NATO ships belonging to the Alliance's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, assisted by NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), began monitoring operations in the Adriatic in July 1992. These operations were undertaken in support of the UN arms embargo against all republics of the former Yugoslavia (UN Security Council Resolution 713) and the sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) (UNSCR 757).
In November 1992, as an extension of the maritime monitoring operations, NATO and WEU forces in the Adriatic began enforcement operations in support of the UN sanctions/embargo (UNSCR 787). Operations were then no longer restricted to registering possible violations and included stopping, inspecting and diverting ships when required.
At a joint session of the North Atlantic Council and the Council of the Western European Union on 8 June 1993, the combined NATO/WEU concept of operations was approved. This operation, named Sharp Guard, included a single command and control arrangement under the authority of the Councils of both organizations. Operational control of the combined NATO/WEU Task Force was delegated, through NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), to the Commander Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (COMNAVSOUTH) in Naples.
Following the initialling of the Peace Agreement on 21 November 1995, NATO and the WEU adapted Operation Sharp Guard in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions suspending sanctions (UNSCR 1022) and phasing out the arms embargo, subject to certain conditions (UNSCR 1021). In accordance with UNSCR 1022, NATO and the WEU stopped enforcing the sanctions on 22 November 1995, although this enforcement can be reinstated if the Parties do not meet the conditions specified by the UN.
With the termination of the UN arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia on 18 June 1996, operation Sharp Guard was suspended the same day in accordance with the direction of the NATO and WEU Councils. However, although enforcement operations have been suspended, Operation Sharp Guard has not been terminated. NATO and WEU are prepared to resume enforcement operations if sanctions are reimposed in accordance with UNSCR 1022.
Since the beginning of the enforcement operation, approximately 74,000 ships were challenged by NATO and WEU forces, nearly 6,000 were inspected at sea and just over 1,400 were diverted and inspected in port. No ships were reported to have broken the embargo, though six were caught attempting to do so.
NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft began monitoring operations in October 1992, in support of UNSCR 781, which established a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Data on possible violations of the no-fly zone was passed to the appropriate UN authorities on a regular basis.
On 31 March 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 816 authorising enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina and extending the ban to cover flights by all fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft except those authorised by UNPROFOR. In the event of further violations, it authorised UN member states to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance.
A NATO enforcement operation, called Deny Flight, began on 12 April 1993. It initially involved some 50 fighter and reconnaissance aircraft (later increased to more than 200) from various Alliance nations, flying from airbases in Italy and from aircraft carriers in the Adriatic. By December 1995, almost 100,000 sorties had been flown by fighter and supporting aircraft.
Operation Deny Flight
On 28 February 1994, four warplanes violating the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina were shot down by NATO aircraft. This was the first military engagement ever undertaken by the Alliance.
In June 1993, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to offer protective air power for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the performance of its overall mandate. In July, NATO aircraft began flying training missions for providing such close air support (CAS). On 10 and 11 April 1994, following a request from the UN Force Command, NATO aircraft, for the first time, provided close air support to protect UN personnel in Gorazde, a UN-designated Safe Area in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Close Air Support
On 19 November 1994, under the authority of UNSCR 958, the North Atlantic Council approved extension of Close Air Support to Croatia for the protection of UN forces in that country.
On 11 July 1995, the UN called for NATO Close Air Support to protect UN peacekeepers threatened by Bosnian Serb forces advancing on the UN-declared Safe Area of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO aircraft attacked targets as identified by, and under the control of, the UN. Despite NATO's air support, the Safe Area of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces which soon overran the nearby Safe Area of Zepa as well.
On 9 October 1995, NATO aircraft attacked a Bosnian Serb Army Command and Control bunker, near Tuzla, in response to a request for air support from UN peace forces, which had come under artillery shelling from Bosnian Serb guns for a second consecutive day.
On 2 August 1993, the Council agreed to make immediate preparations for undertaking, in the event that the strangulation of Sarajevo and other areas continued, including wide-scale interference with humanitarian assistance, stronger measures, including air strikes against those responsible, in the context of UNSCR 836 ("Safe Areas"). The Council tasked the NATO Military Authorities to draw up operational options for air strikes, in close coordination with UNPROFOR.
On 9 August 1993, the North Atlantic Council approved the "Operational Options for Air Strikes in Bosnia-Herzegovina", forwarded by the Military Committee, including the targeting identification process and NATO/UN command and control arrangements for air strikes.
At the January 1994 Brussels Summit, Alliance leaders reaffirmed their readiness to carry out air strikes in order to prevent the strangulation of Sarajevo, the Safe Areas and other threatened areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On 9 February 1994, the North Atlantic Council, at the request of the UN Secretary General, authorized CINCSOUTH to launch air strikes, at the request of the UN, against artillery and mortar positions in or around Sarajevo which were determined by UNPROFOR to be responsible for attacks against civilian targets in that city. The NATO Council also decided that all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around Sarajevo or placed under UNPROFOR control within 10 days. Heavy weapons of any of the Parties found within the exclusion zone, unless under UNPROFOR control, would be subject to air strikes after expiration of the 10-day period, in close coordination with the UN and in accordance with the Council decisions of 2 and 9 August 1993.
Similar decisions were taken on 22 April 1994, in response to a request by the UN Secretary General, to support the UN in its efforts to end the siege of Gorazde and to protect other Safe Areas. The North Atlantic Council decided that air strikes would be launched, unless Bosnian Serb attacks ceased immediately, Bosnian Serb forces had pulled back three kilometres from the city centre by 24 April, and humanitarian relief convoys and medical teams were allowed to enter the city on that date. The Council declared that air strikes would be launched against remaining Bosnian Serb heavy weapons within a 20-kilometre Exclusion Zone around the centre of Gorazde after 27 April. Regarding other UN-designated Safe Areas (Bihac, Srebrenica, Tuzla and Zepa), the Council authorised air strikes if these areas were attacked by heavy weapons from any range. These other Safe Areas could also become Exclusion Zones if, in the common judgement of the NATO and UN Military Commanders, there was a concentration or movement of heavy weapons within a radius of 20 kilometres around them.
On 5 August 1994, NATO aircraft attacked a target within the Sarajevo Exclusion Zone at the request of UNPROFOR. The air strikes were ordered following agreement between NATO and UNPROFOR, after weapons were seized by Bosnian Serbs from a weapons collection site near Sarajevo.
On 22 September 1994, following a Bosnian Serb attack on an UNPROFOR vehicle near Sarajevo, NATO aircraft carried out an air strike against a Bosnian Serb tank, again at the request of UNPROFOR.
After the Council decided on 19 November 1994 to extend air strikes into Croatia, based on UNSCR 958, NATO aircraft attacked the Udbina airfield in Serb-held Croatia, on 21 November, in response to recent attacks launched from that airfield against targets in the Bihac area of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After attacks on two NATO aircraft launched from a surface-to-air missile site south of Otoka, in north-west Bosnia-Herzegovina, air strikes were conducted against air defence radars in that area by NATO aircraft on 23 November 1994.
Following a deterioration of the situation in former Yugoslavia, including violations of the Exclusion Zones and the shelling of Safe Areas, air strikes were again carried out on 25 and 26 May 1995, targeting Bosnian Serb ammunition depots in Pale, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some 370 UN peacekeepers in Bosnia were taken hostage and subsequently used as human shields at potential targets in a bid to prevent further air strikes. NATO Foreign Ministers, meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, on 30 May, condemned the escalation of violence in Bosnia and the hostile acts against UN personnel by the Bosnian Serbs. By 18 June, the UN hostages had been released and remaining peacekeeping forces which had been isolated at weapons collection sites around Sarajevo were withdrawn from these sites.
Following the international meeting on Bosnia-Herzegovina held in London on 21 July 1995, the North Atlantic Council approved, on 25 July, the necessary planning aimed at deterring an attack on the Safe Area of Gorazde, while ensuring that NATO air power would be used in a timely and effective way if this Safe Area was threatened or attacked. The Council, on 1 August, took similar decisions aimed at deterring attacks on the Safe Areas of Sarajevo, Bihac and Tuzla.
On 4 August 1995, NATO aircraft conducted air strikes against Croatian Serb air defence radars near Udbina airfield and Knin in Croatia.
Deny Flight's mandate was terminated on 20 December 1995, with the transfer of authority from the UN to NATO as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution of 15 December. This provided for the creation of the NATO-led Implementation Force in Bosnia, following the Peace Agreement signed on 14 December. Since 20 December 1995 IFOR has controlled the airspace over Bosnia-Herzegovina, as part of its peace implementation mission Joint Endeavour. The North Atlantic Council also decided that Operation Joint Endeavour should provide close air support for UN peace forces (UNTAES) in the region of Eastern Slavonia (Croatia) in accordance with UNSCR 1037. Control of the airspace over Bosnia-Herzegovina and the provision of close air support to UNTAES have been continued under the Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which succeeded IFOR on 20 December 1996.
Following continued attacks by Bosnian Serb artillery on the Safe Area of Sarajevo, NATO aircraft, operating within the provisions agreed between NATO and the UN, commenced a series of air strikes on 30 August 1995, against Bosnian Serb military targets in Bosnia, supported by the UN Rapid Reaction Force on Mt. Igman. The air operations were initiated after UN military commanders concluded, beyond any reasonable doubt, that a mortar attack in Sarajevo two days earlier came from Bosnian Serb positions. The operations were jointly decided by the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) and the Force Commander, UN Peace Forces, under UN Security Council Resolution 836 and in accordance with the North Atlantic Council's decisions of 25 July and 1 August 1995, which were endorsed by the UN Secretary General. The common objectives of NATO and the UN were to reduce the threat to the Sarajevo Safe Area and to deter further attacks there or on any other Safe Area; the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb heavy weapons from the total Exclusion Zone around Sarajevo; and complete freedom of movement for UN forces and personnel and non-governmental organisations, and unrestricted use of Sarajevo Airport.
Operation Deliberate Force
On 20 September 1995, CINCSOUTH and the UN Peace Force Commander concluded that the Bosnian Serbs had complied with the conditions set down in a letter of 3 September by the UNPF Commander and air strikes were discontinued. However, they stressed that any attack on Sarajevo or any other Safe Area, or other non-compliance with the provisions of the Sarajevo Exclusion Zone, freedom of movement or the functioning of the Airport would be subject to investigation and resumption of air strike operations.
Following the conclusion of operation Deliberate Force, NATO conducted two additional air operations under Operation Deny Flight. On 4 October 1995, NATO aircraft fired three missiles at Bosnian Serb radar sites at two different locations, after anti-aircraft radar had locked onto Alliance aircraft.
Throughout this period, NATO conducted contingency planning for a range of options to support UN activities relating to the crisis. Contingency plans were provided to the UN for enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina; the establishment of relief zones and safe havens for civilians in Bosnia; and ways to prevent the spread of the conflict to Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Possible contingency arrangements for the protection of humanitarian assistance, monitoring of heavy weapons, and protection of UN forces on the ground, were also made available to the UN.
In mid-1994, due to the degradation of the situation on the ground, NATO military authorities were tasked to undertake contigency planning to assist the UN forces in withdrawing from Bosnia-Herzegovina and/or Croatia, if that became unavoidable. Plans for a NATO-led operation to support the withdrawal of UN forces were provisionally approved by the North Atlantic Council in June 1995. At the time, the Alliance stressed its hope that its planning and preparations would serve to underpin the continued UN presence in the former Yugoslavia.
As prospects for peace in Bosnia improved in autumn 1995, following Operation Deliberate Force, the Alliance reaffirmed its readiness to help implement a peace plan and stepped up its contingency planning to do so. With the initialling of a peace agreement in dayton, Ohio (USA) between the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) on 21 November, preparations were expedited for a NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) to implement the military aspects of the peace agreement.
Following the signing of the Bosnian Peace Agreement in Paris on 14 December 1995, NATO was given a mandate by the UN, on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1031, to implement the military aspects of the Peace Agreement. The NATO-led multinational force, called the Implementation Force - or "IFOR" - started operation Joint Endeavour on 16 December.
Operation Joint Endeavour
IFOR's role was to help the Parties to implement a peace accord to which they have freely agreed, in an even-handed way. IFOR did not come to Bosnia to fight a war or to impose a settlement on any of the Parties. The implementation of the Peace Agreement is the responsibility of the Parties themselves.
In accordance with the Peace Agreement IFOR undertook the following primary military tasks:
- ensuring continued compliance with the cease-fire;
- ensuring the withdrawal of forces from the agreed cease-fire zone of separation, back to their respective territories, and ensuring the separation of forces;
- ensuring the collection of heavy weapons into cantonment sites and barracks and the demobilisation of remaining forces;
- creating conditions for the safe, orderly and speedy withdrawal of UN forces that have not transferred to the NATO-led IFOR;
- controlling the airspace over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
By carrying out these tasks, IFOR played a pivotal role in the transition to peace in the first year after the Dayton Peace Agreement. It ensured a secure environment in which the other organizations, responsible for the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement, could carry out their work, and in which the return to normal life could start.
Operation Joint Endeavour was NATO-led, under the political direction and control of the Alliance's North Atlantic Council, as stipulated in Annex 1A of the Peace Agreement. IFOR had a unified command structure. Overall military authority rested in the hands of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General George Joulwan. General Joulwan designated Admiral Leighton-Smith (NATO's Commander in Chief Southern Command - CINCSOUTH) as the first Commander in Theatre of IFOR (COMIFOR). In July 1996, Admiral Smith retired and Admiral Joseph Lopez was appointed as CINCSOUTH and COMIFOR. In November 1996, following a replacement of IFOR Headquarters, General Crouch (CINCLANDCENT) became COMIFOR.
IFOR Command Structure
All NATO nations contributed to IFOR. But IFOR was more than just a NATO operation. Non-NATO forces were incorporated into the unified command structure alongside NATO forces, under the command of the IFOR Commander and his multinational divisional commanders. At the end of the IFOR mission 18 non-NATO countries were participating in Operation Joint Endeavour, most of them being Partnership for Peace countries
Participation of non-NATO nations
Russian forces joined the Implementation Force in January 1996. Russia's participation in the Implementation Force was subject to special arrangements agreed between NATO and Russia. The Russian contingent was directly subordinated to Col.General Leontiy Shevtsov, as General Joulwan's Russian deputy. In theatre, the Russian Brigade was placed under the tactical control of the US-led Multinational Division (North).
The participation of Russia and other non-NATO countries in the implementation of the Peace Agreement has been an important element in the success of the mission undertaken by the international community to bring an end to the conflict and to create the circumstances in which peace can be restored. It has also contributed to the evolving NATO-Russia cooperative relationship and to gaining practical experience of cooperation between NATO and non-NATO forces.
The advance enabling force of 2,600 troops began deploying to Bosnia and Croatia on 2 December 1995. Their task was to establish the headquarters, communications and logistics necessary to receive the main body of some 60,000 IFOR troops being deployed to the area.
Major IFOR Milestones
The deployment of the main force was activated on 16 December, after final approval by the North Atlantic Council of the Operational Plan (OPLAN), and the UN Security Council's Resolution 1031 of 15 December, authorising the IFOR's mission.
The transfer of authority from the Commander of UN Peace Forces to the Commander of IFOR took place on 20 December, 96 hours after the NATO Council's approval of the main deployment. On that day, all NATO and non-NATO forces participating in the operation came under the command and/or control of the IFOR Commander. IFOR secured conditions for the safe, orderly and timely withdrawal of remaining UN forces not coming under NATO command and/or control.
By 19 January, 30 days after transfer of authority from UNPROFOR to IFOR ('D+30'), the Parties to the Agreement had withdrawn their forces from the zone of separation on either side of the agreed case-fire line. As of 3 February (D+45), all forces had been withdrawn from the areas to be transferred. The transfer of territory between Bosnian entities was completed by 19 March (D+90), and a new zone of separation was established along the inter-entity boundary line.
In assessing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina four months after the beginning of the IFOR deployment, the North Atlantic Council concluded that the Implementation Force had been successful in bringing about a more secure environment. The Parties continue to respect the cessation of hostilities and have generally complied with the major milestones in the Peace Agreement.
All heavy weapons and forces were to be in cantonments or demobilized by 18 April (D+120), which represented the last milestone in the military annex to the Peace Agreement. Due to technical problems, the Parties to the Peace Agreement were not able to complete the withdrawal and demobilisation or cantonment of heavy weapons and forces by the deadline, although the revised deadline set by SACEUR of 27 June (D+180) for the cantonment of heavy weapons was met.
For lasting peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, full implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement is crucial. By implementing the military asects of the Agreement, IFOR helped to ensure a secure environment conducive to civil and political reconstrucion. The timely conclusion of an arms control rgime and of confidence and security building measures was also of fundamental importance to the peace process.
The civilian aspects of the Agreement are being carried out by appropriate international and non-governmental organisations. The London Peace Implementation Conference of 8-9 December 1995 set out the framework for these efforts. The High Representative named at the London Conference, Carl Bildt, was charged with monitoring the implementation of the Peace Agreement and coordinating the activities of the organisations and agencies involved in civilian implementation.
In view of the importance of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement, IFOR provided substantial support for civilian tasks within the limits of its existing mandate and available resources. IFOR worked closely with the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the International Police Task Force (IPTF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and many others, including more than 400 non-governmental organisations. IFOR has offered a range of support facilities to these organisations, such as emergency accommodation, medical treatment and evacuation, vehicle repair and recovery, as well as transport assistance, security information and advice, and other logistical support.
IFOR also provided a broad range of support to the OSCE, assisting in that Organisation's task to prepare, supervise and monitor the elections that took place on 14 September 1996. After these elections were successfully held, IFOR provided support to the Office of the High Representative's task in assisting the Parties in building new common institutions.
IFOR military engineers repaired and opened more than 50% of the roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and rebuilt or repaired over 60 bridges including those linking the country with Croatia. They were also involved in the de-mining and repair of railroads and opening up airports to civilian traffic, in restoring gas, water and electricity supplies, in rebuilding schools and hospitals, and in restoring key telecommunication assets.
Finally, IFOR included a specialized group of about 350 personnel bringing together lawyers, educators, public transportation specialists, engineers, agricultural experts, economists, public health officials, veterinarians, communications experts and many others. These are part of a Civil-Military team, referred to as CIMIC, which provides technical advice and assistance to various commissions and working groups, civilian organisations, non-governmental organisations and IFOR units, as well as to the Parties to the Agreement and to local authorities.
On 20 December 1996, IFOR successfully completed its mission. Hostilities had ceased and the factions' military forces had been separated and moved into cantonments. However, it was also clear that much remained to be done on the civilian side and that the environment would be too instable and insecure to continue civilian implementation without an international military presence. Based on planning by the NATO Military Authorities and after a two-year Civilian Consolidation Plan was established in Paris and elaborated in London under the auspices of the Peace Implementation Council, NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers concluded that a reduced military presence was needed to provide the stability necessary for the consolidation of peace. They agreed that NATO should organise a Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which was subsequently activated on 20 December 1996.
Operation Joint Guard
SFOR's mission is to deter renewed hostilities and to stabilise the peace. While SFOR is only half the size of IFOR, it retains the same unity of command, robust rules of engagement, enforcement authority and consent by the Parties that made IFOR a success. SFOR, like its predecessor, is a joint operation, led by NATO, but with wide participation of non-NATO countries.
Since 1992, when NATO ships first began monitoring the UN sanctions/embargo in the Adriatic, the Alliance has taken an increasingly active and decisive role in the former Yugoslavia. NATO's involvement furthered its three objectives of supporting the peace process, helping to protect the UN-designated Safe Areas, and preventing a spillover of the conflict to neighbouring countries. NATO's presence in the air and its preparations to support a possible UN withdrawal allowed UN forces to remain on the ground and to carry out their important tasks. At the same time, NATO's Operation Deliberate Force helped to convince the parties to the conflict that their differences were best settled at the negotiating table rather than on the battlefield.
The NATO-led operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Joint Endeavour, was NATO's first-ever ground force operation, its first-ever deployment "out of area", and its first-ever joint operation with NATO's Partnership for Peace partners and other non-NATO countries.
It has successfully completed its mission. Its successor SFOR continues to guarantee the peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and, by doing so, to stabilise the situation and and consolidate the peace. Both operations have demonstrated that the Alliance is adapting its forces and policies to the requirements of the post-Cold War world, while continuing to provide collective security and defence for all Allies. In addition to carrying out the core functions of defence of the Alliance, its military forces have the flexibility to be used outside the NATO area, for operations under the authority of the UN Security Council and with clear political objectives defining the military tasks. NATO's own military capabilities and the adaptability which enables the forces of non-NATO countries to participate are decisive factors in the Alliance's role in implementing the Peace Agreement. The IFOR/SFOR operations show that the Alliance remains vital, relevant and prepared to deal with the new, multifaceted security risks facing Europe with the end of the Cold War.