HC Deb 27 November 1995 vol 267 cc480-1W
Dr. David Clark

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement concerning the further deployment of British troops to the former Yugoslavia as part of the international peace plan. [2446]

Mr. Portillo

Contingency planning for a NATO-led force to help implement a peace agreement on Bosnia is well advanced. Britain will make a significant contribution.

Final decisions on the British contribution, and on the time scale of deployment, cannot be taken yet. They depend on the satisfactory outcome of a number of important issues, including signature of the peace agreement by the parties and equitable burden sharing among our allies. Details of the various national contributions to the force, including those from non-NATO countries, remain under discussion with NATO. The commitment of substantial US ground forces will be a pre-requisite for the involvement of our own forces. NATO plans to withdraw the force within 12 months.

Current planning envisages British forces operating in central and western Bosnia, with the headquarters located at Gornji Vakuf, in our present area of operations. In addition, we plan to contribute our existing sea and air assets in theatre, although we would expect our maritime forces to reduce as the embargoes are lifted.

The NATO operation will be run on the ground by the headquarters of NATO's ACE Rapid Reaction Corps, for which we have the lead alliance responsibility. That means that the United Kingdom will provide the commander, General Sir Michael Walker, and about 60 per cent. of the staff.

On top of that we are considering deploying a divisional headquarters—3 UK Division—and a brigade with armour, infantry and artillery elements, under Headquarters 4 Armoured Brigade, together with a number of supporting units.

The forces will incorporate units from our UN contingent already in Bosnia. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said on 22 November, Official Report, column 667, we expect the total land force contribution to be of the order of 13,000.

Such a force is bound to involve the United Kingdom in greater expense than would have been the cost to us from continuing with our role in UNPROFOR, but those extra costs cannot yet be calculated with accuracy.

Along with the forces from other NATO countries, including the US, it will probably be necessary to pre-position a number of personnel to prepare for the deployment of the main forces who will follow as soon as possible after the final signature of a peace agreement. The notice to move all units which may be involved in the deployment as a whole is being reviewed and will be reduced as necessary.

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