Berserkistan Navigator NATO Commander Smith:
Bosnia is Too Dependent

‘I fear that there may be an IFOR dependency developing in Bosnia which will make disengagement quite difficult.’
—Adm. Leighton Smith

Adm. Leighton Smith LONDON, July 20 (AP) - Seven months after the NATO-led peace force went into Bosnia, its commander says its biggest concern has not changed: false expectations. Adm. Leighton Smith says people are demanding more from the peacekeepers than they can provide.

From the start of the NATO-led operation, the command has been concerned about "mission creep," the expansion of its military duties beyond separating the former warring parties and getting troops back to barracks and military hardware in monitored storage areas.

Virtually every civilian organization operating in Bosnia has asked the force, known as IFOR, to take over civilian functions at some time, he said. "I fear that there may be an IFOR dependency developing in Bosnia which will make disengagement quite difficult," he said.

Some want the soldiers to be policemen. Others ask for transportation. The force has also been asked to resolve disputes and be political mediators. "In many cases, we’ve responded positively. But regrettably there has also been an even greater demand," Smith told the Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies on Friday in an assessment of the first half of the yearlong peacekeeping mission.

Smith said he doesn’t advocate ceasing the support the force is providing, including assistance with Bosnia’s first multiparty elections on Sept. 14. But he said he has urged the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s 16-nation political council, "to be very very cautious about this dependency issue -- because we need to understand the implications of being drawn in simply because of the dependency on us by the civilian agencies."

Militarily, Smith said, the force has succeeded beyond expectations with all those missions. "Despite the fact that tensions are rising, I predict military compliance will continue. There will be more bumps in the road, and like the roads in Bosnia, some will be worse than others," he said.

The 52,000-strong force from 34 countries will be able to handle any new bumps "so long as our mission remains clear and focused and we can remain focused clearly on our mission," Smith said. "I have warned many times against straying into gray areas."

Discussion of any follow-on force will not be taken up by NATO until after the elections in September, Smith said. "But I’ve urged that if the decision is taken by NATO to continue a NATO presence -- and that is a political decision -- that the council focus the mission very, very narrowly on the military tasks," Smith said.

Smith, who will turn over his NATO command to U.S. Adm. T. Joseph Lopez on July 31, said he also urged the council to provide sufficient funding for any new force and ensure that the commander has the same mandate that he enjoys. "It will be expensive," he said, and the council must understand "that you can’t do this on the cheap."

To learn more...
Berserkistan, July 17 · Departing Adm. Leighton Smith Honored with NATO Medal
Berserkistan, June 12 · Pentagon Insists Adm. Smith Not Forced from Bosnia
Berserkistan, June 6 · Lopez Replaces Smith as NATO Chief


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