Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bosnian Tactics Show American Influences

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bosnian Tactics Show American Influences

Article excerpt

The Bosnian army's bold offensive against rebel Serbs shows new tactics influenced by military advice from the United States, sources say.

The offensive also is strengthened by recent cooperation between the army and Bosnian Croats, who have provided key artillery support, and by months of preparation, according to Western military experts in Bosnia.

When the offensive was launched last week from this town about 20 miles northwest of Sarajevo, Bosnian officials said it was aimed at breaking through the Serb ring around the capital. But the Western experts suggest that a more complex strategy is at work.

According to them, the push from Visoko toward Sarajevo is part of a shell game in which the army attacks along half a dozen fronts to spread the Serb forces thin, while the Bosnians and their Croat allies cut key Serb supply lines.

By doing this, the government can use its 2-to-1 manpower advantage over the Serbs, who have prevailed in the 3-year-old war because of superior weaponry, and perhaps force rebel commander Gen. Ratko Mladic into ceding territory in a peace deal.

"This now boils down to something like a chess game," said the Belgrade weekly Vreme. "Bring General Mladic to the point where he must choose what to lose."

The army of the Muslim-led government has been allied with the Bosnian Croats since March 1994, when under U.S. pressure they formed a political-military federation. That alliance foundered for a year on mutual mistrust and possible Serb acceptance of an international peace plan.

But the two sides eventually joined forces, driven by Western refusal to intervene, by the belief that only battlefield losses would force the Serbs to settle and by a taste of combined military success in capturing the western Bosnian town of Kupres last fall. Following a yearlong overhaul of the Bosnian army and the U. …

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