By 2nd Lt. Bruno Ménard
First published in
SFOR Informer#119, August 8, 2001
SFOR troops have a role to play in the process of supporting
the army in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). That is what Brig. Gen.
Ton Strik, Chief Commander of Joint Military Affairs (JMA), explains
to SFOR Informer.
According to a BiH Defence Policy Document, the armies of
BiH are oversized and are a burden on state budgets.
That is one of the reasons that they need a change,"
The armed forces are composed of the army of Republika Srpska
(VRS), and the Federation army (VF). Officially, the second one
is one army but it actually combines Bosniacs (VF-B) and Bosnian-Croats
(VF-H). The VF has a joint command and a joint rapid reaction
With respect to political power, at the moment there are two Ministries
of Defence, one in the Republika Srpska and one in the Federation.
But it is difficult for them to co-operate together. In fact,
"the armed forces are focused on the defence of their own
land but there will be no more war between the two entities,"
asserted Strik. And he added: "We are now working on operational
groups to create a situation that there will be co-ordination
elements of the two armies, where they will work and co-ordinate
together better, just to save money and improve quality, which
is lacking in all areas."
In addition, the armed forces come up against very important difficulties.
In fact, there is not enough money for the defence budget and
for paying the two armies. "For many months, there has been
nothing done on maintenance. They have tried to get an organised
budget," said Strik. In this situation, what can SFOR do?
The role of SFOR
According to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH
(GFAP), SFOR's purpose is to create a safe and secure environment,
allowing that the country can build up again. The build up programme
in BiH depends on its armies, in co-operation with SFOR forces.
"The rules and arrangements that are written in the agreement
are from COMSFOR," the general said.
For that, there must be no problem within its armies. "We
would like them to become more like other European forces. We
will help them with the restructuring process," said Strik.
SFOR is permanently in contact with the armed forces of the country.
"In the old organisation, we had the factions liaison office,
which was in charge of keeping contact with the armed forces.
Now, at another stage, we are assisting them," the general
All the Multinational Divisions (MNDs) have one JMA officer. They
are working within their area with the local unit commanders of
the reconstruction process. As an example, SFOR forces are here
for co-ordinating weapons storage efforts and training the armed
forces of BiH.
"Restructuring of this country will take time. Some wish
to wait, but if you want to wait until the memories of this war
are gone, it will be too long. We have to try to find solutions
together and still take care of the specific needs of the entities.
On the basis of GFAP and the Constitution (included in GFAP),
we will have reduced the army by 2005, and this will be compatible,
with each entity working on the same doctrines and principles.
They will concentrate on working within budgets and gaining quality
of life," said Strik.
Towards a unified army?
Will we arrive at a unified army one day? "We cannot say
our aim is to have a unified army. This must come from the government
and the BiH Defence Policy Document. The restructuring process
in these documents does not mention this exact issue, but states
that we are to work towards stronger state level institutions,
and towards one Ministry of Defence through the Standing Committee
on Military Matters (SCMM), and to have policy arrangements that
they can stand by. Right now, that is not the situation,"
"When you look to the future, with one army all things will
be transparent, with one centralised head, overseeing all the
systems, operating at a centralised state level," he said.
Everybody knows it will take time. "We are not in hurry,"
Related link: SFOR