Command Control and Communications

Neither the HVO nor the ABiH in central Bosnia can be said to have had fully 41 developed, effective command, control, and communications (C3) systems during the 1992-94 conflict. For both sides, C3 was a major problem, particularly with regard to control of criminal and extremist elements and of special operating forces that did not answer through the normal chain of command. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stewart, commander of the British UNPROFOR battalion in the Lasva Valley, stated that the HVO OZCB commander, Col. Tihomir Blaskic, "had effective command and control" because when he "said something, it happened lower down."1 However, it is apparent that Stewart failed to grasp the realities of Colonel Blaskic's C3 difficulties—indeed, of the complexities of C3 in general—so his comments on the matter are superficial at best. This is surprising, as he was a professional military officer who, had he given the matter more than cursory consideration, would have recognized that the chaotic conditions in central Bosnia in 1992-94 were scarcely such as to facilitate effective command and control. Colonel Blaskic may well have been in command, but the real question is: Was he in control? Withal, the questionable definitions of "effective command and control" used by Stewart and others leave a great deal to be desired.

Consistently effective C3 is always difficult to achieve, even in well-trained and well-disciplined armies with good communications facilities and equipment. Given the situation in central Bosnia in 1992-94, however, it was almost impossible to achieve. Among the factors inhibiting the effective exercise of command and control by commanders on either side were the comparative youth of their organizational structures; the heavy reliance on volunteer officers and soldiers; the influence of local political authorities on the selection and dismissal of subordinate commanders; the presence in the area of operations of independent units not in the local chain of command; the chaos attendant upon a desperate defensive war and the resulting growth in common criminality; the presence of UN peacekeepers and European Community monitors; and, above all, poor communications.

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