of Partnership
for Peace membership this year and we will do what we can
to assist you in achieving this most worthy goal. But the
emphasis is on assist as it is up to you to determine your
future and your destiny in the world.
I wish you good luck and SRETNA NOVA GODINA (SRETNA NOVA GODEENA!)