This Week: 432nd Civil Affairs mobilized, Clinton suspends sanctions against Yugoslavia, first US casualty.
24 Dec 95
The 432nd Civil Affairs battalion was mobilized, announced Secretary of the Army West.
Note: This was announced by the Department of Defense and reported by the Naval News Service.
Russian Major-General Staskov met Serbian General Mladic while on a “national reconnaissance” mission, said NATO. IFOR said the meeting occurred without its knowledge or approval, demonstrating that Russia is not willing to coordinate with NATO while the rules for Russian participation are still being clarified. They may have been discussing the Brcko corridor because the Serbs are attempting to get their Russian allies stationed there, instead of Americans.
For the first time since Croatia declared independence in 1991, the Orasje-Tuzla road was open. The 50 mile route shortens the Zagreb-Tuzla trip from 14 to just four hours.
25 Dec 95
The US established its first post in Bosnia. A cavalry platoon from the 1st Armored Division was able to travel overland to Lepnica, a Serb-controlled village five miles south of the Sava River. (Heavy rains and floods have slowed US engineers trying to construct a bridge from Croatia across the Sava into northern Bosnia. The floods have been caused by unseasonably warm temperatures melting snow.) The US vehicles are “testing their freedom of movement” in the sensitive corridor; they were not hindered by Bosnian Serb troops.
US ships unloaded British military cargo in Split, Croatia. The ships carried over 1100 vehicles and trailers, plus 385 pallets of ammunition.
Bosnian Serbs in Memici have been preventing journalists from traveling between Zvornik and Tuzla. The blockade is a violation of the peace agreement. Muslims claim that the Serbs are hiding mass graves.
26 Dec 95
The Bosnian Serbs asked Admiral Smith, NATO commander in Bosnia, to delay the transfer of Sarajevo’s Serb suburbs to the government by nine months. Smith said he would consider the request: “I am not in a position to negotiate the details [of the Dayton peace agreement], but I do have the authority to make extensions on time lines.” Smith met with Bosnian Serb parliamentary Speaker Krajisnik in the Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital.
Note: IFOR reps are deliberately avoiding any chance of contact with Bosnian Serb President Karadzic or General Mladic because they are required by international law to arrest on sight the two indicted war criminals.
US troops in the region now number 4,690 in Hungary, 2,213 troops in Bosnia and 1,473 in Croatia.
27 Dec 95
Heavy rains continued to delay US construction of two pontoons bridges across the Sava River. The deluge caused a dam to burst. The resulting flash flood wiped out a Foreign Legion base near Mostar. The French have begun evacuating area civilians in case another damn bursts. (Muslim authorities want to burst the dam as a preventive measure, but Croat officials refused.)
NATO said that despite bad weather and the difficulties inherenet in coordinating troops from 32 countries, 35,000 IFOR troops are deployed in the ex-Yugoslav republics only a week after NATO started its biggest military operation. (Of course, most of the troops are British and French soldiers already on station as part of UNPROFOR. Weather, as seen above, has severely hampered deployment operations.)
The IFOR said that Bosnian government and Serb forces completed their withdrawal from 40 key frontline positions, two hours ahead of schedule. The withdrawal was the first big test of NATO’s stewardship of the peace agreement. The next deadline is January 19, when a two-kilometer zone is to be set up and demined.
Major General Nash, commander of US forces in Bosnia, met the three factional commanders in the US zone (Bosnian Serb General Samic, Bosnian Croat General Matuzovic and government Colonel Muharem, who was representing General Delic). It was agreed that the three parties would begin clearing main routes of land mines, then move to smaller roads and areas specified by Nash.
Bosnian President Izetbegovic formally objected to Admiral Smith’s comment that he would consider delaying the transfer of Sarajevo’s Serb suburbs to the government. Bosnian Foreign Minister Sacirbey said the Serbs were trying “to break the back” of the treaty.
The Red Cross said all sides are violating provisions of the peace treaty related to the exchange of POWs (specifically no interview prior to exchange). The Red Cross believes there are 700 to 800 POWs in Bosnia. The number is not firm because its officials have not had unimpeded access to all prisons and detention camps.
France accused the Bosnian Serbs of abusing their previously missing pilots. (See the 12 Dec 95 item in the Yugo Digest.) The pilots were starved, beaten, isolated in ice-cold bunkers and put through mock executions. Some of the abuse was personally supervised by General Mladic, a indicted war criminal. This contradicts previous French statements that the pilots had been well treated, raising speculation that France made a deal to free them, involving plea-bargaining for Mladic at the Hague war crimes tribunal or better terms for the Sarajevo Serbian suburbs.
Czech President Havel pardoned a soldier who was accused of cowardice while serving with UNPROFOR in Croatia last March. The soldier was charged with handing over his weapons, pleading with Serbian troops who surrounded his unit not to shoot him and his colleagues.
British troops found 12 bodies near Sanski Most, where fleeing Serbian soldiers killed Muslim and Croat civilians in October.
28 Dec 95
Clinton suspended US sanctions against Yugoslavia. The suspension, which went into effect immediately, opened the way for fuel supplies and mechanical equipment to flow from the US to Serbia, halted by presidential orders issued from June 1992. Clinton said that “we insisted on a credible reimposition mechanism to ensure no backsliding on the commitments made by the Serbs.” Russia also suspended its sanctions.
General Joulwan, NATO commander, met in Belgrade with Serbian President Milosevic and Yugoslav army chief-of-staff General Perisic. Joulwan said the meetings were “very productive” and conveyed “appreciation for the transit of IFOR, particularly American aircraft here in Belgrade, and allowing forces to transit through Serbia to Bosnia.”
Some Serbs have been going out of their way to be helpful. Bosnian Serb villagers from Sibovska, in northern Bosnia, provided a US helicopter crew with heat and shelter that saved the crew from a brutal blizzard after the helicopter landed because of transmission problems. The Americans declined offers of slivovitz (fiery plum brandy) but praised the Serbs as “heroes”. One Serb said he hoped the encounter on Christmas Day would show foreigners that the Serbs are not “the barbarians we are made out to be,” while another added that “we are civilized people and we act like normal people”.
Ukraine decided not participate in IFOR because of financial difficulties. It will continue to provide airlift, however.
29 Dec 95
NATO troops have been having to deal with threats not from the locals but from the elements. US efforts to build a 310-meter pontoon bridge over the Sava River have been delayed by the floods. The waters also wiped out their camp at Zupanja after destroying a protective barrier. The Croatian army agreed to help finish the bridge. Meanwhile, American troops are preparing for a longer stay than planned at their bases in Hungary.
Admiral Smith, IFOR commander, said he was “very happy at what has been achieved in the first week of the mission.” Lt. General Sir Michael Walker, NATO ground commander, said that “it appears that all parties are demonstrating a spirit of cooperation in complying with the peace agreement.” He added that the first 30 days would be decisive because all three sides must disarm their militias and civilians by January 20.
Reversing his position, Admiral Smith said he does not have the authority to delay the Bosnian government’s takeover of Serb neighborhoods in Sarajevo. (See the 26 Dec 95 item in Yugo Digest.) Smith said he could not extend it, except for a very short period because of unforeseen problems, such as bad weather.
Note: Sounds like the political powers-that-be put the admiral in his place.
30 Dec 95
A US Humvee hit an anti-tank mine on a side road east of the main route linking the Sava River and Tuzla. It was the lead vehicle in a four Humvee recon mission from the 709th MP Battalion. One MP was seriously wounded, sustaining a fractured lower right leg, injured right foot and internal injuries. He is in stable condition at a US MASH in Zupanja after being treated by Swedish medics on the scene. The mine was a TMM-1.
Ukraine’s on-again off-again participation in Bosnia peacekeeping is on again. The cash-strapped country decided it would seek donations from other IFOR countries to support its troops.
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