Canadian Armed Forces operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The conflict in the Balkans began in 1991 after the dissolution and fragmentation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As the conflict evolved over the next decade, the international community worked to forge stability and democracy in the Balkans through the United Nations (UN) and NATO. The support of the CF was vital to these efforts.

From 1992 to 2010, some 40,000 Canadian military personnel served in the Balkan region, under difficult conditions, on peace support missions designed to protect the lives of civilians and allow for stabilization and reconstruction initiatives. This contribution did not come without a price; 23 CF members lost their lives while deployed in the Balkans.

In accordance with the mandates of UN and NATO missions in the Balkan region over the years, tasks performed by the CF included complex military operations, monitoring de-mining efforts, weapons collection and destruction, monitoring and assisting with elections, and humanitarian assistance.

Canada’s Contribution

Through civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) efforts, hundreds of necessary infrastructure projects were completed in partnership with CF soldiers, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Bosnian communities. These critical projects, such as building rural electrical systems, reconstructing schools and repairing water wells, septic systems, bridges and roads enabled the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to return to their land and homes, re-establish local businesses and rebuild their lives. These CIMIC projects also helped instill within the local population a sense of civic responsibility.

In their personal time, many CF members also volunteered to participate in community projects to improve the quality of life of the local people. In countless ways over the years, hundreds of CF members raised and donated thousands of dollars, and gave their time and skills to improve the lives of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. From donating school supplies, toys and clothing for children to purchasing furnaces, bedding and first aid equipment for orphanages and hospitals, Canadians made notable contributions towards improving quality of life for the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Historical Overview

United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR)

In response to the growing security threat caused by the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the UN Security Council authorized the creation of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in 1992. Its mission was to protect non-combatants and to ensure the security and demilitarization of UN protected areas in Croatia.

UNPROFOR was also responsible for ensuring the security and functioning of the airport at Sarajevo, delivering humanitarian assistance in Sarajevo and throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, protecting convoys of released civilian detainees, monitoring the "no-fly" zone in Bosnia-Herzegovina and monitoring the border areas of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Canada contributed CF members to UNPROFOR and United Nations Peace Forces Headquarters (UNPF) between April 1992 and December 1995 under the names Operation HARMONY and Operation CAVALIER.

The Dayton Accord and the Implementation Force (IFOR)

The General Framework Agreement for Peace, commonly known as the Dayton Peace Accord, was signed in December 1995. To ensure compliance with this agreement, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution which authorized the establishment of a multinational peace implementation force (IFOR). IFOR was sent to maintain cease-fire and inter-entity boundary lines. Its mission was also to foster a secure environment in which civilian organizations could carry out their responsibilities, which included the supervision of elections, the coordination of the return of refugees, economic recovery and monitoring and training of local police.

Canada contributed CF members to IFOR under the name Operation ALLIANCE. This operation had 1,047 personnel in a composite organization that consisted of a Canadian-led Multinational Brigade Headquarters, a reconnaissance squadron, a mechanized infantry company, an engineer squadron, as well as a Canadian National Command Element and National Support Element.

Without the assistance of IFOR, the peace agreements would not have endured, nor would the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accord have been achieved.

Stabilization Force (SFOR)

In December of 1996, when the IFOR phase ended, a stabilization force (SFOR) was created in order to secure the environment for local authorities and international agencies. The troops of SFOR patrolled Bosnia-Herzegovina so that people could go about their daily business without fear. Part of a major international effort to help Bosnia-Herzegovina reshape itself as a democratic European nation, SFOR had a mandate to deter violence and provide the safe, secure environment needed for the consolidation of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its goal was to promote a climate in which the peace process could be sustained without the presence of NATO forces.

Canada's participation in SFOR, conducted under Operation PALLADIUM, began with approximately 1,200 personnel: an infantry battalion group with tactical helicopter support; an armoured reconnaissance squadron; an engineer squadron; an administrative company; a National Support Element; and a National Command Element.

In December of 2003, due to a vast improvement of the security situation in Bosnia, NATO announced the reduction in the number of SFOR troops from 12,000 to 7,000 by June 2004. In keeping with NATO direction, Canada's military participation was similarly reduced to about 650 CF members in April 2004.

European Union Force (EUFOR)

Following its summit meeting in Istanbul on June 28, 2004, NATO announced that its operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be turned over to a European Union Force (EUFOR) by the end of 2004.

During the fall of 2004, SFOR was gradually reduced while EUFOR was built up to replace it. As part of the wider transition process, and in concert with our NATO and European allies, the Canadian contingent in SFOR was reduced in early October 2004 from 650 to less than 85 CF members. This decrease marked the start of Operation BRONZE, the last phase of the CF contribution to SFOR, and the start of Operation BOREAS, Canada’s contribution to EUFOR.

Operation BOREAS was comprised of a CF Liaison and Observation Team (LOT). The primary task of the LOT was to provide information and situational awareness to EUFOR by maintaining close contact with local authorities, including mayors, police forces, border patrols, community leaders and Bosnian Army Units. The LOT also assisted in supporting the rule of law in general, most notably, preventing smuggling and the collecting of illegal weapons for destruction.

As with all international operations, the Government of Canada reviews its commitments abroad on a regular basis. The decision to terminate Operation BOREAS in March 2007 coincided with an overall draw down of EUFOR personnel that took place due to the relative stability in the Balkan region.

NATO Headquarters Sarajevo

While the European Union assumed responsibility for peacekeeping operations when SFOR was brought to a successful end in November 2004, NATO established a headquarters in Sarajevo to assist the country with defence reform.

Under Op BRONZE, Canadian Forces personnel served in various staff positions at NATO Headquarters Sarajevo (NHQSa).

The primary focus of NHQSa is defence reform. NHQSa also undertakes certain operational tasks, including counter-terrorism and support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, with regard to the detention of persons indicted for war crimes, and intelligence sharing with the European Union.

The closure of Op BRONZE occurred on 29 March 2010, after 19 years of CF operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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