by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas K. Adams, US Army,
NATO forces used low-intensity nuclear
when they conducted air strikes on Serb positions
around Sarajevo, Gorazde and Majevica in 1995.
Serb anti-NATO propaganda broadcast, September 1997
The lions share of attention within the special
operations forces (SOF) community often goes to SOFs commando-like
aspectsraids, rescues and the like. However, SOF in Bosnia have
found little scope for these activities. Instead, the less glamorous
psychological operations (PSYOP) efforts have often taken the lead and,
in so doing, may be pointing the way to the future of special operations.
The summer and fall of 1997 brought an increasingly
acrimonious power struggle between opposing political leaders in the
Republika Srpska (RS). When a faction led by anti-NATO hard-liners began
inflammatory broadcasts attacking the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR)
and the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), it became
necessary to counter these broadcasts with factual information. SFOR
and its American-led component, Multi-National Division (North) [MND
(N)], conducted PSYOP to promote peace using US Air Force EC-130E Commando
Solo broadcast aircraft and information leaflets developed by US
Army civil affairs and PSYOP personnel.
As in most areas where operations other
than war (OOTW) occur, there were few public communication means in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, including both the federation and the RS. News
magazines were non-existent and newspapers were few, expensive and
had limited circulation. Thus, broadcast media were extremely influential,
especially the small number of television transmitters still functioning.
This became important when a factional dispute threatened to destabilize
the elected RS government. One faction, supporting former Serbian leader
and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, began using the limited
television facilities to oppose the GFAP, NATO and the elected government.
The broadcasts, for example, routinely referred to Bosnias Muslim
leader as "Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim murderer."1
The Commando Solo Airborne Broadcast Platform
The EC-130E could perform airborne psychological broadcast
missions in the standard AM, FM, high frequency, television (TV) and
military communication bands. Missions were flown at maximum altitudes
to ensure optimum propagation patterns. Highly specialized modifications
had been made to the latest EC-130E variant, including enhanced navigation
systems, self-protection equipment and the capability of broadcasting
color television on a multitude of global standards throughout the
TV VHF/UHF ranges.
Three Air National Guard EC-130Es were deployed from
the 193d Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to a base
in Italy, an hour flight across the Adriatic Sea from Sarajevo. This
was a direct response to persistent hostile Bosnian-Serb radio and television
propaganda from the Karadzic faction.
Operating from Brindisi, Italy, the EC-130Es were equipped
with high-power transmitters for TV, AM and FM radio broadcasting. The
planes could also operate as jamming devices against Bosnian-Serb hard-liners TV
and radio broadcasts or simply overpower their signal, blasting them
off the air and replacing them with other programs. The aircraft executed
three test flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina in September, testing radio
broadcasting equipment as a nonviolent "show of force" by SFOR.
The aircraft successfully broadcast programs from the SFOR radio station "MIR" (peace)
Despite the efforts of both the High Representative
and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the dissident
RS faction repeatedly refused to cease or moderate their broadcasts.
The international community took direct action. Under GFAP authority
and orders from the NATO Council and the Office of the High Representative,
SFOR seized four RS transmission towers.
This reduced but could not eliminate the offending broadcasts
because all broadcast media in the RS were state-operated, and SFOR was
neither willing nor prepared to control the entire Serbian radio and
TV system. In mid October, unidentified elements inside the RS sabotaged
television transmitters, taking the legal governments programming
off the air in much of eastern RS. The Karadzic faction explained that
the lack of normal programming was due to "illegal" SFOR actions.
Shortly afterward, SFOR used EC-130Es in a live mission
to transmit on a frequency normally used by Bosnian-Serb TV, explaining
that the absence of normal programming was due to actions by the Bosnian-Serb
Leaflets and Local Media
During the same period, the MND-N inaugurated a parallel,
supporting information program to counter Serb broadcasts. The division
commander appeared on local television outlets, both live and by videotape,
to counter the anti-NATO and anti-SFOR broadcasts. However, much of
eastern Bosnia was beyond range of these stations. Air-distributed
leaflets were a medium of communication that could reach this audience.
The leaflets were prepared by PSYOP soldiers, who sought to give them
an educational tone. These products stressed such themes as the role
of officials in a democratic society, especially the role of police
as enforcers of the law rather than political police. Other leaflets
presented the facts concerning international aid and GFAP enforcement.
These leaflets were distributed from helicopters over
key cities and towns in the American-led peacekeeping zone in northeastern
Bosnia and adjoining areas. This included every major Serb-held area
in northern Bosnia, where anti-NATO and anti-GFAP broadcasts were being
made by the state-run media. About 43,000 leaflets were distributed
from the air and by soldiers on the ground. The leaflets presented
information about democracy and responsible government, quoting democratic
thinker icons which included Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Plato and
others. For example, one leaflet quoted Locke: "The end of law
is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom." Another
cited Jeffersons advice: "When a man assumes a public trust
he should consider himself as public property." Ironically, given
the Serbs historic distrust of anything German, a third quoted
Immanuel Kant: "The only stable form of government is where the
rule of law reigns and does not depend on any person."2
Emerging from two generations of authoritarian leadership,
the former Yugoslavia made shallow soil for the seeds of democracy. Traditionally,
the most important civil police role was to ensure political compliance
and stamp out dissent. Therefore, developing a democratic-tradition,
community-based police force was critical to promoting responsive, representative
government at all levels. Guiding this process was the job of the International
Police Task Force (IPTF), a UN entity composed of civilian police officers
from numerous nations. During the 1997 municipal elections, it was critical
to ensure that the local national police supported the electoral process,
rather than interfered with it.
MND(N) psychological operators assisted the IPTF in
implementing the GFAP. These officers monitored and occasionally helped
Bosnian police maintain order on election day. IPTF personnel had freedom
of movement privileges through SFOR checkpoints. Under the GFAPs
Annex 11, IPTF was responsible for monitoring and advising police (upon
request) on polling places security. Additionally, the IPTF monitored
to ensure that electoral regulations were strictly followed in the vicinity
of polling places, particularly those regulations dealing with political
activity, freedom of movement and access and the posting of political
propaganda. They also attempted to remedy election security regulation
violations by bringing them to the attention of local police officials,
the LEC and other appropriate authorities.
IPTF operations were hampered because members lacked
investigative or enforcement powers and could only counsel and advise
local police. Thus, IPTF officers depended greatly on developing rapport
with the local police and population to promote cooperation and indirect
influence. PSYOP soldiers also assisted, promoting their credibility
through leaflets prepared in Serbo-Croation for general distribution
in areas where the IPTF was active, explaining their role under the GFAP.
The IPTF operation monitors, advises and trains local
police forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their specific responsibilities
Supervising the operations of local
police in providing for public security.
Restructuring local police forces
and reorienting their approach from communist-style public control
to democratically based public service.
Coordinating training of local police
in community policing and support of democratic principles.
The IPTF was not intended to be a
substitute for local police, but rather to assist local police
forces in developing their own effective law enforcement capabilities.
In fact, the IPTF distributed leaflets explaining their role in
The IPTF is currently playing a critical role in restructuring
federation and RS forces: candidates for the federation cantonal police
have been tested and are being vetted for their permanent appointment
to the new Federations police force. The IPTF Assistance
Program includes the following responsibilities:
Monitor, observe and inspect law
enforcement activities and facilities, including associated judicial
organizations, structures and proceedings.
Advise law enforcement personnel
Train law enforcement personnel.
Facilitate, within the IPTFs
mission of assistance, the parties law enforcement activities.
Assess threats to public order and
monitor the law enforcement agencys capability to deal with
Advise governmental authorities in
Bosnia and Herzegovina on the organization of effective civilian
law enforcement agencies.
Accompany the parties law enforcement
personnel as they carry out their responsibilities.
This article explains how the use of standard, doctrinal
PSYOP methods and materials to meet nonstandard needs in a nontraditional
situation can foster positive relations with the general public to
build trust and confidence and educate the public on the role of international
organizations in the execution of an international agreement. Additionally,
the EC-130 Commando Solo proved its worth many times in operations
from Haiti to Bosnia. The tense situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has
shown the systems versatility and importance in various stability
and support operations. Likewise, the general public gained an appreciation
for the IPTF at work in their communities. MR
1. Tracy Wilkinson, "Trying to Extract War
From Journalism," Los Angles Times (26 October 1997), 12A.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas K. Adams, US Army, Retired, is a political-military
affairs writer. He received a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, and is
a graduate of the National Strategy course and the US Army Command
and General Staff College. He is the author of numerous articles on
military-related subjects as well as two books, US Special Operations
Forces in Action and the forthcoming Post Industrial Warfare.
He has held various command and staff positions during a period of
service that extended from Vietnam to Bosnia. As a special operations
officer, his assignments ranged from counterinsurgency to humanitarian
assistance and counterdrug missions.