BOSNIA STABILIZATION FORCE (SFOR) AND U.S. POLICY
CRS Report for Congress
Bosnia Stabilization Force (SFOR)
and U.S. Policy
Updated September 1, 1998
Steven R. Bowman
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Specialist in International Relations
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Specialist in European Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
This report provides background and analysis on the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR)
in Bosnia and Hercegovina. After a brief background section, the report details the
composition of the force, its mission, and its cost to the United States. Other sections
discuss Administration policy and Congressional action on SFOR. The report will be
updated as events warrant.
Bosnia Stabilization Force (SFOR) and U.S. Policy
In December 1995, a NATO-led implementation force (IFOR) was deployed to
Bosnia to enforce the military aspects of the Bosnian peace agreement. President
Clinton said the deployment would last “about one year.” IFOR successfully
completed its main military tasks, but implementation of the civilian aspects of the
accord, for which IFOR did not have direct responsibility, was at best a mixed
success. Faced with the possible collapse of the peace agreement if IFOR pulled out,
on November 15, 1996, President Clinton pledged to keep U.S. troops in Bosnia as
part of a NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) until June 1998. A similar state of
affairs a little over a year later led the President to announce on December 18, 1997
that he had agreed in principle that U.S. forces should participate in a Bosnia
peacekeeping force after the mandate of the current SFOR expired in June 1998.
In a March 1998 certification to Congress, the President proposed that SFOR
not be assigned a fixed end-date, but asserted that the deployment will not be open-
ended. He outlined ten conditions to be met in Bosnia in order for the NATO-led
force to be withdrawn: continuation of the cease-fire; a restructured, re-trained and
re-integrated police; effective judicial reform; dissolution of illegal pre-Dayton
institutions; democratically regulated media and access to independent media; free
and democratic elections with implemented results; free-market reforms, with an
economic program worked out with the International Monetary Fund; phased and
orderly minority refugee returns; a functioning multi-ethnic administration in Brcko;
and full cooperation by the parties with the war crimes tribunal.
The composition of SFOR has varied little since the renewal of its mandate in
June 1998 as Operation Joint Forge. As of July 1998, it comprises forces from 34
countries, totaling approximately 35,000 troops. The U.S. contingent in Bosnia
remains at about 8,300, but by October 1998 it will be reduced to 6,900. One notable
change in the SFOR force structure has been the addition of a 600-man Multinational
Specialized Unit (MSU) to deal with outbreaks of civil violence. SFOR's main
mission remains enforcing the military aspects of the Dayton peace accords, but over
the last year NATO has become increasingly willing to devote resources to
supporting key civil implementation tasks.
After fierce debate, the House and Senate passed separate resolutions in
December 1995 expressing support for the U.S. troops in Bosnia, although not
necessarily for the mission itself. Legislative efforts to bar funds for the deployment
of U.S. troops to Bosnia were narrowly rejected. In the 105th Congress, similar
efforts to bar a U.S. deployment after June 1998 were also rejected, although the FY
1998 defense authorization and appropriations laws contain reporting requirements
that must be fulfilled before an extended deployment may take place. During its
debate on the FY 1999 defense authorization and appropriations bills, the Senate
rejected attempts to force a gradual reduction in U.S. forces in Bosnia, but approved
a sense-of-the-Senate amendment that called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces
"within a reasonable period of time."
Background .................................................... 1
SFOR Mission Clarity and “Mission Creep”...........................7
Administration Policy on SFOR....................................10
Legislation in the 105 Congress...............................13th
List of Tables
Table 1. SFOR Units/Aircraft......................................5
Bosnia Stabilization Force (SFOR) and
After three years of war in Bosnia, on November 21, 1995, the presidents of
Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina, as well as representatives of
the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Bosnian Serb Republika
Srpska, initialed a largely U.S.-mediated peace agreement for Bosnia at Wright-
Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The final peace agreement was signed
by the parties in Paris on December 14, 1995. In order to enforce the military aspects
of the agreement, the agreement called for a NATO-led implementation force (IFOR)
to be deployed to Bosnia. In a nationally televised address on November 27, 1995,
President Clinton justified dispatching U.S. troops to Bosnia as part of IFOR by
saying U.S. engagement was needed to stop the great suffering caused by the war; to
bring stability in Europe, a region vital to U.S. interests; and to maintain U.S.
leadership in NATO. President Clinton said the deployment would last “about one
year.” Subsequent statements by Administration officials asserted that U.S. forces
would be out of Bosnia by the end of 1996. The United States contributed about
On December 15, 1995, the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment
of IFOR. On the next day, NATO’s North Atlantic Council approved the IFOR
deployment, activating the deployment of the main body of troops. On December 20,
starting the process of implementing the military aspects of the peace agreement.
Over the next year, IFOR successfully completed its main military tasks, which were
to separate the forces on the ground and oversee their demobilization.
However, implementation of the civilian aspects of the accord, for which IFOR
did not have direct responsibility, was at best a mixed success. Civilian aspects of
the accord were coordinated by High Representative Carl Bildt, while various
international bodies were charged with helping to implement aspects of the accord.
It should be noted that the chief responsibility for peace implementation rested with
the Bosnian parties, who showed intransigence on many issues. Freedom of
movement remained limited and very few refugees returned to their homes. Indicted
war criminals remained at large. Elections were held for most levels of government
on September 14, 1996, without violence or other serious incidents. However, many
observers charged that the election campaign was less than free and fair, and some
alleged possible fraud in the vote count. The results consolidated the strength of the
main nationalist parties. Municipal elections, which were to have been held on
September 14, 1996, were postponed by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) until September 13-14, 1997, due to fraud and
manipulation of registration procedures, primarily by the Bosnian Serbs, and other
problems. Key Bosnian government institutions were created only in January 1997.
Internationally funded reconstruction efforts began to show some results in rebuilding
infrastructure, albeit almost entirely in the Federation, but had not touched off a self-
sustaining economic recovery. Although IFOR’s primary responsibility was to assure
the implementation of the military aspects of the peace accord (and by doing so
provide a secure environment in which civilian implementation could take place), it
also aided some civilian implementation efforts directly on a case-by-case basis.
On November 15, 1996, President Clinton announced that the Administration
had agreed in principle to keep U.S. troops to Bosnia as part of a new NATO-led
peacekeeping force for Bosnia. Clinton said the force would remain there until June
1998. He said the mission of the Stabilization Force (SFOR) would be to “prevent
a resumption of hostilities so that economic reconstruction and political
reconciliation can accelerate.” NATO ministers approved the SFOR plan on
December 10, 1996, and the U.N. Security Council authorized the force on December
12, for an 18-month period. SFOR formally took over command from IFOR on
December 20, 1996.
In late 1997, the United States and other countries participating in SFOR found
themselves in much the same dilemma that they faced one year earlier — either pull
out and face the possibility of a resumption of fighting, or remain in Bosnia and
continue a seemingly open-ended commitment. On December 18, 1997, President
Clinton announced that he had agreed in principle that U.S. forces should participate
in a Bosnia peacekeeping force after the mandate of the current SFOR expires in June
1998. He did not set a new departure deadline, but said the force would leave only
when the Bosnian peace process was self-sustaining. In a March 1998 certification
required by the FY 1998 defense authorization and appropriations acts (P.L. 105-85
and 105-56), President Clinton laid out ten benchmarks to measure progress toward
that goal, including a continued cease-fire; police restructuring; an effective judicial
reform program; dismantling of pre-Dayton institutions; a freer media environment;
free and fair elections; free market reforms; an orderly refugee return process; a
functioning multi-ethnic administration in Brcko; and cooperation with the war
crimes tribunal. On June 11, 1998, NATO defense ministers formally approved the
extension of SFOR's mandate. On June 15, 1998, the U.N. Security Council
approved Resolution 1171, which extended SFOR's mandate until June 21, 1999. On
June 20, 1998, SFOR began to operate under its new mandate.
The composition of SFOR has varied little since the renewal of its mandate in
June 1998 as Operation Joint Forge. As of July 1998, it comprises forces from 34
countries, totaling approximately 35,000 troops. The U.S. contingent in Bosnia
remains at about 8,300, but by October 1998 it will be reduced to 6,900. This
reduction was agreed to by the NATO allies to try to assuage domestic U.S. political
pressures critical of U.S. ground force participation. There are currently an additional
3,000 U.S. personnel in Hungary, Croatia, and Italy providing support functions for
SFOR. This includes Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots flying air support
missions from Italy. Though not officially a part of SFOR , the U.S. Sixth Fleet is
on routine station in the Mediterranean, should its resources be required.
Both NATO's Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) Gen. Wesley Clark, and
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton have argued against
troop reductions below 6,900 at this time, maintaining that greater reductions could
erode effectiveness and place remaining troops at greater risk. NATO military
officials believe a robust and obvious military presence is the most effective way to
forestall a resumption of intra-Bosnia hostilities or attacks on SFOR. SFOR force
requirements will be reviewed every six months, in conjunction with evaluations of
progress in implementing the Dayton Accords, and troop levels may be reduced
depending upon the stability of the region. An independent factor which may
influence NATO decisions on troop levels in Bosnia is the on-going conflict in the
Serbian province of Kosovo. Though Kosovo is not contiguous to Bosnia, and no
effect has been yet seen on events in Bosnia, the conflict nevertheless raises tensions
in the region. SFOR air units have already been used in the NATO airpower
demonstration exercise Vigilant Falcon carried out around Kosovo in June 15, 1998.
Were NATO to decide to take more forceful action in Kosovo, it is unclear what, if
any, role SFOR would play. It is likely, however, that at least the SFOR-dedicated
air units based in Italy would be involved.
Congress remains concerned about the U.S. troop levels in Bosnia, as indicated
by several amendments offered to the DOD FY1999 authorizing and appropriating
legislation. ( See Congressional Concerns). The Senate adopted an amendment,
sponsored by Senators Thurmond and McCain, to S. 2057, the FY1999 DOD
authorizing legislation, requiring by September 30, 1998 a detailed presidential report
on the impact of a phased U.S. reduction of forces to 2,500 by February 2, 2000.1
The U.S. SFOR contingent is called Task Force Eagle and has command of the
Multinational Division North sector headquartered near Tuzla. For the first two years
of Bosnia operations, units stationed in Germany — 1 Armored Division and 1stst
Mechanized Infantry Division — provided the core of the U.S. contingent. Fromnd
September 1997 to July 1998, the 2 Armored Cavalry Regiment (Ft. Polk, LA) was
the command unit. Command was then returned to the 1 Armored Division, whichst
will be replaced in October by a brigade of the 1 Cavalry Division (Ft. Hood). Thest
months. Given the open-ended nature of Operation Joint Forge, it has become
necessary to involve stateside Army units to reduce the burden on European-based
units. Other units scheduled to deploy to Bosnia this Fall include elements of: 35th
Armor Regiment, 40 Engineer Battalion, 4 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, andththth
the 11 Aviation Brigade. In addition to these heavy units, there are considerable
military police, civil affairs, psychological operations, and logistical support units
in the U.S. contingent. The proportion of these types of units has increased steadily
since the initial NATO deployment, which consisted primarily of heavy armor and
mechanized forces. This reflects the almost complete lack of armed resistance
S. 2057 was subsequently inserted in H.R. 3616, the House version of the DOD FY19991
authorizing legislation, which is currently in House-Senate conference.
NATO forces have encountered, and an increasing involvement in the civil
Reserve forces and the National Guard continue to play a significant role in
Bosnia, particularly in the Army and the Air Force. About 16,000 Army reservists
and 10,000 Air Force reservists have participated in or supported Bosnia operations.
While most of the Army personnel have been involuntarily activated under the
Presidential Reserve Call-Up Authority (10 USC Sec. 12304), most of the Air Force
personnel have been volunteers.
One notable change in the SFOR force structure has been the addition of the
Multinational Specialized Unit (MSU). Created in response to a U.S. initiative, the
MSU is composed of about 600 paramilitary police . They are to serve as a two
battalion rapid response force to deal with outbreaks of civil violence, thereby
relieving SFOR combat troops of the responsibility of dealing with relatively low-
level crowd violence. Unlike the existing International Police Task Force, an
unarmed U.N. training/observer group, the MSU is armed with automatic weapons
and light armored vehicles. They are under NATO command and are authorized to
deploy throughout Bosnia. Tactical command of their activities will fall to the
NATO sector headquarters in which they are operating. Currently, Italy and
Argentina are contributing personnel to the MSU, and talks are underway with Spain,
Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Netherlands concerning their
participation in early 1999. The United States is unlikely to contribute to this unit
because it has no comparable paramilitary police forces. Perhaps the most critical
role for the MSU will be working to assist the safe return of refugees to their former
homes. They may also become involved detaining suspected war criminals.
Table 1 shows the troop and combat aircraft contributions of all SFOR
Table 1. SFOR Units/Aircraft
(number of personnel)
SFOR Ground Force UnitsSFOR Combat
Albania1 infantry platoon (40)
Austria1 transport company (230)
Belgium1 mechanized infantry battalion3 F-16 fighters
1 transport company
Bulgaria1 engineer platoon (30)
Canada1 mechanized infantry battalion
Czech Republic1 mechanized infantry battalion (640)
Denmark1 mechanized infantry battalion (747)
Egypt1 mechanized infantry battalion (270)
Finland1 mechanized infantry battalion (270)
France 1 mechanized brigade10 Mirage fighters
1 airmobile company8 Jaguar fighters
1 reconnaissance company8 Jaguar recon
1 military police company
1 engineer battalion
Germany1 mechanized brigade (2,470)14 Tornado recon
Greece1 transport company (230)
Hungary1 engineer battalion (310)
Iceland6 medical personnel
Ireland1 military police company (50)
Italy1 mechanized infantry brigade(1,600)6 Tornado fighters
Jordan1 special forces team (10)
Latvia1 infantry platoon (39)
Lithuania1 infantry platoon (40)
Luxembourg1 reconnaissance platoon
1 transport platoon
SFOR Ground Force UnitsSFOR Combat
Malaysia1 mechanized infantry battalion (925)
Morocco1 mechanized infantry battalion(650)
Netherlands1 mechanized infantry battalion (1,080)9 F-16 fighters
Norway1 infantry battalion (615)
Poland1 mechanized infantry battalion (400)
Portugal1 airborne infantry battalion (320)
Romania1 engineer battalion (200)
Russia1 airborne infantry brigade (1,400)
Spain1 mechanized infantry brigade (1,550)8 EF-18 fighters
Sweden1 mechanized infantry battalion (510)
Turkey1 mechanized infantry brigade (1,520)18 F-16 fighters
United Kingdom1 armored infantry battalion12 Jaguar fighters
1 mechanized infantry battalion2 Jaguar recon
1 armored recon battalion
1 infantry company
1 artillery battalion
1 engineer battalion
1 aviation battalion
United States1 mechanized infantry brigade6 F-16 fighters
1 artillery brigade1 AC-130 gunship
1 military police battalion3 EC-130
1 aviation brigade3 EA-6B
1 engineer brigade
1 support brigade
Ukraine1 mechanized infantry battalion (380)
Source: Department of Defense; NATO AFSOUTH HQ, July 1998
SFOR Mission Clarity and “Mission Creep”
NATO has delineated the following tasks in the SFOR mission. They have been
endorsed by the Administration, and forwarded to Congress in the President's report on
Bosnia operations, as required by the FY1998 Defense Authorization Act. (House Document
105-223). They are divided into two categories: key military tasks and key supporting
tasks, with latter to be undertaken depending upon available means and capabilities.
Key Military Tasks
!Maintaining deterrence of renewed hostilities.
!Preventing removal of weapons from cantonment
!Maintaining the operation of the Joint Military Commissions
!Ensuring force protection, freedom of movement and continued compliance
with the cease-fire and Zones of Separation.
!Monitoring the military components of the Dayton Accords and, if required,
!Controlling the airspace over Bosnia.
!Contributing, within means and capabilities and in a manner similar to SFOR's
previous approach, to a secure environment within which civil
implementation can continue.
Key Supporting Tasks
!Supporting the High Representative
!Supporting phased and orderly returns of refugees by contributing to a safe
and secure environment, but not forcible returning of refugees or undertaking
to guard individual locations.
!Supporting the conduct of elections and the installation of elected officials.
!Supporting the International Police Task Force in assisting local police by
providing back-up support and secure operating environment, but without
undertaking civil police tasks.
!Supporting the High Representative and the OSCE in media reform efforts.
!Supporting the international war crimes tribunal and efforts against war
!Supporting the OSCE, on a case-by-case basis, in implementing the regional
arms control regime contained in the Dayton Accords.
!Supporting the implementation of the Brcko decisions presently in effect
!Contributing to the continued improvement of freedom of movement through
out Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The military tasks remain SFOR 's primary mission, but over the last year NATO has
become increasingly willing to devote resources to the key supporting tasks noted above.
A recently issued mission statement from U.S. Task Force Eagle headquarters announced
it would coordinate civil-military activities in the following areas: rule of law, resettlement
of refugees, enhanced democratization, improvement of public security, economic recovery,2
infrastructure repair, and media reform. This indicates a potentially much broader sweep
of activities than NATO's commanders were willing to undertake for the early years of
Task Force Eagle Home Page, [http://www.tfeagle.army.mil/Mission.htm], September 1,2
Bosnia operations. Basing a refusal to become involved in incidents of civil violence or the
pursuit of war crimes suspects on what often appeared, to some observers, as a very
conservative interpretation of their mission, NATO commanders focused almost exclusively
on separating and disarming the ethnic faction armies. With these tasks accomplished, and
facing increasing pressure to acknowledge that the Dayton Accords' civil implementation
efforts required a greater level of NATO military support, SFOR commanders began to play
a more active role in 1997. Upon assuming command, NATO SACEUR Gen. Wesley Clark
played a leading role in increasing SFOR's participation in non-military stabilization
This trend was reinforced when it began to be evident that NATO would not withdraw
its forces with the expiration of the original SFOR mandate in June, 1998. In considering
the extension of the deployment, the question of mission duration was paramount. There
had been considerable criticism of IFOR and SFOR's fixed deadlines, noting that those in
Bosnia who opposed the Accords were encouraged by these withdrawal deadlines to simply
wait it out rather than cooperate. Even strong critics of U.S. “open-ended” commitments
who had supported fixed dates for withdrawal, objected to politically palatable “deadlines”
that then came and were de facto ignored as operations continued under new mandates and
names. In response to these and other criticisms, NATO political leaders decided in June
1998 that SFOR should have no date certain for withdrawal. Rather, its withdrawal would
depend upon the extent of progress made in implementing the Dayton Accords, with specific
benchmarks of progress outlined, and semi-annual force requirement evaluations mandated.
The NATO allies formally approved these benchmarks (See p. 12), and the SFOR
Operation Plan call for SFOR to develop, in coordination with international civilian
agencies, criteria to evaluate progress. In addition, SFOR headquarters is also preparing
estimates of how long it will take to achieve each benchmark. NATO SACEUR, Gen. Wes
Clark expects SFOR to report the criteria and timelines in September. The Administration3
has affirmed that it will in turn provide this report to Congress. With the decision to tie
length of deployment to the civil implementation of the Dayton Accords, it has become
incumbent upon NATO military commanders to pay greater attention to the “supporting
tasks” — the sooner these are accomplished the sooner SFOR forces will be reduced or
withdrawn. This change has, however, heightened concerns that tying SFOR ’s duration to
successful civil implementation could result in a very lengthy deployment given the4
continued animosity among ethnic groups. And, while casualties have been extremely low,
the financial costs for Bosnia-related operations since 1992 have totaled an estimated $9.45
billion through FY1999, presenting significant challenges to both lawmakers and DOD
officials in a period of budgetary restraint.
The concept of “mission creep” is one that has attracted much attention. The term is
generally accepted to refer to the incremental broadening of mission objectives and the
addition of mission tasks to a point where they move beyond the original purpose of the
operation or deployment. This concern comes to the fore primarily when costs — either in
dollars or U.S. casualties — are significant or when an operation is judged a failure. Often
cited is the experience in Somalia in 1993 where what began as a humanitarian aid escort
mission escalated over time into combat search and capture raids against local faction
Goals of the Dayton Agreement, Message from the President of the United States, House3
U.S. forces have had only one fatal casualty attributed to hostile action: a senior enlisted4
man who was killed when he picked up a landmine.
Department of Defense, Office of the Comptroller. This figure also includes U.S. air and5
sea operations conducted in support of United Nations peace-keeping missions prior to
NATO's IFOR/SFOR operations.
leaders. The highly publicized failure of one of these raids, in which U.S. forces sustained
18 combat fatalities, brought strong criticism of the Administration for allowing such
“mission creep” to occur and led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The issue was of less
concern during recent U.S. operations in Haiti, where no armed opposition was encountered
and costs were relatively lower.
While the last two and a half years of NATO operations in Bosnia have seen no
escalation to combat, (indeed IFOR/SFOR have been remarkable for the lack of casualties
attributable to hostile action) the emphasis of SFOR activities has undeniably changed. It
can be argued that SFOR has not experienced “mission creep”, but has simply shifted its
focus from primary to secondary tasks of the original mission statement. Nevertheless, the
types of activities SFOR troops are undertaking and the level of resources dedicated to them
have altered over the last year.
Perhaps the most notable change has been the increased efforts to detain war crimes
suspects. Though approximately 30 suspects remain at large (out of 67 as of April 1998),
British, Dutch, and U.S. troops have been noticeably more active in detaining or capturing
individuals for transfer to the international war crimes tribunal. And, this activity has beenth
credited with in turn encouraging other suspects to surrender voluntarily. On July 29,
however, press reports indicated that U.S.-British plans to seize the two most important war
crimes indictees — Former Bosnia Serb President Karadzic and military leader Gen.
Mladic — have been suspended owing to lack of cooperation by French military
commanders, and U.S. commanders concerns about potential civilian and military6
casualties. There appears, therefore, to be some continued self-limiting by NATO
commanders in this area of activity.
One of the more challenging mission areas for both civil and military authorities is the
safe resettlement of refugees in regions of continued ethnic tension. Yet, this task is critical
to the overall success of the Dayton Accords. Even the new mission statement of SFOR
notes limits to the extent to which SFOR will become involved (See Key Supporting Tasks
above). To assist in this task, NATO has created , and placed under SFOR command, the
paramilitary police Multinational Special Unit (MSU). This unit is expected to serve as a
rapid reaction force to deal with incidents of low-level violence and crowd disturbances,
thereby freeing SFOR combat troops from these responsibilities. Though the creation of the
MSU was a U.S. initiative, the United States has no paramilitary police to contribute to the
unit. Consequently, any escalation of MSU activities that occur will not involve U.S.
In general, it appears that NATO officials, and U.S. officials in particular, while
accepting some greater responsibilities in civil activities are remaining sensitive to the issue
of “mission creep”. They are likely to have to continue to balance the desire to accelerate
implementation of the Dayton Accords with concerns over increased combat troop
involvement in non-combat roles, particularly within the U.S. Congress.
“U.S. Cancels Plans for Raid on Bosnia...”,New York Times, July 26, 1998, p. 1; “Hunt6
for Karadzic”, Time, August 10, 1998, p. 68.
Each participating nation in SFOR, including the United States, covers the costs of its
Bosnia-related operations. According to figures supplied by the DoD Comptroller's Office
in March 1998, DoD's incremental costs for IFOR\SFOR were $2.2317 billion in FY 1996
and $2.087 billion in FY 1997, for a total of $4.3192 billion. DoD estimates FY 1998
incremental costs at $1.7976 billion and FY 1999 costs at $1.6659, making a total of $7.782
billion for FY 1996-FY 1999.
Administration Policy on SFOR
Part of the Clinton Administration’s early strategy on the NATO force in Bosnia was
to focus on the force completing its mission within a set time frame. Until the
Implementation Force’s 12-month mission was nearly completed, the Administration
avoided making any firm pronouncements on possible successor missions to IFOR or
possible U.S. participation in such a mission, emphasizing rather IFOR’s scheduled
completion and full withdrawal by the end of 1996. Throughout that year, Administration
officials had reiterated the President’s pledge to keep the U.S. troop commitment to IFOR
to about one year. Administration officials acknowledged the probable need for some sort
of international military presence to remain in Bosnia after IFOR, but would not commit to
a position on U.S. participation.
On November 15, 1996, President Clinton announced that the United States would take
part in a NATO follow-on force in Bosnia. He estimated that the U.S. troop contribution
to the successor SFOR would amount to about 8,500 troops, or less than half the number of
U.S. troops in the original IFOR. He recommended an 18-month mandate for the NATO
force, with further reductions envisaged at six-month review intervals. NATO’s later
decisions formally establishing SFOR upheld these principles. The principal rationale for
continued U.S. military engagement in Bosnia developed by the Administration was that,
notwithstanding the many achievements of IFOR, peace efforts in Bosnia still needed
additional time to consolidate. An outside security force would be able to provide the
stability for economic reconstruction and political reconciliation to continue.
Administration analysts assessed that hostilities were likely to resume in Bosnia after a full
withdrawal of international forces.
At the same time, the Administration rejected a simple extension of IFOR’s mandate.
Instead, it emphasized that IFOR had indeed completed its mission within 12 months and
that the Stabilization Force and its mission were distinct from IFOR. The Administration
differentiated SFOR from IFOR in response to charges that it had broken its promise of
completing IFOR’s mission in 12 months. President Clinton also made the claim that the
SFOR mission was “far more limited” than IFOR’s, thus requiring fewer troops. Plans to
steadily reduce the force’s size indicated that SFOR was expected to do less, rather than
more, than IFOR. As it turned out, NATO refrained from drawing down SFOR force levels
during its 18-month tenure.
Already in early 1997, some Administration officials began to offer predictions that
another successor force may well be required to follow SFOR after June 1998. In contrast,
Defense Secretary William Cohen strenuously emphasized the firmness of the
Administration’s commitment of U.S. troops to SFOR for 18 months only. Secretary Cohen
stated that he would pursue the possibility of having the Europeans develop a post-SFOR7
operation. Many observers expressed skepticism about this strategy, since no European
power had demonstrated any inclination to lead or even participate in a post-SFOR force
U.S. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Hearing on the Fiscal Year 1998 Defense7
Budget. February 13, 1997.
without the United States. In late 1997, top Administration officials began to lay the
groundwork for an extended U.S. military commitment to Bosnia. In September, National
Security Advisor Samuel Berger reiterated that the United States maintained a significant
stake in Dayton’s success and left open the possibility of a longer-term engagement in
Bosnia. On November 4, President Clinton met with congressional leaders to discuss
progress in Bosnia and the possibility of U.S. participation in a future multilateral force.
On December 18, 1997, in a statement before the press, President Clinton announced
his agreement in principle that U.S. forces would participate in a NATO peacekeeping force
in Bosnia after SFOR’s mandate expired in June 1998. As justification, President Clinton
said that, while progress in Bosnia was “unmistakable,” it was not yet irreversible. A
follow-on force was needed in order to preserve the gains made in the past two years by U.S.
and allied peacekeepers in Bosnia, and to allow further progress toward a self-sustaining
peace to continue. In a major departure from earlier U.S. policy, Clinton stated that the
deadline approach of the earlier forces was wrong and emphasized that the new mission
must be tied to concrete benchmarks, not to a deadline.
On March 4, 1998, President Clinton certified to Congress that the presence U.S.8
armed forces was required after June 30, 1998, in order to meet U.S. security interests. In
the certification, the President asserted that the United States had major national interests
in peace in Bosnia, that it was in the U.S. interest to see the Dayton agreement implemented
rapidly, and that U.S. forces should continue to participate in the NATO-led force. He
called for the level of U.S. participation to be reduced from 8,500 troops in Bosnia to 6,900
troops. While he proposed that the force not be assigned a fixed end-date or “arbitrary
deadline,” he asserted that the deployment will not be open-ended.
Answering the question of what the exit strategy for U.S. forces was, the President’s
certification outlined ten conditions to be met in Bosnia in order for the NATO-led force to
be withdrawn: continuation of the cease-fire; a restructured, re-trained and re-integrated
police; effective judicial reform; dissolution of illegal pre-Dayton institutions;
democratically regulated media and access to independent media; free and democratic
elections with implemented results; free-market reforms, with an economic program worked
out with the International Monetary Fund; phased and orderly minority refugee returns; a
functioning multi-ethnic administration in Brcko; and full cooperation by the parties with
the war crimes tribunal. On the same day, the President submitted to Congress a request for
emergency supplemental appropriations that included costs for the Bosnia operation: $486.9
million for Fiscal Year 1998, and $1.86 billion for Fiscal Year 1999 (see following section
for further details).
In testimony before Congress in June 1998, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard testified that9
SFOR’s presence in Bosnia and role in providing a secure environment remained critical.
According to Gelbard, the secure environment provided by NATO has allowed for
accelerated implementation of many aspects of the peace agreement. It has supported the
ascendance to power of the moderate Bosnian Serb leadership. It has permitted many more
refugees to cross entity lines in order to return to their homes. At the same time,
“Certification of U.S. Armed Forces Continued Presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,”8thnd
Message from the President of the United States. March 4, 1998. 105 Congress, 2
Session, House Document 105-223. The certification was pursuant to Section 8132 of P.L.
105-56, the Fiscal Year 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, and to Section
Operations in Bosnia, June 4, 1998. Reuters transcript.
Administration officials contend that SFOR is not itself assigned or involved to any greater
extent with nation-building tasks or police work.
Defense Secretary Cohen and other Administration officials have refrained from giving
any target dates or time schedules for deployment of the NATO-led force. Instead, progress
in achieving the benchmarks (outlined above) are to be reviewed by NATO in order to10
“focus efforts, measure progress, and permit steady reduction in force levels.” In response
to questions from Members of Congress, Administration officials have also refrained from
publicly assigning target dates for the fulfillment of each of the benchmarks.
President Clinton’s decision to deploy U.S. forces to the NATO Implementation Force
touched off heated debate in Congress in late 1995. At the time, many Members of
Congress were concerned about the potential for large numbers of U.S. casualties in a
“quagmire.” Many also doubted whether vital U.S. interests were at stake in Bosnia.
President Clinton requested an “expression of support” from the Congress for the Bosnia
deployment. In December 1995, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed
separate resolutions expressing support for U.S. troops being sent to Bosnia. Legislative
efforts to reject the President’s decision by barring funds for the deployment of U.S. troops11
to Bosnia were narrowly rejected.
In 1996, as it became clearer to most observers that a follow-on mission to IFOR would
be required, both Houses of Congress held numerous hearings on the future of U.S. forces
in Bosnia. While all praised the performance of U.S. troops in IFOR, some Members
charged that the Administration was breaking its promise to keep U.S. troops in Bosnia for
one year only. Many Members also criticized the Administration for not consulting with
Congress in a forthright manner on the realistic prospects for a follow-on mission. This time
the Administration did not request an explicit expression of support from Congress for
SFOR. In the end, however, the 104th Congress adjourned before final decisions were made
on SFOR and without any vote on the subject.
Legislation in the 105 Congressth
In March 1997, the Administration submitted a request for about $2 billion in
emergency supplemental appropriations and rescissions for FY1997 to cover DoD costs of
contingency operations in Bosnia and elsewhere, and emergency disaster relief in the United
States. The Senate version of the bill (H.R. 1469) barred funding for a U.S. ground
deployment in Bosnia beyond June 30, 1998 and required the President to submit a detailed
report on the costs of the Bosnia deployment, and of other aspects of U.S. policy toward
Secretary of Defense Cohen statement before the House National Security Committee,10
March 20, 1998.
For further information on the congressional debate on IFOR, see U.S. Library of11
Congress. Congressional Research Service. Bosnia Implementation Force (IFOR) and
Stabilization Force (SFOR): Activities of the 104th Congress, by Julie Kim. Updated
January 6, 1997.
Bosnia before funds from the supplemental can be made available. The House version did
not contain these provisions. The measure passed the House on May 15, 1997, and the
Senate on May 16. The House and Senate approved a conference agreement on June 5; the
conference report did not include the funds cut-off for the Bosnia deployment. The
President vetoed the bill on June 9 over policy provisions unrelated to foreign policy. The
President signed the bill without the controversial provisions on June 12 (P.L. 105-18),
providing DoD with $1.9 billion to cover SFOR-related costs. The law required the
President to submit a detailed report on the costs of the Bosnia deployment within 60 days.
The House-passed version of H.R. 2266, the FY 1998 defense appropriations bill,
barred funding for the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Bosnia after June 1998. The
Senate-passed version of the bill did not contain this provision. The conference report did
not include the fund cut-off. Section 8132 of the conference report, passed by both Houses
on September 25, 1997 and signed by the President on October 8 (P.L. 105- 56), barred
funding for the deployment of U.S. forces in Bosnia beyond June 1998, unless the President
certified to the bipartisan leadership of Congress by May 15, 1998 that a continued
deployment is needed to meet the national security interests of the United States. The law
required that the certification include why such a deployment is in the national interest, how
many U.S. troops will be deployed and for what duration, the mission and objectives and
exit strategy for those forces, the cost of the operation and the impact of the deployment on
the morale, retention, and effectiveness of U.S. forces. The section also said that the
President had to submit a supplemental appropriations request for any deployment beyond
The conference report for the FY 1998 defense authorization bill (H.R. 1119)
contained a non-binding provision (Section 1202) that says that "it is the sense of Congress
that United States ground combat forces should not participate in a follow-on force in
Bosnia and Herzegovina after June 1998." The section also said that the United States may
decide to provide support to a follow-on force of European ground troops, under the aegis
of the European Security and Defense Identity or NATO, in "command and control,
intelligence, logistics and, if necessary, a ready reserve force in the region." Section 1203
prohibited funding for the deployment of U.S. ground forces in Bosnia after June 30, 1998,
unless the President certified by May 15, 1998 to the bipartisan leadership of Congress that
a deployment beyond June 1998 is needed to meet U.S. national security interests and that
U.S. forces will not be used as "civil police" in Bosnia. The President was required to
submit a detailed report on an extended Bosnian operation similar to the report required by
the FY1998 defense appropriations law. Other sections required Administration reports on
the activities carried out by U.S. forces in Bosnia; progress toward implementation of the
Bosnia peace accord and steps to be taken to transfer responsibility to a European-led
peacekeeping force. The House approved the conference report on October 28. The Senate
approved the report on November 6, and it was signed by the President on November 18
On March 4, 1998, the Administration submitted to Congress a supplemental
appropriations request that included $486.9 million for U.S. military operations in Bosnia
for the last quarter of FY1998. The President requested a budget amendment providing for
$1.8586 billion for U.S. troops in Bosnia for FY 1999. The President also submitted the
certification required by P.L. 105-56.
On March 18, 1998, the House considered H. Con Res. 227, offered by Representative
Tom Campbell. The resolution said that, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, the
Congress directs the President to remove U.S. troops from Bosnia within 60 days unless
Congress approves a resolution authorizing the U.S. troop presence. The resolution was
rejected by a vote of 225-193.
On March 26, 1998, the Senate completed consideration of S. 1768, an FY1998
supplemental appropriations bill that included $487 million in incremental costs for U.S.
participation in SFOR from July through September 1998. The bill included an amendment
by Senator Levin that "urges" the President to reach an agreement with NATO establishing
as NATO policy the benchmarks for Bosnian peace agreement implementation set out in the
President's certification required by P.L. 105-56. The agreement would also include a
schedule for achieving the benchmarks and a formal process to review any failure to achieve
the benchmarks on schedule. The amendment required the President to submit a report by
June 30 on efforts to reach such an agreement with NATO, and subsequent reports semi-
annually on progress on achieving the benchmarks. On March 31, 1998, the House passed
its version of the supplemental bill, H.R. 3579, which provides $487 million in incremental
costs for Bosnia. The House bill requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a quarterly
report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on progress toward achieving
the benchmarks set out in the President's certification. On April 30, 1998, the House
approved the conference agreement for H.R. 3579 by a vote of 241-164. On the same day,
the Senate approved the conference agreement by a vote of 88 to 11. The conference
agreement provided $487 million in incremental costs for U.S. military operations in Bosnia.
It contained both the Levin amendment on NATO benchmarks and a requirement for a semi-
annual report by the President to Congress on progress toward achieving the benchmarks.
It was signed by the President on May 1 (P.L. 105-174).
In April 1998, the Senate considered a resolution of ratification of the protocols to
the North Atlantic Treaty admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO
(Treaty Doc. 105-36). On April 30, the Senate defeated by a vote of 80-20 an amendment
offered by Senator Craig that would have required the enactment of a law specifically
authorizing the continued deployment of U.S. troops to Bosnia before the deposit of the
U.S. instrument of ratification (the final step before the protocol enters into force).
On May 21, 1998, the House passed the FY 1999 defense authorization bill (H.R.
3616). Section 1201 limits FY 1999 DoD expenditures for U.S. troops in Bosnia to $1.8586
billion, the amount requested by the Administration. Section 1202 requires the President
to submit a detailed annual report on progress toward implementation of the peace
agreement and on the expected duration of the U.S. deployment to Bosnia. The section also
requires the Secretary of Defense to report on the impact of the U.S. Bosnia deployment on
the capability of U.S. forces to conduct "two nearly simultaneous major theater wars."
On June 26, 1998, the Senate passed its version of the FY 1999 defense
authorization bill (S. 2057). An amendment offered by Senator Byrd and Senator Hutchison
would have required the President to submit a plan to Congress to reduce U.S. forces in
Bosnia to the average level of those deployed by Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy
by February 2000. The President would not be able to appropriate FY 2000 funds for a
higher troop level if Congress passed a joint resolution approving the plan within 30 days
after its submission to Congress. Some Members have objected to mandated U.S. troop
reductions. The amendment was not taken up on the floor of the Senate.
An amendment offered by Senators Strom Thurmond, Carl Levin and Dan Coats
expresses the sense of the Congress that U.S. forces "should not remain in Bosnia and
Herzegovina "indefinitely, in view of the world-wide commitment" of U.S. forces. It says
the President should work with other countries in SFOR to withdraw U.S. forces from
Bosnia "within a reasonable period of time, consistent with the safety of those forces and
the accomplishment of the Stabilization Force's military tasks." It adds that the President
should offer U.S. support in such areas as "command and control, intelligence, logistics and,
if necessary, a ready reserve force in the region." A second-degree amendment, by Senator
John McCain, requires the President to make several reports. One report would assess the
likely impact of a phased reduction of U.S. forces in Bosnia. A second report would discuss
the status and mission of the "NATO force of gendarmes or paramilitary police force" in
Bosnia. The provision also would also require a detailed report each time that the President
seeks funding for the Bosnia mission. The report would outline the "performance objectives
and schedule for the implementation of the Dayton Agreement", as well as the military and
non-military missions of U.S. forces in support of the objectives. The report would discuss
the risks posed to U.S. forces by these missions and their costs. Finally, the report would
include an assessment of the state of planning for the assumption of all military missions
within Bosnia by European forces, with U.S. support in logistics, intelligence and air power.
The Thurmond-Levin-Coats amendment, as modified by the McCain amendment, was
approved by a vote of 90-5.
Senator Robert Smith offered an amendment that would have barred FY 1999
funding for the Bosnia deployment after March 31, 1999, unless Congress votes on a joint
resolution approving the Bosnia deployment. The amendment does not require that the
resolution passes for the money to be released, only that a vote is taken. The amendment
was tabled by a vote of 65-31.
On June 24, 1998, the House passed H.R. 4103, the Fiscal Year 1999 defense
appropriations bill. The House version did not include the President’s request for $1.8586
billion for Department of Defense costs for the Bosnia operation. On July 30, the Senate
passed its version of the bill (S. 2132). The Senate agreed by voice vote to an amendment
offered by Senator Stevens that added $1.8586 billion for an Overseas Contingency
Operations Transfer Fund to pay for the Bosnia mission. The Senate voted 68-31 to table
an amendment by Senator Hutchison to the FY 1999 defense appropriations bill (S. 2132)
that would have required the President to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Bosnia to 6,500
by February 1999 and 5,000 by October 1999. The amendment would have also barred the
use of DoD funds to conduct or provide direct support to law enforcement activities in
Bosnia (except for training or to prevent imminent loss of life); to conduct or provide
support to any activity that would jeopardize the primary military mission of the NATO-led
force in Bosnia; to resettle refugees if the resettlement effort is part of an effort to gain
control of territory allotted to the other entity or exposes U.S. forces to substantial risk; or
to implement any change in the legal status of Bosnian territory without the agreement of
all parties. The Senate approved an amendment by Senator Hutchison expressing the sense
of Congress that "declining defense budgets and expanded missions, including the ongoing,
open-ended commitment of U.S. forces" to Bosnia have eroded the readiness of U.S. forces
to "execute the National Security Strategy of the United States ."
President Clinton's announcement in December 1997 that U.S. troops would stay
in Bosnia until a self-sustaining peace takes hold has sparked Congressional debate. Many
Members have expressed concern that U.S. troops are engaged in an open-ended deployment
to Bosnia, with an ever-expanding mandate. They say that the benchmarks laid out by the
Administration are very broad in scope and will take many years to achieve, if they can be
achieved at all. Many Members favor a pullout of U.S. ground troops from Bosnia in the
relatively near future, turning the Bosnia mission over to the U.S.'s European NATO allies,
with the United States providing logistical, intelligence and other support. Many Members
have also expressed concern that the Bosnia mission was absorbing limited DoD funds that
should go toward such areas as research and development, readiness and weapons
While most Members have expressed a strong desire to have U.S. ground troops
leave Bosnia in the near future, there is more controversy on how to achieve this goal.
Senator Carl Levin, Senator John Warner and other Members have pushed the
Administration to provide timelines for the achievement of the benchmarks laid out by the
Administration, and have stressed the need for the Administration to press the Europeans
to take over the Bosnia mission within a reasonable amount of time. These ideas were
incorporated in S. 1768, which provided FY 1998 supplemental appropriations for the
Bosnia operation, and S. 2057, the FY 1999 defense authorization bill.
Other Members, while supporting these efforts, express great skepticism about the
concept of the benchmarks, saying it is unlikely that it is unwise to tie the withdrawal of
U.S. troops to benchmarks that cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future, if at all. They
favor stronger measures to compel U.S. troop reductions. These arguments were made by
Senator Byrd and Senator Hutchison during Senate debate on the FY 1999 defense
authorization and appropriations bills. However, during the debate on the FY 1999 defense
authorization bill, Senator Cain said that while he shared the frustration of many Members
with the open-ended nature of the U.S. presence in Bosnia, he believed that it was the role
of the President as Commander-in-Chief and military commanders in the field to set troop
levels in Bosnia, not Congress.
In addition to concerns about the wisdom of Administration policy in Bosnia, some
Members have expressed Constitutional objections to the Bosnia mission, saying that it was
started without explicit Congressional authorization, and should be terminated unless
Congress passes legislation giving specific approval to the Bosnia deployment. This
viewpoint was reflected in H. Con. Res. 227 and the Craig amendment to the ratification of
protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty.
While many Members emphasize their desire to see a pullout of U.S. troops from
Bosnia in the relatively near future, some Members stress the need for a continued U.S.
military presence on the ground to ensure that progress continues. During debate on S.
2057, Senator Joseph Biden said that, while he favored pressure on the U.S.'s European
allies on the issue of the Bosnia mission, it would be a mistake to push for the withdrawal
of U.S. ground troops from Bosnia as long as a NATO-led peacekeeping force remained in
the country, because such a move could undermine U.S. leadership in NATO.