"S" IS FOR STABILIZATION
DECEMBER 20, 1996
NATO has begun a new Bosnia mission. SFOR will replace IFOR , the "implementation" force deployed last December to enforce the Dayton Peace Accord. The new focus: to rebuild civilian life. A background report from Independent Television News is followed by a discussion between one civilian and one military expert, lead by Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
PAUL DAVIES, Independent Television News: You can't easily ignore the continued presence of British armed forces in Bosnia, whether it's the Royal Horse artillery perfecting their battle skills--or the Royal Scotts Dragoon guards taking their challenge of battle tanks on patrol through the hilltop town of Baraci. One year into the Dayton Agreement, the basic idea is still to reassure those members of the local population who want peace, and ward off those who don't.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
November 15, 1996:
Two members of Congress react to President Clinton's decision to break his own deadline and extend U.S. troops in Bosnia past December, 1996.
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SPOKESMAN: They seem very happy to us; they're very friendly. They will do anything we ask them. It's been very good, a lot better than I originally thought it would be.
PAUL DAVIES: At the headquarters of the British sector in Banja Luka this week, there was an informal ceremony to mark the hand-over of command. Before leaving Bosnia, outgoing General John Kisley reflected on one year of NATO's peace implementation force, IFOR.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN KISLEY, British Army: This place looked and felt like a war zone, and the people were all obsessed by the past. Now, I think that's changed, although there are still a lot of evidence of destruction about. Actually, it doesn't feel like a war zone here anymore, and what's more although some of the people are still looking to the past, many more are looking to the future. And I think in the Balkans that's progress.
PAUL DAVIES: Progress that can only be measured by looking back. Nine months ago, almost every building in the town of Mrkonjic Grad was uninhabitable. Damaged by fighting, then vandalized by Bosnian Croat forces who captured the area but were forced to hand it back under Dayton. This is Mrkonjic Grad today, still bearing some scars but thousands of Bosnian Serbs have returned to reclaim and repair their old homes. The town's biggest employer, a clothes factory, is back in business, thanks to a grant from an overseas development agency and the efforts of British soldiers based in Mrkonjic Grad.
LT. COL. TREVOR WILLIAMS, British Army: I think it's critically important because, I mean, self-evidently, it gives people work, and I think, above all else, it also gives them help, and it shows that normality can return, begin to return in fairly short order.
PAUL DAVIES: But normality will only return if the tanks and heavy weapons with which Bosnia's armies fought their war remain in barracks, which is why one year into the Dayton cease-fire, members of the RAF regiment still visit the main bases of the Bosnian Serb army to check that nothing has been removed.
SPOKESMAN: When was the last time these mortars were fired.
MAN: A long time ago.
PAUL DAVIES: This time last Christmas, these T52 tanks were still on the front line. The fact that all of this fire power is now safely stockpiled is possibly the best illustration of IFOR's success and of the cooperation they've received here in Republica Serbska. Next year, a smaller version of IFOR will remain to help rebuild Bosnia's economy and prepare for local elections. It means around six thousand British servicemen and women are guaranteed a white Christmas but none perhaps as lonely as that facing those members of the Royal Corps of Signals whose communications center is 6,000 feet up on a mountaintop called Biterog. Here, a passing helicopter is cause for excitement. Down in the larger British bases, even under canvas, they are already in the festive spirit.
PEOPLE SINGING: Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even--
JIM LEHRER: Charlayne Hunter-Gault has more on this story.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Those British troops we just saw are part of a new so-called Stabilization Force going into Bosnia, about 35,000 soldiers from NATO and other countries, including 8,500 Americans. That's about half the size of the force that went into Bosnia a year ago and included almost 20,000 Americans. It was known as the Peace and Implementation Force, or IFOR.
At this transition point we get a military and civilian update on Bosnia from Retired Adm. Leighton Smith, who was the allied forces commander until this summer, and Richard Sklar, the U.S. special representative for civilian implementation in Bosnia. Thank you both for joining us. And starting with you, Admiral, aside from the song that they probably are going to be singing, how different is the job of the new force from the IFOR force?
ADMIRAL LEIGHTON SMITH (Ret.), Former NATO Commander, Bosnia: Well, I think pretty much as the name implies. We were an implementation force. We had a peace agreement that we were supposed to see to the implementation of and make sure that the sides separated, weapons were pulled back, forces went into barracks, and that sort of thing. Gen. Bill Crouch, who's leading SFOR, will have a similar job in terms of the complexity and difficulty, but he will be verifying and maintaining pretty good records about where those weapons are, where those soldiers are, to ensure that that what I call that absence of war will remain in place, and it gives the people of that country the ability to learn to rebuild and do exactly what we saw earlier just a few minutes ago, the sowing.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What's the most difficult job these men face, men and women I suppose too?
ADMIRAL LEIGHTON SMITH (Ret.): Well, the men and women of SFOR are going to face one, the weather; it is not pleasant this time of year over there. They're going to be traveling on roads that are difficult to travel on and, again, that was a tough problem for us last year. We lost a lot of soldiers, had a lot of accidents, because of the road systems, but they'll be traveling throughout the country, principally verifying the maintenance of what we have previously seen implemented.
And I think for the winter that will probably be it. Let me just make a very--make a point very clear here. We cannot assume that because SFOR is smaller than IFOR that their job is any less important, and in some cases, there will be dangers. But I think we've learned an awful lot in a year there. And the risks to our soldiers will be, I think, minimal.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Sklar, has the civilian side gone as smoothly as the admiral suggesting the military side has gone?
RICHARD SKLAR, U.S. Civilian Coordinator, Bosnia: (San Francisco) The military side has done an outstanding job. Back in May, when the President asked me to go over, it was because he was concerned that civilian implementation was lagging behind the military.
There's been a game of catch up going on, and I think at the end of the year, six months after my arrival, I think that the team of us, all of us, because it's not just the U.S., it's the World Bank, the European Union, the bilateral donors, have made major progress. Airports are open. Roads and bridges are repaired. The rail system is intact and can be operated on. Power is being delivered. Those of us who live in Sarajevo in the cold, grim winter nights are happy that there's now electricity there. Water has been restored, but we still have a major job of turning the economy around.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is that the biggest job you face?
RICHARD SKLAR: I think the change in the job as we head from our first six months, because it's really been May to now to next year, is to get factories going again. The example in your photo is--in your film piece is one example. We get those factories going. What we have here is a problem that is not simply to repair the damage. This was a Communist socialist command society for 45 years. It was managed by bureaucrats. It had failed like most of Eastern Europe failed. Here, as in Germany, Eastern Germany, Poland, Hungary, and in Russia, there's a turnaround in the economy.
At the same time, you've got to deal with what remains to be virulent hatred between the ethnic groups and the damage of war. So this next six months or a year and a half on our side will be to get factories started again so there are jobs, get homes rebuilt, and continue the infrastructure that can support the factories.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But I've read reports that say corruption among local officials, lack of--or competition among the aid agencies, bureaucratic red tape, have really seriously slowed down the process.
RICHARD SKLAR: Charlayne, let's separate those. On the corruption side I'm sure there's corruption. It has not been a major impediment. It's not been something that surfaced. And one of the major jobs I've had in these first six months was to bring the donor community together so we'd all work together. One of the traditions in foreign aid is that everyone does their own thing. They go out there. They're interested in serving their political interest, and they're interested in developing business for back home.
In this case we're attempting to complement the work being done by the military and turn an economy around, and we've made amazing progress in bringing this team together. We are now all operating as a family. Priorities are developed universally. We then divide them up based upon capability. We then monitor their execution as a team. Much like IFOR and now SFOR are cooperative ventures of many, many countries, the same thing is true of the civilians. So on that side we've made major progress.
The big job we've got to do is to take the leadership of this country and convince them to move away from the command economy towards privatization, towards factory managers loose, towards entrepreneurship, and initiative, something that the country has not known in its history.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: On the matter of the leadership, I've also read reports, Adm. Smith, that the international aid agencies have threatened to withhold any funds if these Muslims, Croats, and Serbs don't get together, that they're not cooperating. I mean, is the new force going to be more aggressive, for example, in helping to get the war criminals arrested?
ADMIRAL LEIGHTON SMITH (Ret.): Well, you've talked about two completely separate issues, but let me just tell you that Dick Sklar is doing an awful lot to get these politicians working together with that economic clout. I personally believe that there's no place for the military in trying to force this political, what I call the political will of the leadership to start working together to make the kind of compromises that Dick talked about, to gather together and work together towards rebuilding the infrastructure.
That's one part of the problem, and I think with the kind of work Dick has done and is going to continue to do, that economic clout is going to draw those people together more and more as we go forward. The war criminal or the indicted war criminal issue is completely separate and distinct. It will have to be addressed in some way, but let me tell you I've been on record before and I'm on record now and I will be on record till the day I die going after indicted war criminals under the situation that we see in Bosnia today is not a job that you want to give to the military that is over there now.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What's your view on that, Mr. Sklar, not on the indicted war criminals, but on the cooperation of the three different groups?
We said the same thing on the power side. The coal that's under the ground there was not Serb, Croat, or Muslim dinosaurs that died and formed it, and, therefore, an integrated power system is essential. We are applying aggressive conditionality. The leadership hears it and knows it. We're doing it as a group, and I think it will be critical in getting the next step going, but, again, the Bosnian people have got to take the initiative on this. The Bosnian people and leadership have got to bring their country into the 20th century, into Europe's economy. We can only help.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How are those relations going among the three groups?
RICHARD SKLAR: I think they're difficult. These are people who spent four years and I don't even know how to describe it--it was--it certainly wasn't a traditional war. Maybe it wasn't even a civil war. It was a killing and destruction of civilian property and people. More women and children died than soldiers died. And when you go through these villages and see home after home blown up, not from war damage, because someone came along, put dynamite inside or set fire to it, solely because of the religion of these people, who are all Slavs, are all the same people, you know it's going to take a long time to get ‘em back together.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: When do you estimate that your job--I mean, you're leaving in February, but when do you estimate that the job you started will be finished?
RICHARD SKLAR: I think that the full economic reconstruction, and it'll largely be a Bosnian job, will go on for many years. My successor will be working on the same 18-month schedule that SFOR will. We will march with an 18-month plan, three six-month segments, matching goals and objectives against the military one, and each step along the way, we hope to make it a better place, but it's not going to turn this country around. 80 percent of what we've got to do is deal with the history of this country--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right.
RICHARD SKLAR: --and it's Communist background, not simply war damage.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Briefly, is this force strong enough, in the event of renewed conflict, to deal with it? I know it's not anticipating it, but is it strong enough to deal with it?
ADMIRAL LEIGHTON SMITH (Ret.): Yes, it is. The one thing that I fear and I caution is that you've got to keep the mission and you got to keep it very tightly focused on the job that they've been given--stabilization. You start hanging a lot of bells and whistles on that mission, you spread ‘em thin, that's when the dangers go up.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Well, Admiral--
RICHARD SKLAR: Charlayne, if I--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Sklar, sorry. We've got to go now, but maybe another time. Thank you very much for joining us.