Task Force Eagle's mission: TFE maintains a secure environment in sector and supports, within capabilities, OSCE as they supervise municipal elections 13 - 14 September 1997.
Military Support to the election was termed Operation LIBRA and instructions were issued in the form of an operations order with that name. The primary maneuver units of Task Force Eagle were the three U.S. battalion task forces assigned to the Multi-National Division (North). These task forces were the focus for much of the support provided to the OSCE and the elections process. This support included four major areas: 1) General military security, 2) Support to the OSCE in terms of training, communications, and logistics, 3) Security operations in direct support of the elections, and 4) Force protection.
General military security included the ongoing tasks associated with the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP). Task Force Eagle's primary mission during the Municipal Elections remained the implementation of the military aspects of the GFAP. This included weapons storage site inspections, monitoring resettlement activities, and area patrols. Special efforts were conducted in cooperation with the Joint Military Commission to ensure the Entities' Armed Forces (EAF) were not allowed to disrupt elections.
Security operations in direct support of the elections were those actions taken to preclude violence at hot spots and respond rapidly to emergency situations. In addition to the security operations brigades/task forces conducted during the elections, division designated routes and NAIs to be closely surveyed and patrolled to facilitate voter movement. PSYOP meetings with local officials and media encouraged voters to move only on designated routes, vote at the assigned polling station (with the intent to limit their vulnerability to protesters and those who may wish to block their movement and/or vote) and return quickly to their current residence.
Force Protection was of paramount concern and the number one priority in the Area of Responsibility (AOR). Units supported the elections without relaxing well-established force protection measures.
Planning and Executing Election Support
A multi-national effort (vs unilateral effort) was essential to establish the credibility and legitimacy of MND(N) and SFOR in conducting fair and equitable support to the OSCE during municipal elections. The MND(N) task organization consisted of elements from 11 different nations (see figure below). Missions were assigned to each multi-national unit according to its unique capabilities. The task organization for the U.S. Brigade included an organic infantry battalion from the brigade's force structure in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The other two maneuver battalions deployed from CONUS and FRG. Two light cavalry squadrons were task-organized to maneuver battalions as part of the Transition of Authority (TOA) process to assume the Area of Responsibility and to assist during municipal election.
Operation LIBRA was executed in three phases based on SFOR's and the MND(N)'s security concerns.
PHASE 1 - PREPARATION - Started with standing up the Joint Election Operations Center (JEOC) and ended when voter movement began on the First Day (13 September).
PHASE 2 - ELECTIONS - Started with the First Polling Day and ended after the ballots were counted and the results announced.
PHASE 3 - INSTALLATION - Started with announcement of results and ended on order with the certification of elections.
Phase I was the pre-election period. This phase began with the standup of the Joint Elections Operation Center (JEOC) and ended when voter movement began on 13 September (First Polling Day). The main effort during this phase was logistical preparation for elections, specifically the movement of balloting materials in preparation for polling. Supporting tasks included assistance with preparation of polling sites, the maintenance of Voter Routes and Information Campaign activities. These tasks were in addition to the basic GFAP 1A tasks. The purpose of Phase I was simply to shape the environment for upcoming elections, establish presence and conduct necessary coordination between units participating in the election process.
Use of Pre-Election Registration Results by Maneuver Units. Task Forces used the registration results in determining the tasks to troops to position forces for the Municipal Elections. Voter registration results accurately predicted voting patterns and dictated types and locations of polling stations. Assessing these results gave SFOR exact numbers of each class of voter (e.g., displaced persons). Displaced persons were scheduled to cross-Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL), along approved voter routes, and cast their vote at a "999" polling station.
Voter routes were the routes previously approved by the Ministers of Internal Affairs. These routes focused military and local law enforcement resources to ensure voters could safely move from one opstina (an opstina is a geographic area similar to a U.S. county) to another (across the IEBL) and vote in designated polling places. Cross-IEBL movement to 999 polling stations increased the risk to SFOR, Civil Agency personnel, local police, and voters. During the war, thousands of people were forced from their home in various "ethnic cleansing" campaigns by the FWFs. Conflict was possible when people from one faction crossed into an area where they lived before the war to vote and confronted members of another faction living there now.
In one Task Force sector, over 3,000 Bosniacs living on the Federation side of the Brcko municipality were registered to vote on the Serb side of the IEBL. Brcko was assessed as the most contentious area with the greatest potential risk of violence. The Task Force weighted its effort in the Brcko opstina and the voter routes leading into the opstina. The Task Force assumed risk in the other opstinas. In another Task Force sector over 2,100 displaced persons were scheduled to cross the IEBL along three different routes to vote at 999 polling sites. This information prompted the Task Force to weight its effort on the routes and at the Polling Stations within these Opstinas. Both Task Forces weighted their effort based on intelligence derived from voter registration information.
Phase I was by far the longest and most important phase of the operation. This phase shaped the environment for Phase II (Execution). Phase I served as an indicator to the people of the Federation, and the Republic of Srpska, of the level of responsibility SFOR had in their elections. Phase I demonstrated to the Entities Armed Forces the level of professionalism of SFOR soldiers. Active patrolling, vigorous response to incidents, checkpoints, close liaison with all involved parties, and constant vigilance throughout the AOR were key factors in the successful prosecution of Phase I of Operation LIBRA.
Unique logistical requirements were necessary to support Municipal Elections. Phase I was responsible for placing the multitude of logistical requirements into position to conduct the elections - specifically the movement of balloting materials in preparation for polling and the preparation of polling sites.
Joint Live Fire Exercise. SFOR and MND(N) preparation to assist the municipal election process in Bosnia and Herzegovina took many forms. Part of the preparation included a display of firepower on the Barbara Range in Glamoc. Participation from MND(N) included an AH-64 attack company from the operational reserve.
The demonstration followed a Divisional Joint Military Commission (JMC) held 3 September between divisional commanders and high-ranking officers from the Entity Armed Forces (EAF). The commission served to bring all the interested parties together at the same table to discuss military matters such as compliance and de-mining inspections.
SFOR used this JMC to spell out its plans for the election period and their effect on Entity Armies' training and movement. The aim of this was to ensure that local commanders would understand SFOR's intentions clearly, informed as to what they would be expected to do to help SFOR ensure a secure environment for the electoral process. It also stressed that the EAF had no role to play in the on-going political crisis in the Republic of Srpska.
Phase II was the Election Period. This phase started on the First Polling Day (13 September 1997) and ended after the ballots were counted and the results confirmed. The main effort throughout the theater was security. Area security was established throughout the AOR, with a focus on likely areas of conflict: Voter Routes, Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) crossing sites and the anticipated critical opstinas. Supporting tasks included emergency assistance to OSCE and Persons of Designated Special Status (PDSS), and the maintenance of response capabilities across the AOR.
The variety of tasks needed to support municipal elections required the Armored and Mechanized Battalion Task Forces operating within the AOR to be uniquely task-organized to conduct the mission. A typical task organization had eight company-sized maneuver elements. One Task Force Area of Operations included over 250 square kilometers, 11 opstinas and 124 Polling Sites.
Company Teams further task-organized to four vehicle platoons of HMMWVs, M2s, M1A1s or a combination of M2s and HMMWVs. With attached CS and CSS elements, no patrols/platoons numbered over four vehicles and some three vehicle patrols were authorized. Company Teams were routinely responsible for seven maneuver elements. Combat Camera Teams and ADA Avenger vehicles were individually assigned to maneuver platoons to document possible hostile activity directed toward SFOR, provide evidence of tampering or damage to sensitive balloting material, and identification of Persons Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWC). Translators were assigned to the lowest level possible. Translators were invaluable assisting maneuver platoons assigned to oversee polling stations or Traffic Control Points.
Phase III was the Post Election Period and Implementation of the Election Results. This phase started upon the OSCE's confirmation of results and ended on order. The main effort was to maintain a secure environment for installation of elected officials.
The overall threat to SFOR was predicted to be the highest during Phase III of the municipal elections: the post-election phase. Frustration-induced civil disturbances were possible when election results were publicly announced. Nonacceptance of newly elected officials could lead to threats, intimidation, and/or violence. In selected opstinas, seating newly elected officials would be contentious and difficult.
These selected opstinas or "hotspots" were spread throughout the MND(N) AOR. SFOR and MDN(N) requested OSCE phase the announcement of the election results to allow SFOR units to isolate and contain any outbreaks of violence sequentially rather than simultaneously. By dealing with the "hotspots" sequentially, MND(N) was able to apply the "TF Eagle Guidelines for Success," "Isolate, dominate, situational awareness, and multi-echelon/multi-dimensional response."
TASK FORCE EAGLE MANEUVER UNIT SUPPORT TO THE OSCE
The three phases of Operation LIBRA took into account OSCE's phases, but did not mirror them. The OSCE phases related to the mechanics of the electoral process, while the SFOR phases related to the requirements for the security of the environment.
Support to the OSCE was limited to the capabilities of Task Force Eagle and its subordinate units. During the elections and the period prior, commanders were required to balance their assets to allocate prudent force to ongoing GFAP tasks and, at the same time, allocate sufficient forces to support the elections. Support to OSCE relied on extensive liaison efforts at all levels to respond to unforeseen requirements. Voter security was the responsibility of the entities' civil police. Close cooperation with the IPTF and civil police decreased the chances of violence during elections.
OSCE agreed to phase the announcement of election results over a three-day period. However, in the event, it took more than a week to announce all the results. Additionally, OSCE agreed to provide SFOR with a minimum of six hours' notice prior to announcing the results. The dates of the announcement were rescheduled several times due to difficulty counting the ballots. The delay of announcements contributed to the desired effect of phasing the announcements.
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