CNN Mission: Peace

The high representative for Bosnia

December 20, 1995

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

(CNN) --What is the position of high representative and what is he going to do?

The Dayton peace plan provides for two individuals, one military, (the Implementation Force commander, I-FOR) and one civilian (the high representative) to implement the provisions of the peace plan. These two gentlemen will work in parallel toward common goals but with different missions.

In a phrase, the high representative is responsible for nation building; that is, developing a sovereign country that has the necessary functioning institutions to peacefully conduct internal and international affairs. In order for that to happen, there must first be a confirmed cease-fire, a true peace, confidence building resources between the wavering factions, and ultimately a safe and secure environment with freedom of movement. Therein lies the relationship between the I-FOR commander and the high representative. The military acts first to create an environment wherein the high representative can begin the process of nation building.

Can this dual (military/civilian) formula succeed? Yes, but it will be extraordinarily difficult and it needs to get under way quickly.

Note that the military provisions of the peace plan are on a very fast timeline. For example, all the zones of separation along the hundreds of miles of confrontation lines are to be established by mid-January and all warring factions are to be moved to barracks/containment areas by mid-April. To do this, the I-FOR commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, has a staff identified, trained and ready; enabling forces were identified, equipped and ready to move immediately after the Dayton agreement was initialed; the total NATO force package has been identified and alerted; a detailed operations plan is complete, the mission is clear and military tasks have been established; timelines are known; and an exit strategy is clear. We should feel good about the military aspect of this operation.

While the high representative is not on as fast a timeline as the I-FOR commander, his tasks are no less demanding. But, the key question is what is the state of readiness of the high representative to accomplish his mission? Notwithstanding that numerous United Nations and non-governmental organizations have been and continue to be operating in Bosnia, someone has to accelerate the effort, give it direction, focus and purpose. To do this, the high representative needs a staff, facilities and authority to simultaneously begin the many facets of nation building from law and order to free elections to a credible military system.

If all the parties cooperate, the military can accomplish its mission and be prepared to depart in a year. However, at the juncture, if the institutions of the nations are not sufficiently redeveloped to cause a real change in people's attitudes and outlooks, Bosnia could easily and quickly backslide into what we have seen over the past three years and the NATO military forces will not be there to prevent it.

The high representative has a major role to play, has a very difficult tasks and at this time is probably behind the power curve.

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