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Men in the shadow

By Mr. Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001

To prepare such an operation is not easy. That's why, as soon as this trip was decided and its date established, a working group was formed to deal with all the practical considerations: who to invite, which returnee sites will be visited, what the schedule will be, what kind of documentation will be provided to the ambassadors, and plenty of other questions they discovered as they went along.
This working group was comprised of four persons: Stephan Annighoefer (Office of the High Representative, OHR), Finnish Lt. Col. Kimmo Salomaa (SFOR, Joint Visitor's Bureau), French Lt. Col. Didier Debray (SFOR, CJ 9), later replaced by German Major Karl - Ludwig Puhl, and French Navy Lt. Cdr. Frédéric Crété (military adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees chief of mission, UNHCR).

What the steering group's members said
Finnish Lt. Col. Kimmo Salomaa (SFOR Joint Visitors Bureau). 1st left
"On behalf of JVB, I hope that we will be able to provide a good and informative event for the ambassadors. This tour is a very important one for BiH; there is no doubt about it. The results of the previous tour show it."
German Maj. Karl-Ludwig Puhl (SFOR CJ9). 2nd left
"Hopefully we'll get donor's assistance: it's still imperative for the situation in this country"
French Lt. Cmdr. Frédéric Crété (military advisor to the UNHCR chief of mission). 2nd right
"I expect a large amount of funding after the fourth ambassadors' visit."
Stephan Annighoefer (OHR). 1st right
"This tour is the last chance for all responsible authorities to get an actual picture of "life in the field." I hope that after the ambassadors' visit the funding for the Reconstruction and Return Task Force (RRTF) will significantly increase for the better for the people of BiH.".

The first step was, of course, the selection of the sites to be visited, with many considerations to be taken into account: entity and ethnic balance of the selected sites, the possibility of helicopters landing and taking off in the vicinity, proximity and accessibility to the site for a long convoy, overall security, existence of mine fields… It has not been easy to combine all the constraints of this kind.
Once the heads of the three organisations involved (OHR, SFOR and UNHCR) approved the six sites, it was time to go into details. Accurate time schedules, the issue of a Fragmental Order (FRAGO) to the three multinational divisions, co-ordination with HELIOPS for the air journeys, reconnaissance of the ground itineraries, preparation of the visit to the sites with involvement of the representatives of the returnees, and so on. The simpler the trip looked, the more the working group tried to foresee the unforeseeable.
SFOR Informer's special envoys took part in the three trips, following the ambassadors and the associated international community. Their reports appear in the three next pages.

Related links: Humanitarian Aid, SFOR at Work