Bosnia Peace Operation:

Mission, Structure, and Transition Strategy of NATO's Stabilization Force

NSIAD-99-19: Published: Oct 8, 1998. Publicly Released: Oct 8, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led military force in Bosnia, known as the Stabilization Force (SFOR), focusing on: (1) how SFOR's operations in Bosnia have changed since mid-1997, particularly its support for the operation's civil aspects, and whether any such changes have exceeded SFOR's defined mission; (2) the mission and force structure of the post-June 1998 SFOR follow-on force, including the decisionmaking sequence for U.S. participation in the force and the status of developing the force's new Multinational Specialized Unit; and (3) NATO's transition strategy for removing NATO-led forces.

GAO noted that: (1) the increased emphasis on implementing the Dayton Agreement that began in mid-1997 included an intensified effort by SFOR to support the agreement's civil provisions, but the force continued to employ most of its resources to control the Bosniak, Bosnian Croat, and Bosnian Serb militaries; (2) the mission and force structure of the SFOR follow-on force will remain largely the same as prior to June 1998; (3) SFOR levels in Bosnia increased from about 31,700 troops in August 1998 to about 36,100 troops at the time of the September elections in Bosnia but are expected to decrease again by November 1998; (4) in light of SFOR's need to deal with civil disturbances, NATO established a new Multinational Specialized Unit, a paramilitary- or gendarmerie-type unit, within SFOR; (5) as of September 1998, only part of the specialized unit was operational because countries have not yet committed sufficient resources to the unit; (6) this new unit will not replace U.S. or other SFOR combat units; (7) after considering several military analyses and a range of factors, the executive branch decided in January 1998 to reduce the U.S. troop level for the SFOR follow-on force from about 8,500 troops in Bosnia to about 6,900 troops; (8) after the drawdown decision was made, the U.S. military identified ways to reduce U.S. force levels; (9) NATO then lowered operational requirements for the follow-on force; (10) NATO will continue its practice of reviewing SFOR operations every 6 months to determine whether SFOR force levels could be further reduced; (11) NATO has developed a transition strategy for an eventual disengagement from Bosnia; (12) NATO has not fully developed specific criteria for determining when conditions would allow SFOR combat units to draw down and withdraw, but was in the process of doing so; (13) the NATO transition strategy consists largely of turning over various activities to local authorities or the peace operation's civilian organizations as conditions permit; (14) the transition strategy calls for the Multinational Specialized Unit to leave Bosnia before or at the same time as SFOR's combat units; (15) according to Department of Defense and NATO officials, specific drawdown criteria are expected to be developed before NATO's next 6-month review of SFOR operations; and (16) during this review, NATO will assess changes to the security and political conditions in Bosnia, including the results of the September 1998 elections, and determine whether SFOR force levels could be further reduced.

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