Danish peacekeepers leave Bosnia
August 18, 2003
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Just three months after Russian troops left Bosnia, the last Danish soldiers are departing this week, ending their 11 years of peacekeeping in the country.
“Our leadership has been forced to prioritize,” said Lt. Col. Kaare Pedersen, the last commander of the 150-strong Danish contingent. “Low priority has been given to Bosnia.”
Denmark has peacekeepers in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and more will be sent to Iraq.
“More troops in Iraq, committed to Iraq, is the reason why it is absolutely necessary to pull out of Bosnia,” Pedersen said.
About 200 Danish troops started their peacekeeping in 1993 with the United Nations during the war in Bosnia. Their numbers increased to almost 800 troops when the NATO-led peacekeeping operation started in late 1995. The number gradually came down to 350 by the end of 2002.
Through the years, the Danish force moved from the region around Tuzla to Nordic-Polish-run camp in Doboj, and back to Tuzla, stationed at the nearby American-run Eagle Base.
Despite his country withdrawing and improved security situation in Bosnia, Pedersen believes the mission is not over yet.
“Bosnia needs and deserves that we continue to provide some presence,” Pedersen said. “The Americans will have to do a big job with the same amount of resources.”
Departure of three nations’ militaries — Russian, Finnish and Danish — leaves American troops working in the Multinational Brigade North with a much greater responsibility, said Maj. Jeff Coverdale, spokesman for Multinational Brigade North.
“We are covering more area than we were tasked when we originally got here,” Coverdale said.
But the transition has been smooth, he said.
“This reduction has not caught us off-guard,” Coverdale said.
He explained that American troops have been making plans to cover the areas patrolled by Russian, Finnish and Danish troops since the departures were first announced.
The new situation has made American commanders look into the needs of different towns of villages for Stabilization Force patrols.
Some need more than others, and in some the local police do a good job of providing security, Coverdale said.
“When they’re doing the job, that means that we don’t have to double the presence,” he said. “Their presence in the area may be sufficient.”
The departing Danish troops are well known for organizing 30 kilometer marches that became popular with many different nations, especially Americans.
They were also the last nation providing tanks to MNB North.
“The withdrawal of the tanks can be assessed as a reasonable step, since the security situation in Bosnia no longer calls for such a heavy force on a day-to-day basis,” Pedersen said. “However there is also little doubt, that the tanks provided a very reasonable reserve force.”
American troops still have significant power with Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache helicopters, Coverdale said.