Forces to Bosnia 'a surprise'

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The Independent Online
LAST NIGHT's announcement that Britain would offer 1,800 troops to assist the UN in Bosnia came as a surprise. The Government has repeatedly played down reports that Britain might send more ground forces.

The first inkling that British ground forces might be made available to the UN was the presence of General Sir Peter Inge, the Army's Chief of the General Staff, at yesterday's cabinet meeting. Gen Inge visited the British Field Ambulance in Croatia this week and flew to Sarajevo.

Last night Army sources said the order of battle had been the 'subject of some discussion' in Cabinet. The 1,800 troops would be a reinforced battalion group - an infantry battalion plus Engineers, Signals, armoured reconnaissance and other support necessary for the difficult terrain of Bosnia.

They said the force would comprise 'protected infantry' - troops in armoured vehicles - but could not specify which units might be sent. 'The UN have got to make the invitation - we can't really be more concrete than that,' an Army source said. 'It's got to be a properly balanced outfit,' said an informed source. 'We will probably follow the experience of the Canadians. APCs, a bit of firepower if you need it to top and tail these convoys.'

'Protected infantry' probably rules out the Paras of 5 Airborne Brigade based at Aldershot and the Marines and Commando-trained soldiers of 3 Commando Brigade, Plymouth. The 19 Brigade, based at Colchester, with Saxon wheeled armoured personnel carriers might be able to provide the right sort of infantry. The massive Challenger tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles stationed in Germany are too large for the narrow, twisting mountain roads in the area to be patrolled. Sources said the force was unlikely to include artillery.