CNN Mission: Peace

NATO's conditions for success in Bosnia

From Military Analyst Lt. Gen. Marvin Covault (U.S. Army ret.)

December 13, 1995

(CNN) -- Will NATO succeed in Bosnia?

No one knows the answer. OK, so what do we do, just hope? No, hope is not a process. We (my NATO staff in Naples Italy and I) spent considerable time, while we were building the Bosnian Peace Enforcement Plan, contemplating what has to happen in order for NATO to have a fair chance of achieving the desired end state. It is a list we call Conditions for Success. How are we doing so far?

Condition #1: Must have a serious cease fire in place and a peace plan agreed to by all the combatants. If the formal signing takes place next week in Paris as planned, the first and most important condition will have been met.

Condition #2: The political leaders must give the military a clear mission statement and achievable tasks to be performed. Some examples of tasks that would give the military commander a lot of problems: "Monitor heavy weapons" was a task in a peace plan proposal a couple of years ago. The problem is, what does "monitor" mean? Does it mean count them, watch them, collect them, confiscate them, all of the above? Whatever the commander does is going to be viewed as wrong by some.

Another task contained in a previous failed peace plan was a proposal to disarm all the combatants in Bosnia. A noble idea; however, totally unrealistic given the history of conflict, their culture and recent atrocities by the Muslims, Croats and Serbs. The weapons would melt into the woodwork over night. Nothing short of a house-to-house search would turn up a fraction of the weapons in Bosnia. So, where are we on this one? The military annex of the Dayton Peace Plan is as clear and concise as could be expected from a political document (much was borrowed from the draft NATO ground plan). Now, if the NATO North Atlantic Council (the ruling body of NATO) will give final approval (to date they have only given tentative approval) of the NATO operations plan as written, condition number 2 will be OK.

Condition #3: Sufficient forces must be made available. First, one must understand this is not just a numbers game. "Sufficient forces" means the right numbers of the right type forces in the right place at the right time with the requisite level of training. For example, the disciplines will include soldiers of infantry, armor, aviation, artillery, engineer, signal, special forces, transportation, maintenance, explosive ordinance disposal, civil affairs, psychological operations, public affairs, postal, military history, quarter master, military police, etc. and that 's just from the U.S. Army.

When all 16 NATO nations, plus non-NATO forces already in Bosnia nominate forces, it is no easy task to determine if the correct numbers and specialties are going to be available. The assessment of this condition for success is that it will never be perfect but is probably about right. It is about right because NATO has been working for the past year with all the NATO nations on informal (i.e. not Parliament/Congress approved) force nominations. It is all beginning to come together. Give this condition a check mark.

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