This month, the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina successfully concluded its mission. For nine years, troops from NATO provided a safe environment to implement the 1995 Dayton Accords. The accords, signed by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, and Yugoslavia, resulted in an end to the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The parties also pledged to respect each other's sovereignty and agreed to settle disputes by peaceful means. More than five-hundred-thousand soldiers from more than forty countries, including the U.S., served in Bosnia and Herzegovina without a single one being lost to hostile action. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that while the work of the stabilization force is over, the U.S. and NATO are not leaving the area:
"New NATO headquarters in Sarajevo, working in close cooperation with the European Union, will continue to work, take up the challenge of defense reform, apprehending indicted war criminals, and working with local authorities to combat terrorism. So this marks a transition -- the end of one mission and the beginning of another mission by the European Union to help the Bosnia and Herzegovina government and the people of the nation to complete their reforms to bring themselves closer to Europe."
And as Secretary of State Colin Powell said in his remarks on December 2, 2004, “These new arrangements, by harnessing the energies of both NATO and the E-U in support of local efforts, will help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina achieve their goal of Euro-Atlantic integration.”
The European Union has offered to lead a new stabilization mission in Bosnia, Operation Althea, to provide security as the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina complete reconstruction of their country and build a long-term future in Europe.
As the European Union undertakes this new mission, says State Department spokesman Boucher, the U.S. "will support it." The E-U mission will operate with support from NATO under a framework known as the Berlin Plus arrangements.
The U.S. believes the successful end of the NATO-led stabilization force is a major event for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and shows how far they have come in building a lasting, peaceful, multi-ethnic future.