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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living