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Bosnia's IFOR and Sri Lankan IPKF

Peace keeping missions and strategies are common occurrences in the world today. This paper looks at two peace keeping missions; Bosnia's IFOR and Sri Lankan IPKF. It introduces the two missions, stating when and why they occurred, and the differences in their operations and results. Later, the paper highlights the strengths of IFOR, which led to its success, in comparison with the weakness of IPKF that contributed to its failures. Lastly, the conclusion summarizes the major points, stating the main factors of these differences.


In response to security and instabilities in many countries, there have been numerous peace operations that have been implemented by various peace bodies such as the United Nations, to help restore and maintain peace in those countries. Amongst the operations is Bosnia’s Implementation Force (IFOR), led by NATO, and the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which was India’s intervention in Sri Lanka during the Civil War. These two operations highlight differences which make peaceful operations successful or unsuccessful. The Indian Intervention, IPKF, failed in accomplishing its mission after three years of Operations in Sri Lanka. Conversely, IFOR was immensely successful in its Bosnian operations. This research paper looks into the two peace interventions, comparing and contrasting them, in order to understand why one of them was successful while another was not.  

It is also important to note, that these two operations took place in different periods and had different involvements. While IPKF took place between 1987 and 1990, and was solely an Indian intervention, IFOR took place from 1995 to 1996, and involved different bodies and countries such as the United States and the United Nations. The difference in time illustrates the less emphasis placed in the use of sophisticated information technology equipments in accomplishing tasks by the fore force. In addition to this, India’s intention in Sri Lanka was to establish itself as a super power. Because of this, it poorly planned its intervention, contributing to its failure. This was unlike IFOR whose major intention was to implement a peace accord. India provides food and weapons for fighting the militants, in attempt of disarming militant groups such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The problem in Bosnia related to inhumane activities and atrocities between Muslims, Croats and Serbs, in what the media referred to as “ethnic rivalries”. This had been in Bosnia for long, however, in 1992, there was devastation in Bosnia after gunmen opened fire, killing several peaceful and unity demonstrators. In addition to the killings, there were other major city destructions such as the Sarajevo library, Ice Rink, the Olympic torch and the Olympic Stadium of 1984. These led to the interventions of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, in order to provide a stable peaceful environment. Once IFOR arrived in Bosnia, it announced that its main objective was to enforce the Dayton Accord compliance, and it would use force if necessary. In response to this, it bulldozed checkpoints, shut down roadblocks and separated the FWF together with their forces. Throughout its operations, IFOR experienced violations, discovered weapons in unauthorized areas, as well as unauthorized police checkpoints.

IFOR was largely involved in military operations, unlike IPKF, which was not largely involved in military activities. The IPKF’s initial intention was to stay away from military activities and instead focus on ending the war between Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Eelam liberation Tigers (LTTE). IPKF was later involved in a series of battles with LTTE. Later in 1989, the IPKF started withdrawing from these battles and by 1990, it had completely withdrawn. IPKF started operations in May 1987, and after three years, it was successful in accomplishing its objectives. Unlike IPKF, IFOR took only one year to successfully complete its peaceful operations in Bosnia. The differences of the two operations indicate that IFOR was well planned, directed and executed. IPKF rarely involved the media in its operations, having only selected briefings to the media, without offering full reports to the publics. Because of the lack of information, it faced problems gaining support from the public, as well as other peacekeeping bodies.  During its attempt to disarm members of LTTE, IPK was accused of committing human rights crimes such as inhumane killings.

In Bosnia, IFOR operated under Operation Joint Endeavour codename for one year. Its basic purpose was the implementation of a military peace agreement; The Bosnia and Herzegovina general peace agreement framework. IFOR was well planned, making it easy to execute and implement.  The Dayton Peace accord had been established after a series of events, including several failed attempts, such as the peace plans led by the European Union, Srebrenica massacre and the Operation Deliberate Force of NATO. Because of this, the planners and implementers of IFOR were well aware of the challenges it would face, what needed to be done, and how to carry out its operations. Their objective was direct and single; the implementation of the peace accord. Through this implementation, IFOR was sure to accomplish its peace missions. IPKF, on the other hand, had an unclear objective. While at first, it had no intention to get involved with the military activities, it later started military battles with the militants. IFOR operations in Bosnia were quite successful as it monitored the previous warring factions and enforced Dayton Peace accord compliance in the country. This success is highly attributed to the importance NATO place on information. 

NATO realized that for the successful accomplishment of its operations would require information campaigns, which would build and preserve public support. In addition to that, information would assist the commander accomplish operational goals through party influence, crises resolutions, correcting misperceptions and defusing misunderstandings. The success of Joint Endeavor lied in its achievement of information dominance, by employing advanced information technology. Unlike in IPKF, Bosnia had media presence, throughout the time IFOR was in the country. The presence of sophisticated and modern information networks made it possible for information to be shared efficiently and fast, enabling operations to be accomplished quickly and efficiently.  The United States, NATO and other IFOR allies and coalition members undertook the challenges of transforming military operations to support the complexities of peace operations. The transformation involved integrating varied military services and systems and commercial systems to create a federal military system. Additionally, the commanders used video conferencing, power point presentations and E-mails to command and control operations.  The Bosnian operation revealed the vital nature of information in successful peace operations. In such operations, media reporting is critical in achieving success or failures. Its information campaigns were based on the republic and commanders’ needs. IFOR was successful in establishing credibility with both local and international media by providing timely, complete and accurate information.

The two peace operations, IFOR and IPKF followed varied routes through conception, operations and implementations, hence having achieved different results. IFOR was successful, because it was well planned, and its involvement with the media and use of modern information systems and techniques. IFOR provided information to the public and the media, hence establishing credibility with both local and international media. In addition to this, IFOR was a joint force of various bodies and countries, with similar visions. Its objectives were clear hence implementation was easy, as compared to IPFK, whose objectives were generalized. IPKF was solely an Indian intervention, with no support from other peacekeeping bodies. Additionally, the intentions of Indian were questionable, as well as its operations in Sri Lanka. In conclusion, it is safe to say that the inclusion of information technology into the IFOR's operations contributed much to its success.

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