Story and photos by Jim Bartlett, Editor-in-Chief
Berserkistan Navigator HERE HAS BEEN MUCH TALK recently about IFOR's "hunt" for indicted war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, but while the politicians say one thing, the military does another. A recent tour through the areas around Pale and Mladic's headquarters in Han Pijasik with an Atlantic News Service correspondent revealed some interesting facts.

Manhunt First, the standing orders that all IFOR units are supposed to have vary from nation to nation depending on the unit we spoke to.

A unit of Italian Bersaglieri were very clear what their orders were: "If either of them come to us and present themselves we may then arrest them," the lieutenant in charge at one checkpoint told us. "We know what they look like, but our main mission here is to check for weapons. If we do present themselves we are to detain them, notify our higher-ups and the military police will come for them. Our orders are very clear on that."

In the several hours that Team Berserkistan spent watching the actions at the "checkpoints," not one vehicle was stopped, including a number of executive-style Mercedes with blacked-out windows.

The one vehicle we witnessed that was stopped was some sort of cattle truck with open sides and a few barrels in the back. After a cursory search, they were sent on there way. At the same time, several military trucks with closed canvas tops passed by unchecked.

RENCH SOLDIERS we spoke to were even less likely to apprehend the two even if they did encounter them. When asked if they even knew what Bosnia’s Most Wanted looked like, the soldiers answered that they did not. They too were posted for weapons checks, but showed no more interest in stopping anyone than the Italians.

Manhunt Later in the day, we moved into the Han Pijasak area to see what the Americans were doing.

We encountered a unit of Cavalry Scouts in armored Hummvees patrolling the area directly around Mladic's headquarters -- at one point going right up the back service road to the base. They were also quite clear about their orders.

In the event they encounter them, and they surrender of their own accord, the soldiers will notify their higher-ups and wait for the military police. If their motorcade decides to run their checkpoint, there is little they can do.

Under the rules of engagement, they are only allowed to fire if directly threatened. They were also reluctant to even stop vehicles. The lieutenant in charge said, "We really don't like to set up too many checkpoints and stop vehicles. You wind up delaying people and we don't want to alienate the population." They did have the IFOR war crimes poster, and knew what the pair looked like.

This is not, as it may seem, a reluctance on the part of the military to thwart the wishes of those calling for Karadzic and Mladic, but more simple common sense. An Italian lieutenant put it best when he said, "Even if we do apprehend them, how the hell are we supposed to get out of here?" he said, looking uneasily down the narrow road and up at the wooded cliffs above.

N PRACTICAL TERMS the population and the terrain in the area where Karadzic and Mladic call home couldn't favor them more. The Bosnian Serb vice president's grim warning to NATO is no small threat. The population in the area is completely loyal and uniformly armed. They have a tradition of guerrilla warfare and have made it clear on many occasions that they will resist with force any attempt to remove those wanted by force.

The terrain from which they would do this suits them to no end. The entire area is marked by deep woods, rugged hills, and steep ravines. There are precious few landing zones near enough to any suspect locations to make a difference, and NATO simply doesn't have the forces it would take to storm a place like Han Pijasak, where any body of troops would be going up against a real army -- not just farmers -- in their own headquarters, on ground of their choosing.

"Even if the 82nd Airborne did storm the place, there would be more than few dead Americans, and chances are that they would not catch Mladic at all, or come up with a body. Both are very undesirable outcomes," the ANS correspondent with us said.

For now, unless there is some kind of SAS operation in the works, it is fairly safe to say that unless they come forth and surrender, or make some colossal blunder, Mladic and Karadzic will remain free and protected. The biggest incentive to turn the two over is a large monetary award and that has not been offered. A military solution is impractical, and the two turning themselves in of their own accord unlikely. Expect the saga of Mladic and Karadzic to continue.

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