New Balkan force `should be 20,000 strong'

The fragility of civilian reconstruction in Bosnia is adding to pressure for the continued deployment of a substantial military force next year. The peace implementation force, I-For, is due to leave in December.

Yesterday, Labour's defence spokesman, Dr David Clark, said he believed Britain, which has 11,000 troops in Bosnia, should keep about 7,500 troops there next year.

Sources in Sarajevo said that a "significant" US ground force would need to be of a similar size. The "post-I-For", or "I-For II" contingent, is likely to comprise a US, a British and probably a French brigade, totalling about 20,000 troops, about a third of the current force. Additional US troops and air support would be based in Hungary and Croatia.

The British general commanding the I-For ground forces, Lieutenant General Sir Michael Walker, said in Sarajevo yesterday that he also believed a continuing military presence would be necessary.

"There is going to have to be something around to show that the international community is still determined to prevent the war from breaking out again", he said.

"So at some stage the international community is going to have to allow a debate, which I suspect is going on behind locked doors, to come out into the open".

Speaking in Washington, the US Assistant Secretary of State responsible for Bosnian policy, John Kornblum, said it was "possible, even likely", that American troops would continue to have a role after the present I- For mandate expires on 20 December. The leading participants in the force have refused to discuss publicly what will happen after that.

But the remarks by Mr Kornblum and General Walker make it clear that the force, almost certainly run by Nato, will have to stay to preserve peace because civilian reconstruction has been slower than hoped. .

The comments from Sarajevo and Washington coincided with a report by the influential House of Commons Defence Committee, which also said a substantial contingent should remain, including British and US troops.

The committee's chairman, Michael Colvin, said it had doubts about the plausibility of the elections scheduled for 14 September, because the infrastructure was in tatters, the election data was based on the 1991 census and 80 per cent of the Bosnian population, displaced by war, was now living in the wrong place.

The committee also noted that Bosnia has placed a strain on the British army's resources, and that "in the wide range of post-Cold War scenarios in which the armed forces might be needed, either a prolonged peace-keeping mission like I-For is too large a task, or the army is too small."

The House of Commons Committee report concluded that while I-For's military tasks - the separation of the warring factions and the exchange of large areas of territory - had largely been achieved, "progress on the civil side is painfully slow".

The consequences of a precipitate decision to withdraw I-For could be "very serious. It is by no means impossible that the former warring factions will return to conflict. While not calling for an open-ended commitment, we believe that the countries participating in I-For should maintain a substantial peace-keeping force in Bosnia until more significant progress has been made in implementing the Dayton peace agreement.

"The civilian side is taking much longer to build up than we had hoped", an I-For officer in Sarajevo said yesterday. "We need to be here in strength well beyond the elections and until the elected authorities have extended their control. "

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones