This Sunday (20 December) NATO marks 20 years since the start of the Alliance’s first peacekeeping operation, the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) which deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 20 December 1995 following the successful negotiation of the Dayton peace accords.
“NATO’s commitment to a stable and secure Bosnia and Herzegovina was enshrined in the Dayton accords 20 years ago and remains intact today. We came to help secure the peace at the end of a horrendous conflict. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very different place. Peaceful, stable and moving towards a better future on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “We seek a Western Balkans where people are able to live as neighbours, in peace and with respect for the rights of all communities.”
The IFOR mission commenced after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 21 November 1995 when a peace agreement was reached at an American air force base in Dayton, Ohio. One month later, on 20 December 1995, troops under the NATO-led IFOR mission were deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina to enforce the agreement. It was NATO’s first land operation outside Alliance territory. At its peak, IFOR was composed of 60,000 troops drawn from Allied and partner countries, including from Russia. IFOR operated under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, deriving its mandate from the UN Security Council.
IFOR’s main task was to keep the peace and separate the armed forces of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. IFOR also oversaw the demarcation of boundary lines and the removal of heavy weapons into approved storage sites. The IFOR operation was replaced in December 1996 by the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which was smaller in size and had a different mandate. In 2004, the European Union took over the stabilisation role.
NATO maintains a headquarters in Sarajevo that provides advice to Bosnia and Herzegovina in defence reform, coordinates partnership activities and supports the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. Bosnia and Herzegovina became a NATO Partner country in 2006 and is an applicant for NATO membership.
L. J. De Rothschild