HQ SFOR's Joint Military Affairs and BiH Defence Reform

First published in
SFOR Informer#171, June, 2004

Those who have worked at HQ SFOR know that HQ SFOR is not a standard NATO HQ. HQ SFOR was specifically created to support SFOR's task in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). One of the 'non standard' HQ branches is Joint Military Affairs (JMA) which exists to assist the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reform the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH).

Defence Reform
In 1996, the Armies of both the Federation and the Republic Srpska were enormous. Today there is no need for such large armies and BiH simply doesn't have enough money to sustain large numbers of troops. There is also a lot of outdated equipment and unserviceable ammunition that is getting more and more expensive to maintain. Joint Military Affairs assists the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reform the AFBiH and make it suitable to operate in UN, NATO and or European Union operations and missions. JMA has 37 personnel, headed by Brigadier General Alexander Oostendorp; seven of the JMA personnel are directly involved in defence reform, with the rest of the branch taking care of the other tasks of JMA such as countermines and 'compliance control'.
The process of BiH Defence Reform is laid down in the report of the Defence Reform Commission 'The Path to Partnership for Peace (PfP)'. This report describes the role and function of AFBiH and how the people of BiH will control their Armed Forces. JMA's mission to contribute to the restructuring of the AFBiH is done in close co-ordination with local (military) authorities, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and international agencies such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Co-operation with these agencies is important because Defence Reform will only be successful if the correct laws and budgets are in place.
The report does not, however, say in every detail how AFBiH should be organised and this is where the main effort lies for JMA. At the moment AFBiH still consist of two separate armies. In close co-operation with the current Army of the Federation (VF) and the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS), JMA is working on the establishment of a capable and affordable Armed Force under state-level control, that is also "NATO compatible": the AFBiH. An important prerequisite for fulfilling this task is to establish confidence between the separate elements of AFBiH. The ultimate goal is to have one BiH Defence organisation under state control and the entity armies integrated as much as possible.
JMA has worked on the organisational structures, responsibilities and tasks of BiH State level Ministry of Defence, BiH Joint Staff and BiH Operational Command as well as helping the AFBiH to write Doctrinal and Training documents. These documents are essential to build a new armed forces structure. The doctrine that is developed describes the main tasks of AFBiH and as a spin off, these documents have also assisted in elaborating the training standards. After defining the role of AFBiH, JMA has helped both the Army of the Federation and the Republica Srpska to develop the future organisation of AFBiH. On the 24th of March, this organisation was approved by the BiH Presidency. The current organisations can now transform into this new organisation.
The progress made so far
In November 2003 the BiH Defence law and the military doctrine documents were accepted. Documents on training are waiting to be accepted by the SCMM and Entity MoDs. The VF and VRS are downsizing and restructuring according to NATO standards and over the last 8 years have reduced from a total of approximately 419,000 to 12.000 regular soldiers and 240.000 reserves at the moment. The number of soldiers has to go down further to reach the affordable goal which is set at 12.000 professional soldiers and 60.000 reserves. This will lead to AFBiH consisting of 3 mechanised brigades under a state level command, units for training, logistics, air defence / transport and reserve divisions (see picture). The adoption of the Defence Laws of BiH and the foreseen creation of a state level MoD, a Joint Staff and an Operational Command are important building blocks for the future.
The year 2004 will be very important for the future of BiH because of the possibility of joining the NATO PfP program; a decision on BiH membership of PfP will be made at the NATO summit in Istanbul this month. Before the summit, NATO will have to be convinced that the implementation of the Defence Reform process has begun, i.e. the downsizing of the EAF (in personnel and infrastructure, mainly Ammunition- and Weapon Storage Sites). In close co-ordination with OHR / OSCE representatives, JMA will continue to assist BiH in the Defence Reform process.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

AF BiH structure
(as of 24 March ‘04)