US Military Aid Program In Bosnia Hailed As Success

By Beth Kampschror | July 7, 2008 | 8:12pm EDT

Sarajevo (CNSNews.com) - A U.S. program to aid the military in Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation has ended, and officials here are saying it has been successful.

The Train and Equip program helped to create stability in the region and made the Federation's military more NATO-compatible, said a U.S. government official, speaking on background. The official added that U.S. policy was now to aid the country at the state level.

Bosnia's 1992-95 war left the country in a unique situation - one country with two armies.

The Dayton agreement that ended the war divided Bosnia into the Federation and a Serb republic, each with their own police and militaries. The Serb republic is not eligible for U.S. military aid, however, because of its poor record on turning over war crimes suspects to the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

The six-year, $500 million Train and Equip program ended last month.

Since August 1996, the U.S. has financed training at a fighting simulation center using U.S. software, courses at a professional development center, and training in telecommunications, artillery and flight.

Program manager Dzemal Najetovic praised the training.

"We accomplished 2,800 hours of flying without even one accident - not even one," he said. "That's a first-class result."

The U.S. has also donated 45 battle tanks, 85 armored personnel carriers, 15 helicopters and 116 howitzers to the Federation since 1996. American forces were no longer using the equipment because of the equipment's age.

"It's known in the NATO pact that America is the strongest country, and our military equipment is of American origin," Najetovic said. "It's not the most modern, but it works."

Now that the program is over, he said he did not see any major changes for the Federation military in the immediate future.

Earlier this year 10,000 soldiers were demobilized, but Najetovic said he did not envisage any future reductions on that scale.

The next step was to move towards creating a state-level military, and joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program, he said.

That is precisely what the U.S. is looking for, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"With completion of the Federation Train and Equip program, the U.S. has already begun taking steps to help Bosnia develop a national-level defense establishment and capabilities that will meet NATO's requirements for eventual membership in the Partnership for Peace," he said in a recent statement.

Twenty-seven European and Central Asian countries are currently in the program, and three others - Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - moved from partnership to NATO membership in 1999.

NATO is expected to offer membership to seven other former communist countries - including Bosnia's former Balkan partner, Slovenia - at a summit this week in Prague.

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