Organization of the Army of Bosnia Herzegovina

The Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina began its existence in March, 1992, without an effective national armed force to protect its fragile independence. The Bosnian Croat community, which had long recognized the threat posed by Bosnian Serb ambitions, reacted by forming the Croatian Defense Council, the military wing of which was established officially in May, 1992. Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim political leadership, on the other hand, had been slow to recognize the threat. As a consequence, the Bosnian Muslim community generally lagged behind the Bosnian Croat community in the creation of defense forces. Given the RBiH government's reluctance to act, the lead in organizing the Bosnia Muslims for defense was taken by private citizens and Muslim-led "patriotic" organizations. Muslim activists had gained control of the existing Territorial Defense organization in many localities and used the TO structure as the framework for the creation of a national army. Beginning in mid-1991, the Muslim-led Patriotic League of Bosnia-Herzegovina had raised, organized, and equipped a considerable armed force to provide the manpower and matériel to augment the TO organization. Although the Muslims had far greater manpower resources, they initially tended to be less well armed, less well led, and less effective as a military force on a man-to-man basis than either the BSA or the HVO, but they improved substantially in all areas by January, 1993.

The Creation of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina

By the time Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence on March 3, 1992, the Izetbegovic government had begun to realize that there was a real threat to the new Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina posed by the JNA's six corps and the eighty thousand to 120,000 men in the paramilitary forces of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), the main Bosnian Serb political party.44 On April 8, 1992, the same day the HVO was formed, the presidency of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared that a "state of imminent threat of war" existed and moved to create a new Territorial Defense organization based on district staffs and to incorporate the armed forces of various groups such as the Patriotic League into the formal defense structure.45 The ABiH's first units were established by the RBiH presidency on May 27, 1992, and included thirteen infantry brigades, twelve separate platoons, one military police battalion, one engineer battalion, and a presidential escort company.46 The structure of the newly formed ABiH was based primarily on the old JNA TO organization, which grouped the forces of several municipalities together in Territorial Defense districts.47 In January, 1991, the JNA had ordered the disbandment of all TO units in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Alija Izetbegovic, the president of Bosnia-Herzegovina (then still a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), complied, allowing the JNA to disarm the TO units and redistribute their weapons to the Bosnian Serbs.48 However, Bosnian Croat and Muslim patriots in many municipalities ignored the order to disband their TO units and successfully took over the existing TO structure, its facilities, and many of its weapons.

Initially, Bosnia-Herzegovina's TO forces included both Croats and Muslims, but as the RBiH government began to emphasize its Islamic character, Croat members left to join the HVO or were expelled. For example, Ivica Zeko, who later served as the intelligence officer of the HVO OZCB, left the TO organization in Travnik when it became apparent that only Muslim members would receive promotions and positions of responsibility.49

In any event, the organization did not lack for manpower. The Muslimdominated Territorial Defense forces operated under the laws and regulations that had governed the TO of the former Yugoslavia and were generally tied to the location in which they were recruited. However, the influx of Muslim refugees from eastern Bosnia and the Bosanska-Krajina region at the end of 1992 provided large numbers of well-motivated military age men to fill out the TO force and to create new mobile units suitable for offensive operations.

The military forces organized by the Muslim-dominated Patriotic League played an important role in the RBiH's early defense against BSA aggression and in the creation of the ABiH. In June, 1991, Bosnian Muslims formed the National Defense Council to prepare the Muslim community to defend itself against the actions of the Bosnian Serbs, and in September, Sefer Halilovic, a former JNA officer, began to organize a secret armed force, the Patriotic League, to "defend Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Muslim people," and the following month, the Patriotic League in the Sarajevo area established a regional military headquarters, logistical facilities, and mobile, static, and special purpose units.50 Following a meeting on December 2 in conjunction with the First Congress of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA, the dominant Bosnian Muslim political party), Alija Izetbegovic ordered Halilovic to expand the Patriotic League throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina.51 The Patriotic League subsequently established a military council in the village of Mehurici near Travnik, developed a plan for the league's regional military headquarters, assigned tasks to the regional military staffs, and prepared a defense plan entitled "Directives for the Defense of the Sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina."52 The Patriotic League's main headquarters eventually controlled nine regional military headquarters, 103 municipal military headquarters, and a large number of static (local defense), mobile, and special purpose units—a total of some 120,000 men.53

By the beginning of August, 1992, the ABiH had grown to 170,000 men in twenty-eight brigades, sixteen independent battalions, one armored battalion, and two artillery divisions, plus 138 other units.54 Formed by the integration of the existing Patriotic League and Territorial Defense forces, the ABiH was augmented by a number of Muslim paramilitary groups such as the so-called Muslim Armed Forces (MOS) and the "Green Berets," as well as by a large number of fundamentalist Muslim fighters, the mujahideen, from throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, who had been invited into the country by Alija Izetbegovic. In addition, after their mobilization in April, 1992, the ABiH was augmented by Ministry of the Interior police forces (MUP), which had some seventy thousand men scattered throughout the country but mostly concentrated in the Sarajevo area.55 The Muslim-led MUP was armed mainly with small arms and had few vehicles but was generally well equipped and well trained.

ABiH Corps Organization

On August 18, 1992, the existing RBiH Territorial Defense districts were transformed into five ABiH corps areas.56 At the same time, the various Dis trict Defense Headquarters were subordinated to the new corps headquarters as follows: Sarajevo to I Corps; Doboj and Tuzla to II Corps; Banja Luka and Zenica to III Corps; Mostar to IV Corps; and Bihac to V Corps. Although the presidential decision directing the formation of the ABiH corps was issued on August 18, it was some time before the decision could be put into effect. The ABiH III Corps with headquarters at Zenica, for example, was not formally organized until December 1, 1992. The ABiH subsequently created two additional corps in the second half of 1993: VI Corps, headquartered at Konjic (responsible for the municipalities of Igman, Jablanica, Visoko, and Kalinovik), and VII Corps, headquartered in Travnik.57 All seven ABiH corps headquarters are shown in Figure 2-4.

The corps was the ABiH's basic administrative unit and corresponded in function to the HVO Operative Zone even though the ABiH corps had more manpower and a larger area of responsibility. For example, the HVO OZCB controlled approximately eight thousand men whereas the ABiH III Corps controlled as many as eighty thousand. Moreover, the ABiH III Corps area of responsibility overlapped that of the HVO OZCB. The northern boundary of both was roughly the same, but the III Corps area extended farther south to include Bugojno, Gornji Vakuf, and Kupres. The ABiH corps had a varying number of assigned tactical brigades and supporting artillery, engineer, signal, and logistical troops as well as other forces, such as MUP, that were attached to, or under the operational control (OPCON) of, the corps headquarters.

ABiH Operational Groups

Toward the end of 1992, the ABiH corps began to group their brigades to form Operational Groups (OG) in much the same way as the HVO had done. However, unlike the HVO OG, which were semipermanent organizations with a fixed geographical base, the ABiH OG were temporary organizations designed to facilitate the conduct of operations and command and control in combat. They were formed as required for specific operational situations, and their composition and strength varied depending on the mission. Normally, brigades and other units were assigned in their entirety to a given OG, but individual battalions could be attached to an OG while its parent brigade remained in position, and units from the various corps might be cross attached for duty in a given OG. In essence, the ABiH OGs were small divisional task forces, and the number and size of the Operational Groups in existence at any given time varied with the situation.

In March, 1993, Enver Hadzihasanovic, commander of the ABiH III Corps, directed the reorganization of the brigades assigned to the corps into four Operational Groups, noting that in order "to strengthen all defence structures . . . new organizational modes should be adopted."58 The missions assigned the four new OGs are uncertain, but based on their positioning and subsequent utilization it would appear that OG Bosanska-Krajina, headquartered in Travnik, was oriented primarily toward the BSA threat in the Turbe-Travnik area; OG Zapad (West), headquartered at Bugojno, was

Fig. 2-4. ABiH Corps Headquarters and Commanders

Fig. 2-4. ABiH Corps Headquarters and Commanders

Ivica Koricic
Sources: Based on Sefer Halilovic, Lukavastrategija, 14.The strength and number of brigades is for the period before the creation of the VI and VII Corps and is based on International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1993-1994, 74-75.

oriented toward the BSA threat from the west-southwest; and OG Bosna, headquartered in Zavidovici, was oriented toward the BSA threat in the Maglaj salient. Operational Group Lasva, headquartered at Kakanj, appears to have been oriented principally toward the Bosnian Croat enclaves in the Lasva-Lepenica Valleys (Vitez, Busovaca, and Kiseljak).

The composition of the four III Corps OGs created in March, 1993, as well as the corps support units and those brigades retained under the direct control of III Corps headquarters are shown in Figure 2-5.

ABiH Brigades

The Territorial Defense detachments in the various municipalities developed into brigades in the fall of 1992. Thereafter, the brigades constantly evolved as more men and material became available. After the fall of Jajce in October, 1992, the ABiH was able to use Muslim refugees to fill out existing units and to form a number of new brigades that were not tied to a specific locality and that could be deployed as desired. As in the HVO, the brigade was the ABiH's principal tactical unit, and each was organized with three or four infantry battalions and some supporting forces. Most ABiH brigades in the III Corps area (central Bosnia) were organized as so-called mountain infantry brigades, the model for which was the JNA's partisan

Fig. 2-5.ABiH III Corps Organization

Fig. 2-5.ABiH III Corps Organization

Vojna Policija Hvo

Note: Data is as of July 20,1993, unless otherwise noted.

Sources: HQ,BHC, UNPROFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina Warring Factions, 6th ed.; 1 PWO, "Order of Battle for HVO Operative Zone Central Bosnia" (hand drawn), n.d. (ca. July, 1993), B 378.

38 The Muslim-Croat Civil War in Central Bosnia Fig. 2-6. Typical ABiH Mountain Brigade Organization

Roundhead Cavalry Diagram
5ource:This diagram is based on the organization of the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade, an elite unit. However, its general organization was representative of other ABiH brigades. 5ee Col.Asim Koricic, Blaskic trial testimony, June 10,1999.

battalion. Figure 2-6 shows the organization of a typical ABiH mountain brigade. A few were also designated light infantry brigades, and as time went on the III Corps reorganized several of its mountain brigades as motorized brigades and the light infantry brigades became mountain brigades. The 301st Mechanized Brigade was essentially an armor formation, although it boasted only six tanks.

As was the case with the HVO brigades, the ABiH brigades were perpetually understrength: at the end of 1993 there were an estimated fifteen hundred men per brigade in III Corps.59 First-line ABiH forces (the brigades) were supplemented by Territorial Defense (militia) units in the various Muslim villages and towns.

Reorganization of the ABiH

On April 24, 1993, the ABiH General Staff proposed a number of organizational changes aimed at improving the efficiency of leadership and operations, but more than two months passed before the issues were discussed in the RBiH presidency.60 On June 2, 1993, Izetbegovic placed before the presidency an alternative plan for reorganizing the ABiH that aroused strong opposition from Halilovic and other members of the General Staff.61 The plan proposed to establish ranks in the ABiH beginning with the appointment of general officers and colonels as brigade commanders; instituted the extraconstitutional post of commander of the General Staff and appointed to that position Gen. Rasim Delic with Stjepan Siber and Jovan Divjak as deputy commanders while retaining General Halilovic, without defining his duties, as chief of the General Staff; reduced the size of the General Staff and the headquarters of corps and brigades substantially; created the VI Corps, to be commanded by Col. Selko Gusic, with its headquarters at Kon-jic and responsible for the area of Igman, Jablanica, Visoko, and Kalinovik; and set up two commissions to deal with lifting the blockade of Sarajevo. Halilovic objected strongly, but the proposal went forward nonetheless.62

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