But the Program Won't Start Until Iranians Leave Bosnia
(WASHINGTON, March 14Reuters) A controversial U.S.-backed effort to train and arm Bosnian Muslim and Croat forces to make them a match for Serbs is likely to cost between $700 and $800 million, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The officials were speaking ahead of a pledging conference in Ankara Friday that will seek to gather funds for the so-called "train-and-equip" program, a much-disputed part of last November's Dayton accords that ended the Bosnia war. "Seven to eight hundred million dollars needs to be got together," said one official who asked not to be identified.
The United States plans to contribute about $100 million, James Pardew, U.S. special representative for Military Stabilization in the Balkans, said in Brussels Monday. The plan, widely seen as a concession to the pro-Muslim Congress, is to bring Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation up to military par with the Serbs by the time NATO-led peace forces leave the country towards the end of this year. The peace accord divides Bosnia roughly in half between the federation and the Serbs. The Serbs, backed by Belgrade, enjoyed a preponderance in heavy weaponry throughout the 43-month conflict in the former Yugoslav republic.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said, however, that the train-and-equip program will not start until the Muslim-led Bosnian government has ejected from the country foreign forces, mostly Iranians, who helped it against the Serbs. The Senate signaled its concern about the lingering presence of Iranian military and intelligence officials by voting Wednesday to withhold $200 million of civilian aid until the president certifies they have left Bosnia.
Under the Dayton accords, light arms can begin to arrive in Bosnia from March 19, and heavy arms 90 days later. "Hopefully, between Ankara and the 19th, Bosnia will take care of the foreign forces,'' the U.S. official said. U.S. assessments of the Bosnian federation's military needs are based on a study by the Institute for Defense Analyses, a non-governmental consultancy based in Alexandria, Virginia, and staffed largely by retired U.S. officers.
Tanks, Missiles and Helicopters Included in Arms Package
According to the study, a copy of which was seen by Reuterss, the goal of the program is to enable federation forces to "deter and defend against" attacks by the Serbs and establish a stable military balance by the time NATO leaves. It puts the cost of training and supplying the federation army with equipment including tanks, surface-to-air missiles, helicopters, medium artillery, anti-tank weapons, radars and communications equipment at $740-860 million.
A less ambitious variant, with no helicopters and with six instead of 14 anti-aircraft missile batteries, would cost about $570-670 million and would "redress the most serious deficiencies" in the government army, it says. The plan would merge the Muslim and Croat forces more effectively, demobilize 200,000 soldiers and create a leaner and meaner army of about 55,000 troops. The plan is based on the assumption that the Serbs reduce their arms as they are required to do under the Dayton accords, but would still give the Muslims and Croats "substantial qualitative advantages" even if they do not.
European states, who have said they will not attend the Ankara conference or will send only low-level representatives, are unhappy with the U.S. plan. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said last weekend: "It is not right to undermine arms control by rearmament."
U.S. officials said some American military officers were also worried that arming the Muslims and Croats while NATO is still in Bosnia could place alliance forces in danger. But they said policymakers were determined to go ahead rapidly.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
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