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IFOR becomes SFOR

by General William W. Crouch, COMSFOR

First published in SFOR Informer #1, January 8, 1997

A little more than a year ago, the Implementation Force moved into this country and separated three warring factions that had been fighting for four years. The IFOR mandate ended on December 20, 1996, achieving such great success that we have moved into the stabilisation phase of the operation.

Photo 1T.JPG (9283 bytes)Looking back over the past year, we can all take pride in the accomplishments of the 36 nations involved in this operation. The IFOR moved swiftly into this country during the harshest Balkan winter in years, separated the warring factions, established the Zone of Separation, and ensured weapons were placed in cantonment sites. This secure environment has provided an opportunity for the establishment of civilian institutions that are the first step toward a lasting peace.

Key indicators of the success of the IFOR mission are last September’s national elections and the safe return of over 230,000 displaced persons and refugees. Tangible results such as these are beginning to allow the people of Bosnia to recover from 42 months of war.

The Stabilisation Force (SFOR) is committed to continuing the success of the past year. While some of the previous challenges have waned, we face many new and different ones that require us to remain vigilant. We have a new mandate that gives us an opportunity to continue to contribute to a secure environment so that civil implementation may take firmer root.

All of our units and troopers have trained hard for their missions and we find evidence of this every day in each of the Multinational Divisions as well as here in the SFOR Headquarters. Formed from 25 nations, this NATO Headquarters, trained and deployed here and conducted the first theatre Relief in Place in recent memory.

This was followed closely by the consolidation of both the land component and theatre responsibilities in the SFOR headquarters. Like the IFOR, we concentrate principally on the military tasks of Dayton, but now we will also focus more upon the synchronisation of all of the activities, with all of the contributing agencies, toward our common goal.

Our goal for the next 18 months is, of course, to shift to the Entities the responsibility for their own development, for establishment of their own common institutions, for creating their own infrastructure, for revitalising their own economy ... dynamics that will facilitate the return of refugees, all Freedom of Movement and give the people a stake in peace, a reason not to fight.

So we are determined to help provide an environment where Bosnia becomes a country that has a reasonable chance to achieve the vision of the Dayton Peace Accord, a country in which established civil structures are sufficiently mature to assume their responsibilities, a country where the parties are committed to negotiation as the means to resolve differences, where all parties adhere to the military provisions of the Accord on a sustained basis, in short, a secure environment adequate for the continued consolidation of peace without further need for NATO-led military forces.

As we go through this, we are ever mindful of our charge to keep our people safe, not only from those who might intend harm, but fully cognisant of threats from weather, traffic, other accidents, and complacency. Ground, air and sea operations that with heavy equipment, a rapid OPTEMPO, and inherent fatigue, are all potential threats to our soldiers. It is the task of all of us to be ever vigilant and of leaders to ensure we protect our most precious resource – our troops.

Above all, we will continue to make the most of this marvellous opportunity that has been offered by the Alliance: a chance to truly leave a mark on history, to meet every day’s unique challenge performing a task never done before, for a very tangible and supremely worthwhile cause – the mission of peace.

  [Historic moments in IFOR / SFOR]