The struggle for the Balkans: How the opposing forces line up in the former Yugoslavia equired

Christopher Bellamy explains the strengths and strategies of the armies massing in western Bosnia and Croatia

Croatia's armed forces have spent the years since their defeats by Serb rebels and invaders in 1991 building their strength with arms and training from abroad - mainly from the former Warsaw Pact. In the spring they executed a small but efficient operation to end Serb control of the western Slavonia area. Ending Serb control in the rebel republic of Krajina would be a much tougher proposition but, judging by Croat successes last week east of Knin, might not be impossible.

The regular Croatian Army, the HV, is estimated to number up to 110,000 by the UN though British intelligence puts their numbers more conservatively, at 70,000.

As part of the their moves to strangle Krajina, the Croats, including the Bosnian Croat militia, the HVO, probably intend to link up with the encircled Bosnian government forces in the Bihac pocket which have already been receiving aid from Zagreb.

Bihac is the most complex of wars. The Bosnian government forces (BiH) in the pocket are under attack from the east by Bosnian Serb forces, part of the 75,000-strong BSA; from the west by the Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina (Arsk); and from the north by rebel Muslim forces loyal to the local warlord Fikret Abdic - called the Army of Western Bosnia. Any heavy weapons the Abdic rebels have are probably loaned by the Arsk.

The most powerful forces in the region are those of rump Yugoslavia - the Yugoslav National Army, controlled by Serbia proper. This force has up to 90,000 troops but, more importantly, 1,300 tanks, 2,000 artillery pieces and 1,200 armoured fighting vehicles.

All the local forces are organised in corps - roughly 10,000-strong, subdivided into brigades which can vary from 1,000 to 3,000.

Throughout the three-year war the Bosnian Serbs have shown greatest mastery of warfare, especially the coordination of the movement of separate corps. But recently the Bosnian government forces have become increasingly professional and better organised. They are still very short of heavy weapons but have adapted their tactics to their circumstances and become a superb light infantry army. They have also benefited from the increasing war-weariness of the Bosnian Serb forces, thinly spread and short of men.

The seventh force in the Krajina-Bihac area, and the eighth in the region, is the United Nations. The UN Protection Force's new Rapid Reaction Force now has troops deployed from Tomislavgrad to Mount Igman to protect the supply routes into Sarajevo and unloading at Split.

In Croatia other UN forces are trying to monitor and observe military forces in Krajina and other disputed areas of Croatia. In the last few days their freedom of movement has been restricted, making it difficult for them assess any local activity. If the Croatians do move against the Krajina Serbs, the UN would be powerless.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam