The Bosnia Crisis: Pockets of confusion blur military facts and factions: The Balkan Factor

THEY call it 'the Balkan factor' - the logic-defying tangle of local alliances and feuds which makes attempts to comprehend the Bosnian war a nightmare for outsiders. Compared with the overall confusion, the complex issues involved in attempts to end the siege of Sarajevo seem relatively comprehensible.

Muslims paying Serbs to bombard Croats; Croats paying Serbs to bombard Muslims; and breakaway brigades of Muslims colluding with Serbs against the main Muslim force. The permutations in defining the battle lines seem endless.

Starting in the south, the old hatred between Croat (Ustashe) and Serb (Chetnik) in Herzegovina is as intense as ever. The Muslim-led Bosnian Army (BiH), holed up in east Mostar under Croat bombardment, occasionally pay the Serbs 1,000 Deutschmarks ( pounds 400) a shell to bombard the Croats.

Yet in central Bosnia, the Croats pay the Serbs - yes, you've guessed - DM 1,000 a shell to bombard the Muslims in Zenica.

The Croats and Muslims are fighting a murderous, if static, war in central Bosnia, and the Croats and Serbs, although keeping a wary eye on each other, are co-operating.

There are two large Croat pockets in the Muslim heartland of central Bosnia, Vitez and Kiseljak, and two tiny ones, Dostansko and one south-west of Konjic. The Vitez pocket is isolated and has held off the BiH for months. The Kiseljak pocket abuts Serb-held territory and there is now a supply route from the solidly Croat area - the 'mini-state' of Herzeg-Bosna - through Stolac and round through Bosnian Serb territory into the Kiseljak pocket. It has been used to supply fuel, the Serbs extracting a fee for their co-operation by diverting some of the fuel trucks.

Then it starts getting a little complicated. First, there is Maglaj pocket, in the north of which the BiH and the Bosnian Croat HVO are co-operating against the Serbs. But in the south of the pocket, the BiH are hemmed in by the HVO. The HVO here are operating in collusion with the Serbs and fighting the BiH in the south of the pocket and in the main Muslim area to the south.

Further to the north, around Tuzla, the BiH and HVO are squarely allied against the Serbs, and fighting together to try to cut the Posavina corridor near Brcko, which links the two lobes of the Bosnian Serb-held area.

Finally, there is the Muslim pocket of Bihac, surrounded by Serbs. But in the north, two 'brigades' of the BiH V Corps have broken away from the main body of V Corps. There is some evidence they are paying the Serbs to shell V Corps or, at least, are colluding with them.

The Bosnian civil war battle lines have remained fairly static for months. The Serbs and Croats seem content to hold their present positions across the majority of the country, shelling certain targets and with occasional limited and specific forays. The Serbs seem most content and, until this week, there was no evidence of large- scale activity on their part.

The Croats are determined to hold their present border in central Bosnia and Herzegovina, though they would like to push the confrontation line with the Muslims east, away from Prozor, and to have all of Mostar as their capital.

The Croats would also like to relieve the Vitez and Kiseljak pockets, but have insufficient manpower to do so. The BiH still want to take them, and reckon that, although there are about 11,000 Croat HVO troops, only about 200 extremists are really determined to keep the Vitez pocket independent of the Bosnian command. The rest would probably be happy to live alongside their former neighbours. However, seizing the pocket would be an enormous task for the BiH.

The most obvious objective for the BiH would be to link up with encircled Sarajevo. But, realistically, the Serbs around Sarajevo are too strong and the Bosnian government army knows it. Their better bet is to rely on the UN to disarm, administer and feed Sarajevo, something which this week's events turn into a possibility.

(Map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?