NATO's Operations and Contingency Plans for Stabilizing the Balkans
NSIAD-99-111R: Published: Mar 11, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1999.
GAO provided information on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) operations and contingency plans for stabilizing the Balkans, focusing on: (1) current and projected security conditions in the Balkans region, particularly with regard to Bosnia and the Serbia province of Kosovo; and (2) the potential impact of these conditions on: (a) prospects for a drawdown of the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia; (b) NATO's current operations around Kosovo; and (c) NATO and U.S. plans to deploy air and ground forces for resolving the ongoing conflict in Kosovo, in particular, ground operations planned for a permissive environment--one where all parties to the conflict agree to the presence and mission of NATO-led forces.
GAO noted that: (1) the situation in the Balkans remains one of ethnic turmoil and conflict, with the potential for the recent fighting in Kosovo to escalate and engulf relatively peaceful areas of the region; (2) as long as a credible SFOR remains in theater ready and able to intervene actively should circumstances warrant, according to international officials in Bosnia, the probability that the respective ethnic groups will resort to military action is low; (3) these officials said, however, that SFOR needs to continue to deter hostilities through constant monitoring and maintaining a deterrent presence; (4) SFOR officials told GAO that the increased emphasis of the international community on minority returns will in turn increase the number of hotspots of potential violence; (5) in November 1998, international officials in Bosnia estimated that without a SFOR presence at or about its current force levels, the war would break out again within a short period of time; (6) in mid-December 1998, NATO concluded that political and security conditions in Bosnia would not allow a change in SFOR's mission or a substantial drawdown in SFOR force levels; (7) instead, NATO decided to make administrative adjustments of up to 10 percent in SFOR force levels by April 1999; (8) as currently envisioned, NATO will reduce the number of SFOR's combat support and combat service support personnel but will not reduce the number of combat battalions located in Bosnia; (9) in mid-October 1998, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to a cease-fire under pressure from NATO, and Kosovar Albanian insurgents agreed to exercise self-restraint; (10) the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians retain mutually exclusive goals and are prepared and willing to renew the conflict in order to attain their objectives; (11) these and other aspects of the security environment in and around Kosovo will affect the mission, composition, and required force levels of any NATO-led force that may be deployed in an effort to resolve the conflict; (12) NATO and the United States have considered a number of air and ground options for resolving the Kosovo conflict; (13) the United States and NATO have publicly threatened to launch airstrikes against the Serbs as a means of forcing them to agree to an interim peace settlement; and (14) during February 1999, the President said that the United States has an important interest in resolving the Kosovo conflict that warrants the deployment of U.S. ground troops to help bring peace to Kosovo, but U.S. forces would be deployed only if a permissive environment existed.