Operation Joint Guard
The mandate of NATO's Implementation Force expired in December 1996. IFOR was replaced by SFOR, also a NATO-led force. Based on the guidance received in mid-November 1996 from the North Atlantic Council — NATO's political arm — military planners at SHAPE headquarters were instructed to put together a new mission with approximately 30,000 troops to start, and approximately 13,500 troops at the end of 1997. This is significantly less than IFOR's 60,000 troops at its peak. SFOR included approximately 8,500 US troops, after US president Clinton announced he is willing to keep some US troops in Bosnia through June 1998.
The 16 NATO ambassadors had difficulty establishing agreement on the duration of SFOR's mandate. The US was in favor of an 18 month mandate, with considerably reduced military power. Other countries disagreed.
A draft plan was made and offered during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council mid-December 1996. The NATO Defense ministers approved the operational plan, called Operation Joint Guard, for execution.
Some of the primary objectives of SFOR were:
- the prevention of a resumption of fighting;
- to help civil organizations rebuild the war-torn country and;
- provide security for next year's local elections.
The US minister of defense, William Perry, stated that SFOR could not guarantee Bosnia's peace and stability. "That will be the task of the Bosnian government" (NRC Handelsblad, November 28, 1996).
Some military officials feared that the Implementation Force was scaled down too rapidly. One of the contributing factors might have been the fact that US president Clinton promised that IFOR's mission would end in December 1996, within one year, as promised. He could also claim SFOR was a new, different mission.