The Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Miladin Milojčić, told us about the fifth birthday of the Armed Forces of BiH, NATO membership, experiences gained in regional and global cooperation and priorities in 2010.

{gallery}newsletters/16/2{/gallery}AI: What is the current situation of the Armed Forces of BiH?

MILOJČIĆ:  The Armed Forces of BiH marked its fifth birthday better prepared than it used to be when it comes to fulfilling tasks as defined by law. 2010 was marked by participation in the ISAF operation with our infantry unit, the implementation of PARP and IPP tasks, activities related to the “Survey of Defense” and “Plan of Modernization,” implementation of the concept of operational capabilities, maintenance of capabilities through trainings and the recruitment of soldiers in the PVS, the solving of the excess ammunition problem, MiMES, preparations for the 51st world military championship in winter sports and the provision of support to civil authorities as related to flood, fire and demining aid. 

Most of the activities mentioned will remain priorities in 2011. Sustainable participation in the ISAF mission and further engagement of instructors will be among the first priorities this year. Maintenance of our operative capacities through training and recruitment of soldiers in the PVS represents a continuous process which serves to introduce young personnel to the Armed Forces of BiH. 

AI: Where are we on the road to full membership in NATO?

MILOJČIĆ: Full membership in NATO is a goal which can be reached by fulfilling tasks in all the state institutions. The Armed Forces of BiH is one of the institutions which has demonstrated a willingness to work as an equal with allies and partners through the PARP, IPP, concept OCC, and participation in operations of supporting peace.  We have also filled positions in the NATO Command and HQ. We believe that the aforementioned activities of the Armed Forces of BiH led to the conditional invitation of BiH to MAP on April 22, 2010.

NATO offered our country the Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the April meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn, which is considered to be one step prior to NATO admission. However, the condition which first must be fulfilled is the registering of perspective military property as state property, which I expect the new Council of Ministers of BiH will do. This would be seen as meeting the last criterion for joining the first annual cycle of MAP. In order for BiH to join NATO, it has to reach a consensus on many important factors, but all important players agree that BiH has a Euro-Atlantic future. Opinions vary on how certain things should be settled or organized, and which direction should be taken. One practical obstacle is that the country has not been fully reconstructed, especially in economic terms.  However, this reconstruction also applies to our spirit, international and social relations and the establishment of state institutions. This means that the dynamics of our joining NATO depend on us.

AI: What is the level of international cooperation, especially with countries in the region, and what are priorities?

MILOJČIĆ: Cooperation with countries in the region is very intensive in all fields, including bilateral military cooperation.  This marks a positive trend which was particularly visible in 2010.  The quality and results of regional cooperation gain in importance if we keep in mind developments in the Western Balkan region which marked the last decade of the previous century. There is almost no issue in regional bilateral military cooperation which cannot be openly discussed and about which experiences cannot be exchanged. One of the priorities at the moment is the organization of bilateral and multilateral talks between representatives of the countries in the region regarding possible joint participation of their instructors in the ISAF mission.

According to annual plans, bilateral cooperation is planned with 19 countries, and is realized with approximately 30 countries globally. This trend has been maintained for the past three years. Cooperation is conducted through various forms of education, military expert trainings, exchange of experiences, visits to military schools and training centers, exchange of students and officers and financial support to various projects. There will certainly be a decrease in intensity in bilateral cooperation in 2011 due to the consequences of the recession. Significant efforts are being invested in decreasing plans for bilateral cooperation in 2011.

Bilateral cooperation in 2009 was planned with 22 countries (Austriа, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA). 263 activities were planned, of which 147 or 55.89% took place outside of BiH, and 116 or 44.11% inside BiH. On average, 8 activities per country were planned. The level of realization of bilateral activities is somewhat smaller than anticipated. This realization includes 31 countries, in which an additional 10 countries are incorporated (Albаniа, Czech Republic, Chile, Egypt, India, Italy, Lithuania, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain).

In total, 234 events or activities were organized: 130 or 55.56% outside BiH and 104 or 44.44% inside BiH. The total realization level is 88.97%. On average, 7 activities per state were realized. Implementation of these activities included 2,767 participants, of which 1,121 or 40.51% were not from BiH and 1,644 or 59.49% were from BiH. There were an average 12 participants per event. The countries included in intensive bilateral cooperation are: the USA, Austriа, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Denmark, Serbia and Turkey. When it comes to the USA, only the Mil to Mil Program is being taken into consideration. In addition to this, within BiH, Foreign Military Funding and Internаtionаl Militаry Educаtion аnd Trаining progrаms are being implemented.

Regional cooperation in defense, with all its mechanisms of cooperation, primarily enhances and takes our overall security and stability to a higher level. In this respect, the importance of regional cooperation is highlighted, both for BiH and the region, and ever further afield. This is exactly why BiH participates actively in numerous regional initiatives, as either a full member or observer.

Since we sincerely appreciate the help and support received through regional cooperation activities, we plan to continue to participate in almost all regional forums and initiatives.  We expect they will help us on our path towards reaching our strategic goals.

Bearing in mind that strategic goals for BiH include full membership in NATO and the EU, we are determined in our intention to continue implementing activities of modernization and the updating of our entire defense system. In further reforms, we are putting special focus on restructuring and modernizing the Armed Forces of BiH with the aim of reaching certain standards, capacities and quality which will be recognized, and which will contribute to our becoming a full NATO member.

Some of these regional forums and initiatives include:

1. American-Adriatic Charter A-5
2. SEDM – South-East Europe Defense Ministers Forum
3. SEECP Clearinghouse – South-East Europe Cooperation Process
4. Other regional initiatives
4.1. Regional Cooperation Council – PCC
4.2. South-East Europe Cooperation Process – SEECP
4.3. Group for Security Cooperation in South-East Europe – SEEGROUP
4.4. Center for Security Cooperation – RACVIAC

Besides those mentioned above, the BiH Ministry of Defense is also participating in the implementation of the Agreement on Sub-regional Arms Control.

AI: Can you please comment on the participation of the Armed Forces of BiH in the peace support mission in Afghanistan?

MILOJČIĆ: Since September 2009, the Armed Forces of BiH has been participating in the ISAF mission with ten officers, of which eight are in RC North, and two in RC South. In October 2010, the Armed Forces of BiH extended its participation in ISAF, sending a 45-member infantry unit. The Armed Forces of BiH is currently considering sending more troops from various units to provide support to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan (instructors for training of members of ANA). There have not been any problems in the work and engagement of the members of the Armed Forces of BiH so far. They have been awarded on multiple occasions for their results by the coalition forces command in Afghanistan.