Peace Support Operations, Disengagement of Forces

Supervising the Disengagement of Forces During
Peace Support Operations

An Example From Former Jugoslavia

By Lieutenant Colonel JP Riley

Disengagement of Forces - Peace Support Operations

1. The subject of Peace Support Operations is a wide one and is currently attracting much attention. What is already clear is that in situations of conflict but short of war - where conflict may be intra¬state but war is always inter-state (1) - there exists a growing variety of operations which require the deployment of military forces, probably multinational, in support of UN Resolutions. These operations will be covered by both Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN Charter and thus will embrace both the violent and non-violent use of military forces.

2. This short paper, which was originally delivered to the Strategic and Combat Studies Institute and the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London in June 1993, describes a specific example of one such military operation, supervising the disengagement of rival coiabattant forces-. The example chosen is the withdrawal of the Jugoslav Army (JA) from the Dubrovnik area of Croatia in October 1992, a situation in which the consent of both parties had been obtained.


3. By the end of 1991, the City of Dubrovnik had been besieged and bombarded for months from the surrounding area which was firmly under the control of the Podgorica Corps of the JA. Some respite was gained when the Ceasefire of January 2nd 1992 came into force between Serbs and Croats and this was later supplemented by local agreements. However when, under the terms of this ceasefire, the JA withdrew its forces from Croatia in May 1992, it remained in possession of the area of Konavli, south west of Dubrovnik. It did so because of two separate but related factors: the Prevlaka Peninsula and the situation in East Hercegovina.

map 14. A glance at the map shows that the Prevlaka Peninsula dominates the entrance to Kotor Bay in Montenegro, the main - indeed only - base of the Jugoslav Navy. The peninsula was disputed territory which was not going to be released by the JA without at least a political directive from Belgrade and the guaranteed demilitarisation of the area. An attempt was made to break the deadlock on HMS Avenger in July 1992, when an eight-day withdrawal programme was brokered by the EC Monitor Mission (ECMM), a regional organisation operating under the authority of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, (2) and the UN. However, no start date was agreed. As summer turned to autumn, Croatia began to show* increasing frustration but there was still further political activity needed. (Map 1).

5. This issue was clouded by fighting north of Dubrovnik in Hercegovina, where Bosnian Croats of the HVO were battling with the Bosnian Serb Hercegovina Corps (HK). A JA withdrawal from Konavli would, reasoned the Serbs, open up the southern flank of the HK to a Croatian attack towards the town of Trebinje. Disputes over prisoners further clouded the issue.

map 26. Matters almost came to a head on 23 September 1992 when the Croatian Commander, the veteran General Janko Bobetko, threatened to attack the Serbs - a move which would have brought disaster to the region. Major General David Cranston, commander of the British contingent to the ECMM, or Operation OXLIP, made several visits to the area to mediate with both Bobetko and the JA local commander, General Demjanovic. At a higher level, the problem was referred to the standing Peace Conference in Geneva. Here, in October, a deal was brokered shortly before the expulsion of Jugoslavia from the UN. All JA forces would withdraw from Konavli by 20 October 1992; Prevlaka would be demilitarised and monitored by UN Military Observers (UNMOs) in what was known as the Blue Zone; and a five-kilometre strip of territory either side of the international border, known as the Yellow Zone, would also be demilitarised and monitored by EC Observers (Map 2).

Planning and Executing the Operation

7. The disengagement monitoring operation was planned as a joint ECMM/UNMO operation from the start, sharing equipment, manpower and knowledge, and operating under a unified command and control system. The planning sequence followed^ the well-worn path of mission analysis and estimate, leading to a plan. This was largely based on an assessment of the contending parties, whose outline strengths and dispositions are shown on Map 3.

map 38. The mission given to his observers by General Cranston was "To monitor the withdrawal of both JA and Croatian Army (CA) forces from the Dubrovnik municipality in order to verify the demilitarisation of the area." The operation was planned in three quite distinct phases, each phase a necessary precursor to the next. These were:

a.   Phase 1. Pre-withdrawal actions and preparations.

b.   Phase 2. Monitoring the withdrawal.

c.   Phase 3. Subsequent Activities including continued observation of the demilitarised areas.

9. Twelve Observer teams were tasked, each team comprising two or three observers, a driver and an interpreter. The teams were deployed as follows: 1 to Cilipi airport; 2 to CA brigades; 1 to the CA tank battalion; 4 to JA formations; 2 mobile on the JA side. Each team was equipped with an FFR Landrover or equivalent, with communications which included VHF and telephone for local and cross-front line communications between teams; and HF and Satellite for longer range communications. The operation was controlled on the ground from a CP in Dubrovnik.

10. In Phase 1, the estimate identified the following tasks:

a.   Assembly or redeployment of teams, vehicles and equipment.

b.   Drawing up a census of CA and JA units and equipment from lists provided by the parties and checked by the Observers, in order to verify withdrawals on the ground.

c.   Liaison with local commanders and the establishment of security and safety measures for Observers.

d.   Establishing contact with the HVO and HK in order to negotiate a ceasefire. This important, implied, task emerged as vital in order to prevent these forces interfering with the withdrawal.

e.   Establishing Command and Control arrangements.

f.   Estimating the condition of Cilipi airport.

11. In Phase 2, the following tasks were identified:

a.   Monitoring and reporting the withdrawal and recording collateral damage.

b.   Obtaining JA minefield maps and passing these to the CA for subsequent clearance action.

c.   Monitoring any ceasefire agreed between the HVO and the HK, reporting and protesting any violations.

d.   Confirming and reporting on the completion of the withdrawal.

12. In Phase 3, tasks were:

a.   Assisting in the controlled re-entry of refugees and displaced persons. This eventually included acting as the" local mayor, council and police until the Croatian authorities resumed control.

b.   Monitoring and reporting the continuation of the demilitarisation agreements and protesting violations. This task still continues.

13. The operation was successfully carried out and all went well until the day after the completion of the withdrawal, when CA units of the 1st Brigade moved into;the Cavtat area in strength and launched an immediate attack northwards Onto the HK in an attempt to push The HK back from the high ground overlooking the Dalmatian coast. The only result of this act of aggression was to impede the possibility of future cease-fires, and bring Bosnian Serb artillery fire onto the coastal towns and villages of Dalmatia.

Problems and Solutions

14. What then were the main problems encountered in this operation, and how were they solved? This will be examined at the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels.

15. At the Strategic level, the problems were in defining the desired end state; framing a suitable mandate for the monitoring force; and obtaining the consent of the Parties in the conflict. These problems had to be resolved at the correct level, which they were, in Geneva. The inducements offered to the Jugoslavs to withdraw are not public knowledge, but clearly must have recognised their concerns over access to Kotor along with the need to put in place adequate arrangements to ensure its demilitarisation. It is possible that some side deal was struck between Croatia and Jugoslavia involving the Croatian withdrawal from Bosanska Posavina, which took place at this time, but this is speculation. Thus the Mandate given to the Observers was one of observing and reporting on an agreement being implemented by the two Parties. No enforcement was possible or necessary.

16. At the Operational level, a number of concerns had to be addressed. There was clearly a need for unified command and control, and this has been addressed. Also mentioned earlier was the need for reliable, theatre-wide communications which was solved by the purchase of commercial equipment, supplemented by some military radio. The consent of the Parties had been obtained at the Strategic level, but this still had to be negotiated at the Operational level. Information was always a difficulty and was never solved. Information could only be obtained through direct observation on the ground since there was no access available to national intelligence gathering assets. This may not always be so in similar circumstances - indeed it should not be so. Public Relations and Public Information was similarly a problem, since there was always a danger that the disengagement would be portrayed in the Media as a Croat victory, thus endangering the neutral status of the Observers. This problem was never satisfactorily solved, but clearly a PR/PInfo Staff is required in these circumstances to support the Operational Commander. Finally the identification of tactical tasks and the sequencing of the operation were solved by the application of the standard techniques of mission analysis and the estimate process by the Commander and his G2/G3 Staff.

17. At the tactical level, the need for unified command and control has been stressed, as has the provision of reliable cross-front line communications. The deficiencies in information and PR/PInfo also apply here. Lastly at the tactical level, it was a feature of the Mandate that the Observers had no "teeth" - they could do nothing to enforce the agreement, merely observe and report. This was determined at the Strategic level where the needs of each individual case of this kind must be determined.


18. This disengagement monitoring operation was a success. No tactical doctrine and little experience existed to help in framing the plan, which was therefore done from first principles using the tools of mission command. It did, however, obey - and validate - the principles identified from previous peacekeeping missions: Consent, Non - interference, Impartiality, Non use of force except in self defence, Support of the Security Council, and Delegation of responsibility for the operation to the correct level of command. (3)   (4)


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