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 He outlined ten conditions to be met in Bosnia in order for the NATO-led force to be withdrawn: continuation of the cease-fire; a restructured, re-trained and re-integrated police; effective judicial reform; dissolution of illegal pre-Dayton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."