US Firm Wins Contract to Train
Bosnia’s New Muslim-Croat Army
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (From Press Reports) — A company run by retired U.S. military officers has been awarded a contract to train Bosnia’s new Muslim-Croat army into a force capable of maintaining balance with Bosnian Serb forces. The selection of Military Professional Resources Inc. is "an important step towards developing a small, high-quality army of the Bosnian federation, fully prepared for the defense of its peoples and territories," the Bosnian federation’s president, Kresimir Zubak, said Wednesday.
Under a U.S.-led "equip and train" program funded by Washington, Turkey and Middle Eastern states, the new Muslim-Croat army is to receive U.S. tanks, helicopters, guns and communications equipment worth $98.4 million.
The aim is to create an army capable of holding the balance against the Bosnian Serb force that, backed by Serbia, enjoyed superior firepower during the 43-month Bosnian war. Tasks will include developing military strategy and officer training, making equipment requests, coordinating weapons distribution and developing a central logistics system, Zubak said in a statement.
The company implemented a training program for Croatia’s army, putting a recognizable American stamp on its strategy and style. Based outside Washington, it has several recently retired senior U.S. military commanders on its staff. The selection of the Alexandria firm Military Professional Resources Inc., or MPRI, followed a 17-week competitive bidding process, involving two other American contractors. MPRI has a contract with neighboring Croatia to improve organizational skills of its army officer corps and provide courses in subjects such as leadership development and military ethics. "It was a tough competition," said MPRI Vice President Harry E. Soyster, a retired three-star general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He said the company's first priority would be to "get a team into Bosnia" to check out conditions.
Burns said MPRI's duties would include developing a joint training program for federation armed forces, coordinating distribution of equipment and weapons, and establishing leadership programs for senior federation officers. These responsibilities are significantly broader than MPRI's contract with the Croatian government.
The Dayton agreement permits resumption of imports of heavy weapons into Bosnia starting June 14, in accordance with a formula designed to create a rough military balance between the forces of the federation and the rival Bosnian Serb republic. Small arms deliveries have been permitted since March, but have not yet begun on any significant scale because of the continuing presence of foreign fighters in Bosnia.
Muslim and Croat leaders agreed earlier this month to establish a joint military command, removing a major obstacle to start of the American-led equip-and-train program. U.S. officials say they expect the federation parliament to pass a joint defense law in the next few days.
Selection of a military contractor for the Muslim-Croat federation coincided with appointment by President Clinton of a personal representative to help oversee implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement. Richard Sklar, a construction industry executive and Democratic Party activist, will be responsible for coordinating work of all U.S. civilian agencies involved in reconstruction of Bosnia.
U.S. officials said Sklar's appointment was intended to energize the civilian reconstruction effort, which has been lagging seriously behind the comparatively successful military operation. Sklar, who headed the transition team at the Agency for International Development in early 1993, will be based in Bosnia and report to Carl Bildt, who is in charge of civilian implementation.
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