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In political-military operations, such as Stability and Support Operations, the military is seldom the lead agency. In no case is a military outcome sought (e.g., victory over an armed enemy). Instead the purpose is to ensure the success of an intended political outcome or process. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, SFOR and MND(N) carried out two major political military efforts, support to municipal elections and Joint Military Commissions (JMC). From the JMC emerged a new organization, the Joint Paramilitary Commission. This chapter briefly explains SFOR's and MND(N)'s successful conduct of both these sensitive and important tasks.

SFOR AND TF EAGLE ELECTION SUPPORT ORDERS (extracted from MND(N) G5 BiH Elections Briefing, 31 August 1997).

Military support to the municipal elections was an evolving political-military relationship between SFOR and the civilian agencies directly responsible for the conduct of the elections. Military equipment and organizational methods were used to assist civilian organizations in assuring the success of a political process - the elections.


SFOR Mission: "SFOR provides selective support, within capability, to the OSCE during all phases of the Municipal Elections while continuing current operations IAW OPLAN 31406 and GFAP 1A tasks, in order to occur without major disruptions."

SFOR Commander's Intent: "Our desired endstate is that elections, and the installation of municipal governments, are conducted without major disruption, and that SFOR presence is seen to have a deterrent effect on those seeking to violently prevent voters from exercising their democratic right, or to dispute the results through the use of armed force."


Task Force Eagle Mission: "TFE maintains a secure environment in sector and supports, within capabilities, OSCE as they supervise municipal elections 13 - 14 September 1997."

Task Force Eagle Commander's Intent: "The purpose of this operation is to maintain compliance with GFAP and provide election support, within capabilities, to OSCE as they supervise municipal elections, in order to ensure that the Bosnian people have the opportunity to vote."

"TFE's primary mission continues to be implementation of the military aspects of GFAP. The entities' armed forces must not be allowed to disrupt elections. Our support to OSCE will be limited and within our capabilities. During the election period, commanders must carefully balance their assets to allocate prudent force to ongoing GFAP tasks and, at the same time, be able to allocate sufficient support to elections. Support to OSCE relies on extensive liaison efforts at all levels to respond to unforeseen requirements. Voter security is the entities' civil police responsibility. Close cooperation with IPTF and civil police will decrease the chances of violence during elections. Force protection remains our number one priority."

End State: "Successful support to elections by maintaining a secure environment for OSCE operations during the election period, while providing responsive support to OSCE personnel, allowing them to successfully supervise municipal elections."


The OSCE was an international organization composed of 55 participating countries, including all of Europe as well as the United States, Russia and Canada. Under Annex 1A, Article VI of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, SFOR was to provide "selective support, within capability" to OSCE during all phases of the election process. This was a major responsibility for SFOR.

OSCE Regional Meeting

The OSCE was the principal agency responsible for organizing, assisting and monitoring the 1997 municipal elections in BiH. Two thousand four hundred and fifty OSCE supervisors oversaw 2,300 polling sites making it the largest election support effort in the organization's history.

SFOR support to OSCE was extensive, including assistance to OSCE and local election committees in preparation of polling sites. It performed monitoring and net control of all OSCE and European Community Monitoring Mission repeater networks. It provided extensive maps including landmine information, military routes and locations of military installations. At a tactical level, SFOR units performed reconnaissance of possible polling sites and operated security checkpoints during the balloting. Under Operations Plan (OPLAN) MEDUSA, SFOR was responsible for noncombatant evacuation of OSCE personnel down to and including polling station level. SFOR transported and secured election materials including sensitive items (e.g., ballots). In addition to the tasks mentioned above, SFOR provided emergency fuel, recovery, medical, and life support to OSCE supervisors and observers in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH).


During the Municipal Election, the post of Regional Election Liaison Officer was created in MND(N).

The role of the Regional Election Liaison Officer was to coordinate between the MND and Bde/TF liaison officers as well as with the election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Liaison with the IPTF also developed as a significant part of this liaison function. No direct, full-time liaison was provided to the Provisional Election Committee or the Local Election Committee.

As the illustration below shows, the liaison officer to the OSCE Regional Office occupied a central position in the communication and coordination system between MND(N) and the OSCE. This role was very important because the successful conduct of the election required close coordination between the Bosnian election officials and OSCE and between OSCE and MND(N). Contact with the OSCE and IPTF determined that Major (O-4) was the lowest acceptable rank for a LO due to the seniority of the persons the liaison dealt with in these organizations. MND(N) attempted to fill these positions with Reserve Component (RC) Civil Affairs personnel in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Interviews with liaison officers suggested that this was probably more effective since all the organizations dealt with recognized the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as relatively senior.

The MND(N) headquarters SOP for LOs did not cover election liaison and for the most part was not applicable to this specialized function. The OSCE and similar organizations simply are not organized in the same manner as military headquarters. For example, because OSCE has no organized reporting system, OSCE Headquarters and Regional Offices commonly had little idea of the current situation at the field offices. Likewise, the OSCE had little idea of military information requirements.

No SOPs were developed for election liaison due to the shortage of personnel and general lack of experience in election liaison. For this reason, some liaison officers expressed confusion as to the exact nature of their duties. This made it possible for some OSCE offices to define the duties of the liaison. In the event, the LOs generally viewed themselves as resource coordinators rather than liaisons, responsible only for communicating requests for support.

JEOC = Joint Elections Operations Center (operated by OSCE). This was the SFOR- OSCE interagency headquarters for election support and supervision.

PEC = Provisional Election Commission. This organization included representatives from OSCE, the government of B-H, Republika Serbska, the Federation and the Office of the High Representative. It promulgates rules for the conduct of the election and supervises compliance.

IPTF = International Police Task Force.

Relations between SFOR and the OSCE were generally close and productive. However, a difference in organizational culture was sometimes apparent. Like most civilian organizations, OSCE did not plan in great detail or as far in advance as military organizations. It did not impose the same type or number of reporting requirements on its subordinate elements nor is it as strongly hierarchical. Reporting was usually by exception. This meant that subordinate elements have wide latitude in their operations which were not always well-coordinated with other parts of the organization. SFOR solved this with Election Working Groups at all levels and direct liaison with OSCE organizations down to Regional Office level.


Stabilization Force

The Joint Elections Operations Center (JEOC)

The JEOC was OSCE Head Office Sarajevo's operational center for election activities. It was also the mechanism for linking SFOR and the OSCE for planning, liaison, coordination and execution of the election-related activities. The JEOC was the principal forum for reporting and briefing related to electoral issues. It was also the means by which OSCE Regional and Field Offices processed internal tasking and coordinated tasks with SFOR.

Represented at the JEOC were:

  • Office of the High Representative
  • SFOR
  • Joint Commission Observers (JCOs)
  • International Police Task Force
  • European Community Monitoring Mission

SFOR coordinated its election-related activity through the JEOC. In addition to the tasks mentioned above, SFOR provided emergency fuel, recovery, medical, and life support to OSCE supervisors and observers in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH).

Integrated Combined Election Operations Section (ICEOPS)

The ICEOPS was created with the specific purpose of enabling SFOR to coordinate closely and continuously with various international organizations involved in the election. The ICEOPS was, in most respects, the SFOR counterpart of the OSCE's Joint Election Operations Center. The principal organizations represented in the ICEOPS were the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Police Task Force (IPTF) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Other IOs included were the UN Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina (UNMIBH) and the Western European Union (WEU).

The SFOR Joint Operations Center (JOC) had the responsibility to keep the ICEOPS informed of the current election situation. ICEOPS was located immediately adjacent to the Emergency Response Group which was responsible for reacting to any strategic-level problems that arose.

The ICEOPS did not conduct formal briefings and, for the most part, depended on log books and personal contact between members. In particular, the ICEOPS did not create separate reporting channels but functioned through normal reporting channels from the Multinational Divisions (MNDs) to the SFOR JOC.

Task Force Eagle

Division Elections Cell

The Division Elections Cell was the primary mechanism linking MND(N) with the Stabilization Force (SFOR) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for planning, liaison, coordination and execution of election-related activities. This was accomplished in two ways: 1) within the division, the cell held weekly meetings of subordinate cells, 2) the cell represented MND(N) at the weekly meetings of the various Election Working Groups. It also coordinated and supervised military training for the OSCE such as mine awareness classes. Similar cells were created at the Task Force (TF) and bde (brigade) levels.

The division cell consisted of an OIC (lieutenant colonel), an operations officer (major), two elections officers (captains) and an office manager (staff sergeant).

A typical meeting of the various military election cells within MND(N) was conducted by the Division Elections Cell and included 0-3 level representatives of the BDE Signal Office, G2, G3, G5, G4, G6, Civil Affairs, Public Affairs Office, Russian BDE, NordPol BDE (Nordic/Polish Brigade), Turkish BDE, Task Forces under MND(N) and the International Police Task Force. The MND(N) Elections Cell then represented the group at the local Election Working Group meeting in Tuzla and at the SFOR-level working group meeting in Sarajevo.

These meetings covered a wide variety of topics, generally concerning changes in voting procedures and support requirements. Typically a meeting might consider timing of ballot delivery, ballot security, coordination with the BELUGA transportation group, organization of the Crisis Response Team and issues concerning SFOR cooperation with local police during the election.

During the actual conduct of the elections, the Elections Cell became the nucleus of an Elections Desk which was located in the MND(N) Tactical Operations Center. Following the elections, the cell divided its attention between membership in the Election Results Implementation Committee (ERIC) and the unexpected responsibility of supporting the newly declared parliamentary and presidential elections in the Republika Srpska.

Elections Desk: G3 Support to Elections in MND(N)

Because election support was the focus of SFOR efforts, the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) at MDN(N) was modified to reflect this emphasis. An Elections Battle Desk was established by the MND(N) G3 from 09 September to 01 October 1997.

The Desk was created for the specific purpose of tracking the Bosnian Municipal Elections. The desk was manned 24 hours a day by a Battle Captain (O-3), an NCO, a representative of the OSCE, and the IPTF. The Division Elections Cell provided the manning for the Elections Desk during the Election.

Operations Table and Display for Elections

The display consisted of a large table (approximately 6'x 4') with a plexiglass top and 10 chairs. The chairs served to minimize the movement around the control table. The following items were posted under the plexiglass in plain view and/or placed on the table:

A. Quick-reference phone numbers and call signs of the most frequently called numbers.

B. POC names and numbers of the elections personnel at the SDCs.

C. Phone books for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the tactical units in sector.

D. Index spreadsheet that includes the locations, OSCE designations, names, and 8-digit grid coordinates of all of the voting sites in sector.

E. Critical information papers listing area hotspots, voter routes, projected numbers of voters by location, and mission-specific papers deemed critical by the elections cell.

F. Quick-reference listings of unit Traffic Control Points and Observation Posts (TCPs/OPs) locations, areas of potential violence ("hotspots") landing zones, and temporary retransmission sites.

G. Pictures of all of the 999 voting sites.

H. Copies of the applicable OPLANs, FRAGOs, and OPORDERs.

I. Three separate "elections smart books." These books include encapsulated data sheets and all applicable election-related information in a binder. These books are quick-reference aids that can be taken by General Officers to hotspots as the mission dictates. They can also be used as a standard briefing tool for VIPs as well as an elections primer for the elections control cell.

J. Reference map of Bosnia-Herzegovina (small in size - placed under the plexiglass).


Joint Military Commission (JMC)

During and immediately following the civil war period in Bosnia, the Entity Armed Forces held the balance of power. Since a major objective of the GFAP was to restore democratic processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was important to ensure that the EAF did not attempt to influence the election process or outcome. To a large degree, the JMC was responsible for assisting the Commanders of SFOR and MND(N) in assuring that no such interference occurred.

Keeping military influence out of the electoral process was not an explicit function of the JMC, but rather arose logically from the organization's other, specified, missions. In effect, it was an implied mission.

Serb and Federation JMC Members with Reporters

JMCs were formed to bring together military representatives of the parties to a treaty or other agreement. JMCs assisted in clarifying issues and resolving disputes arising from monitoring or supervising such an agreement. The JMC structure in MND(N) also had an important role in assuring the success of the elections through the JMC relationship with the military forces of the Former Warring Factions (FWFs).

The Stabilization Force (SFOR) JMC's SOP specified that its mission was to "provide a forum to resolve issues for relevant military and civilian authorities at all levels within theater, and to enable and assist in the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP)." JMCs were created from theater to battalion level within SFOR.

At MND(N) level, the JMC was a command mechanism through which instructions could be given to the FWF and procedures established for supervision, monitoring and verification of FWF actions. This included frequent liaison with FWF military leaders, approval of proposed FWF training and inspection of weapons storage sites.

These FWF military forces retained significant capability and had a history of interference in political processes. For this reason it was important that SFOR and its component divisions maintain an active relationship with the FWF military leaders.

The composition of all JMCs within MND(N) was:

1. Chairman: Local MND(N) commander.

2. Members: Local commanders of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herezgovina (ABiH), the Federation of Bosnia and Hezegovina or Bosnian Croat Defense Council (HVO) and the Republika Srpska armed forces.

3. Local civilian authorities as selected by the Chairman.

4. Others as selected by the Chairman.

JMC Meeting

As this list illustrates, the JMC structure places the Chairman in a powerful position. In turn, this gives the JMC officer, as the Chairman's personal representative, great influence. The ability of the JMCs at all levels to use this influence to assure that the FWF military not interfere in the election was important in ensuring the integrity of the election process.

A specific example of the impact of the JMC can be seen in the commission's work with so-called "special police" of the various political factions. Special Police were actually paramilitary forces and functioned as the enforcement arm of these factions. By bringing these elements under control, the JMC forced the parties to resort to political processes rather than force and intimidation. This also gave legitimate political parties an opportunity to compete in an open democratic process free from coercion.


The Problem of Paramilitary Police

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was found that the so-called special police were an important part of the internal security structure of the FWFs. Their basic functions were: anti-terrorism, crowd control, facilities security, disaster assistance and VIP protection. Although initially considered civil police (and thus outside the purview of SFOR), it was later determined that these forces did not actually perform police duties but rather as light military forces. Furthermore, in some instances, these units served as security forces for those elements seeking to disrupt or impede the municipal elections and the later installation of elected officials.

The commanders and political authorities responsible for the special police were given the choice of either disarming these units to normal police levels or, failing that, having them considered military units and thus under the oversight of SFOR. Some special police units were disarmed of their heavy weapons but several units were not. For this reason, it was determined that such units fell under the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP).

The MND(N) created a JPC, an important new entity for the conduct of peace operations, that also has applications in other forms of Operations Other Than War (OOTW).

Relations with these units, especially oversight of their weapons usage and training, was the mission of the JPC. The JPC was created by an experienced Special Forces officer following service as a Joint Commission Observer in Bosnia. The principal function of the JPC was to provide a forum for the resolution of issues involving special police and paramilitary authorities within the MND(N) AOR. In the case of Bosnia, this principally concerned implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), especially article 1A (which covers military aspects of the agreement).

More broadly, the JPC concept was important for all forms of military operations that involved contact with local police and paramilitary authorities beyond the ordinary liaison conducted by unit Provost Marshals (PMO) and Military Police (MP) liaison. These last were concerned principally with law enforcement issues. The JPC was oriented toward political issues and the critical role of civil police, special police and paramilitary organizations in creating or opposing the secure and stable political environment necessary for the conduct of ordinary society.

According to its mission statement, the JPC was to function as an interface with paramilitary forces by "establishing habitual relations, communication/coordination linkages and cooperative procedures to enhance SFOR force protection and improve cooperative action."

Specifically, the JPC in MND(N) was created to coordinate between SFOR and Special Police, Regular Police, Civil Defense and other paramilitaries in both the Bosnian Federation (BF) and in the Republika Srpska (RS) within the MND(N) AOR. The JPC also:

A. Served as the MND(N) Commander's personal liaison to designated faction leaders.

B. Was responsible for bilateral coordination of police, civil defense and paramilitary contacts with MND(N).

C. Resolved conflicts related to police issues MND(N)'s execution of the military portions of the GFAP.

D. Built professional rapport between the MND(N) and the agencies.

E. Provided information on police agency activities to appropriate staff sections of the MND(N) and the Special Operations Command and Control Element and assisted in information fusion for application to MND(N) operations.

F. Coordinated and resolved, where appropriate, any issues that arose from the above.


  • The Elections Cell was a non-doctrinal organization that proved to be very effective in coordinating and monitoring election-related activity by the MND(N) and associated international organizations.

  • A TOC modification was necessary to support the municipal elections. These changes were effective and illustrated the sort of modifications that may be needed in other forms of Operations Other Than War.

  • Military coordination with international organizations was an essential element of success in peace operations. Many of these organizations directly affect the conduct of military support to peace operations. In cases where these relationships are complex, long term or extensive, a separate coordination body may be required.

  • Liaison with civilian organizations in the context of an election was vital due to constantly changing circumstances. However, a clearer description of MND(N) and OSCE expectations would have made the liaison function more effective. Organizations that make effective use of liaison officers will receive more timely and appropriate information, resulting in more planning time and better understanding of the needs of the supported organization.

  • Although the JMC was not established with the elections in mind, in practice it played an important role in their success. Peace operations tend to be heavily political in their orientation. This means that even ostensibly nonpolitical organizations, such as the JMC, may have an important role to play in political processes.

  • The ability to expand the scope of SFOR operations to bring paramilitary elements under control was critical to the elections. But Bosnia is not the only instance where local paramilitary police are the cornerstone of power for those elements seeking to disrupt or impede democratic processes. Because this same situation often occurs in peace operations, an organization based on the JPC concept can have wide application.

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