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Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, the NATO-led Peace Enforcement mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H), exposed U.S. and Coalition commanders to the concept of Joint Military Commissions (JMCs). Peace operations require substantial interaction between military commanders and belligerent military or political leaders to resolve conflicts or to secure cooperation. During JOINT ENDEAVOR, the multinational divisions (U.S., French, and British) found the JMC process to be the key control and liaison mechanism for compelling compliance with treaty tasks.

Almost certainly, commanders will find it necessary to bring together leaders of protagonist factions to negotiate agreements or mediate disputes. Even at the tactical level, commanders may find themselves engaged in a political process. In such situations, commanders cannot expect to be successful using purely military principles and logic. They also need the ability to manipulate a variety of political interests, power struggles, cultural values, personalities, and perceptions of fairness or exploitation. These aspects of peace operations are not normally included in U.S. Army training curricula.

Planners at the NATO Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) analyzed the Geneva (Stoltenberg-Owen) Peace Plan in the autumn of 1993. They concluded that political interaction between UN or NATO commanders and representatives of the Bosnian factions would be key to the success of any agreement implemented under UN or NATO supervision.

As a result of the negotiations at Dayton, OH, the former warring factions (FWFs) initialed an agreement in November 1995 called the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), which was subsequently signed into effect in Paris, France, on 14 December 1995. Annex 1 of 11 annexes of the GFAP defined the Parties' agreed-upon military responsibilities, NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) mandate rights and roles, and formally created the JMC process as a forum through which factions could coordinate operations. It was also the mechanism by which instructions were issued and entity disputes were arbitrated.

NOTE: The term "Joint Military Commission (JMC)" is used in this newsletter to describe formally established, U.S., NATO or Coalition Implementation Force (IFOR) meetings attended by two or more FWF military representatives (usually commanders). At such meetings, the FWFs met under IFOR supervision to coordinate joint activities, disseminate intent and instructions, and to resolve differences.

On 15 December 1995, the Commander, Implementation Forces (COMIFOR), issued a Statement of Procedures that defined the JMC process and further defined the implied military tasks. The Statement of Procedures established the JMC as the central body for commanders of military factions to coordinate and resolve problems. COMIFOR delegated routine JMC chairmanship to COMARRC which issued instructions to ensure the Parties' compliance with the military aspects of GFAP. Below the COMARRC level, the multinational divisions (MNDs), their subordinate brigades and battalions, established subordinate military commissions.

At these lower levels, JMC activities included disseminating policy, issuing instructions to factions on policies and procedures, and coordinating GFAP-required actions, resolving military complaints, questions or problems, coordinating civil/military actions where appropriate, and developing confidence-building measures between the parties.

Transer of Authority (TOA)
Figure I - 1

On 20 December 1995, Transfer of Authority (TOA) took place from the United Nations Protective Force (UNPROFOR) to IFOR. The first JMC meetings took place on 20 December 1995, chaired initially by COMIFOR, and then by COMARRC. Following a series of bilateral meetings with faction corps commanders, the first Commander, Task Force Eagle (COMEAGLE) JMC meetings took place on 27 December in the Posavina Corridor Zone of Separation (ZOS).


This newsletter groups the planning considerations of JMCs according to function: policy, structure, and administration. The boundaries between these functions are frequently blurred. In peace operations, what seems to be purely tactical or operational military actions can have immediate, political consequences at the strategic level. Many of the observations and planning considerations discussed may be relevant across all the functions. However, the points made here are not intended to be relevant to regional conflicts where principles of war and warfighting doctrine govern the operations of the military force.


The mission statement from the higher headquarters normally determines whether U.S. commanders need to undertake direct contact with military or political representatives in their areas of operation (AOs). Establishing a forum for political-military contact may be a specified task given to the commander -- as in a UN or NATO term of participation agreement or a UN Security Council Resolution. It may also be an implied task arising from the need to gain consent from local authorities, military leaders, or the population-at-large on measures to stabilize an area, restore security, or guarantee freedom of movement.

The significance of JMCs stems from the political functions that are to be performed by a contingency force. First, JMCs can be used to interpret for the parties the details of agreements. This function is particularly important in operations where the U.S. mission is to oversee the implementation of a peace agreement. Second, JMC decisions can be made binding on groups and individuals in the AO. When this happens, JMCs help extend the commander's authority over local military forces and the people. Without such a mechanism, the IFOR might have limited means with which to influence faction behavior or other local activity. This includes compliance with the terms of the agreement, a cease-fire, or other security arrangements.

NOTE: Although a peace agreement could be expected to establish certain requirements (cease-fire, separation of forces, demobilization), generating express and implied tasks for the signatories and the supervising force (NATO/UN/Coalition), it may not contain language that is specific enough to guide the actions on the ground without further elaboration.

Task Force Eagle conducted an extensive mission analysis, identified implied and specified military tasks, and then developed supporting "measures of success" by which progress and compliance could be tracked (See Figure I-2 and Appendix A). In Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, the IFOR commander had final interpretive authority over the military aspects of the peace agreement.

Quantifying Effectiveness
Figure I - 2

Limitations may be placed on the use of force, the usual means by which a military commander influences action on the ground. Formal constraints (which may stem from the international mandate under which the operation is conducted, treaty obligations, or international law) may be included in the rules of engagement (ROE). On the practical side, applying force is resource intensive. Situations in which compliance is physically "forced" require a robust troop commitment. The more widespread the noncompliance, the larger the force package required to do the job. However, international, political, or economic considerations may limit the size of the force. In JOINT ENDEAVOR, the IFOR's inherent capability to compel compliance was key to obtaining FWFs' voluntary compliance.

The JMC process is a force multiplier that allows the commander to use nonlethal tools to shape local actions. It also preserves his instruments of force for decisive engagements. An important implied task for the IFOR commander is to build up the value, legitimacy, authority and decisions of the JMC and its members to enhance local compliance. In JOINT ENDEAVOR, the U.S. contingent's capability was sufficiently overwhelming so that it was possible to compel the FWFs voluntary compliance.

LESSON: JMCs are effective in resolving faction issues, disseminating intent and instructions, extending the IFOR's authority, and coordinating activities of UN/NATO/Coalition forces and factions. This is their purpose.

Section II: Policy

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