A Recent History of Bosnia-Herzegovina

by Captain Roger F. Cavazos and Second Lieutenant Sherman S. Powell

Yugoslavia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Karadzic, Milosevic.... Just what is what and who is who in the Balkans? This article will try to answer questions like the following ones: What countries comprise the Balkans? Who are the major players in Bosnia-Herzegovina and what is their ideology? What does the Dayton Peace Accord say? What forces are in the region?
The Balkan region is generally defined as the area south of the Danube and Sava rivers. Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania (even though it is north of the Danube it is still considered a Balkan country), the European part of Turkey, and the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) all lie in the Balkans. FRY consisted of six republics: Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Marshal Tito and Communist rule were the glue which held these heterogeneous religious and ethnic groups together. Yugoslavia showed signs of disintegration after Marshal Tito's death in 1980. Shortly after the Soviet Union broke apart in 1989, Yugoslavia was torn apart from within by nationalism. This raises the question of who would have reason to want to be separate from whom and how?

The Belligerents and Their Ideology

The people in the FRY are almost all ethnic Slavs. After that, all similarity ends. We will look at the three major groups, their religion, who they look to for international support, their leader, and some of their goals. Serbs account for over a third of the FRY population. The Croats are about one-fifth. Almost nine percent are Bosnian Muslims.
The Serbians are comprised of three basic groups Serbians, Bosnians, and Krajinans. They use the Cyrillic alphabet and look toward Russia for international support. Some of the more well-known Bosnian Serbs are Radovan Karadzic, General Ratko Mladic, and Slobadan Milosevic. The first two are convicted war criminals. Milosevic is not. The army was mainly composed of Bosnian Serbs before FRY dissolved. This disintegration allowed the Bosnian Serbs to quickly attain the majority of their territorial objectives. The Krajinan Serbs simply wanted to keep their territory and prevent any Croat attempts to control Krajina. All the Serbs want a unified territorial entity a greater Serbia. Most of the Serbs live in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This region is the self-proclaimed state of the Bosnian Serbs. Since the religion of most Serbs is Eastern Orthodox, the Orthodox church also supports a unified Serbia. The problem is that at least two other groups occupy part of the ground which the Serbians want.
One of the groups blocking a unified Serbia is the Roman Catholic Croats. They are headed by President Franjo Tudjman. The Croats want to keep open access to the Dalmatian coast. The Dalmatian coast was a large source of revenue in the pre-war years. They also want to retake the third of their territory which the Krajinan Serbs usurped. The Bosnian Croats have joined forces with the Bosnian Muslims to help repel the Serbs. The Croats reflect their Western orientation through their written use of the Latin alphabet. The Croats generally find the Germans and Austrians are their biggest supporters.
The Bosnian Muslims are ethnically the same as everyone else in the region Slavic but they are more oriented to Turkey and the Muslim Arab countries. Their President, Alija Izetbegovic, wrote a treatise called the Islamic Declaration: A Program for the Islamization of the Muslims and the Muslim Peoples. His vision is to establish a multi-ethnic state. He reached an agreement with the Croats to create an eight-canton federation. Half of the cantons would be Muslim, two Croat, and two mixed. But first, he has to establish and maintain a unified state. The Bosnian Serbs hold almost three-quarters of the Bosnian Government's territory. The Bosnians must keep Sarajevo and some additional territory to remain a legitimate state. The Balkans and especially the FRY are similar to the Middle East in that both areas depict the juxtaposition of Islam and other religions contesting the same areas. Each side has arguably justified claims to be there.

The Dayton Peace Accord

The United States was losing credibility in the region, in the world, and in the Middle East because of its inaction. The Dayton Peace Accord represents the culmination of our diplomatic efforts to solve the situation.
The General Framework agreement consists of each of the three signatories recognizing the other two. Further, each one agrees to respect the sovereignty and equality of the others and to settle disputes peacefully. Each party also fully agrees to cooperate with all entities authorized to implement the peace settlement, and investigate and prosecute war crimes. (These include intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations, nongovernment organizations (the Red Cross, for example), and the United Nations Implementation Force or IFOR.) The rest of the agreement is spread over eleven annexes. We will briefly summarize what is in each one and highlight some specifics.
Annex 1-A: Military Aspects. The cease fire which began the agreement on 5 October 1995 continues in effect. Foreign combatant forces had to withdraw in 30 days or less. (Most worried about the Mujahideen, especially since we had armed them with Stingers and trained them.) All forces had to move approximately 4 kilometers behind a zone of separation (ZOS). Sarajevo and Gorazde had special provision. (Gorazde has a particularly large and efficient munitions plant. Almost every safe haven was turned into a munitions and manufacturing area.) All parties agreed to withdraw heavy weapons and troops into cantonment or barracks areas as a confidence-building measure. IFOR has the right to use force as necessary. They will have unimpeded freedom of movement, airspace control, and status of forces protection.
Annex 1B: Regional Stabilization. The three signatories had to begin negotiating under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to agree on confidence-building measures. Part of this included agreeing on numerical limits of tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and helicopters. All parties agreed to forgo importing arms for 90 days. They also agreed to not import any heavy weapons, mines, military aircraft, or helicopters for 180 days.
Annex 2: Inter-Entity Boundaries. There will be an inter-entity boundary between Bosnia and the Bosnian Serb Republic (the agreement does not recognize Karadzic or that he has a state). Sarajevo will be open to all. Gorazde will remain open and linked by a land corridor. They will determine the status of Brcko within a year.
Annex 3: Elections. All citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina who are older than 18 may vote. The electoral parties must grant citizens the right to vote secretly, express themselves, and have access to a free press.
Annex 4: Constitution. Bosnia-Herzegovina adopted a new constitution when they signed this agreement at Paris. Bosnia-Herzegovina will continue as a sovereign state with two entities. No person who is serving a sentence or under indictment by the tribunal may be a candidate or hold any public office. (Italics added)
Annex 5: Arbitration. The Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic agree to binding arbitration (both sides must do whatever an outside arbiter decides). Also they agree to institutionalize an arbitration system to settle disputes peacefully.
Annex 6: Human Rights. Everyone agrees to grant basic human rights. They also agree to grant all organizations full access to monitor the human rights situation.
Annex 7: Refugees and Displaced Persons. All refugees and displaced people may safely and freely return home and regain lost property or receive compensation. A commissioner for refugees may decide on return of property or compensation.
Annex 8: Commission to Preserve National Monuments. The commission can declare property to be a national monument. All signatories will make every effort to protect and conserve national monuments.
Annex 9: Bosnia-Herzegovina Public Corporations. Corporations may be established to run road, rail, and port facilities. The provision also establishes joint ventures to run utilities and postal functions.
Annex 10: Civil Implementation. This annex installs a civilian hierarchy which has no authority over IFOR (emphasis added).
Annex 11: International Police Task Force. This provision allows for the training and advising of local law enforcement personnel. (This conforms to the U.S. view of posse comitatus and our prohibition against allowing the military to perform law-enforcement activities). The organization charged with making sure the signatories keep their promises is called the Implementation Force.


The IFOR is headquartered in Sarajevo and has three zones. The French command the Eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina from Mostar. The United Kingdom has about 14,000 troops; its headquarters is in Gornji Vakuf. They cover western Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United States of America has a division-sized Task Force and some support elements; its area of responsibility covers north-northeast Bosnia-Herzegovina. Tuzla is the American sector headquarters in Bosnia. U.S. total troop strength is approximately 20,000. Several other countries have sent troops. A partial list of participating countries would include: Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, and Spain. As of this writing (late July 1996), IFOR has been fairly successful.
The free elections are scheduled to take place on 14 September 1996. That has IFOR worried about possibly having to play policeman. No matter how fair and impartial a country tries to be when playing this role, some entity is always dissatisfied with the outcome. Peacekeeping operations and even peace-enforcing operations require the peacekeepers or peace enforcers to appear impartial. If they are not, then those sent to keep the peace may find themselves in the line of fire.

Try the Internet

If you want to find more information on Bosnia, use the Internet (we did in writing this article). An especially helpful site is CNN.COM/ world/bosnia/key/ groups.html. From there you can connect with several other related sites. BosNews has some interesting and up-to-date information. Other sites include www. acs.supernet/manu/briefhis.html and www.fsu.edu/-voijin/Risto.Mostarki/ bosnia101.html.
Captain Cavazos is currently Commander, Alpha Company, 1-19 Infantry, Fort Benning, Georgia. His past assignments include Long-Range Platoon Leader, 165th MI Battalion; Bradley Platoon Leader, 3d Infantry Division (ID); and United Nations Command Security Force Joint Security Area, Panmunjom, Korea. Captain Cavazos has a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Military Academy and a master of science degree in International Relations from Troy State University. Readers can reach the authors through (706) 544-9163/9565, DSN 784-9163/9565, and via E-mail at rcava355222@aol.com.
Second Lieutenant Powell just left a position as the Executive Officer, Alpha Company, 1-19 Infantry, and is on orders for the 3d ID. He has a bachelor of arts degree from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.