In meetings with Defence Minister Osmic, Deputy Minister Pendes and Chief of Joint Staff, Major General Jelec, he was informed about the current state of defence reform in BiH and the reasons for lack of progress towards NATO membership.
McKane reiterated the UK’s firm commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), both through its contributions to EUFOR and through the active bilateral Defence Cooperation programme. “I am particularly impressed with accounts of the high quality and performance of BiH Armed Forces personnel with ISAF on operations in Kandahar and Helmand Province, as well as of its troop and police officer contributions to other UN missions,” said McKane.
During his visit, McKane learned about the progress in a major defence reform project, supported by the British Embassy, aimed at rejuvenating the ageing officer corps by recruiting young graduate applicants directly from the civilian sector. The first new four-day selection process, seeking to recruit 32 young officers, will be held in Travnik this December. As McKane was told, without this radical new approach to officer recruitment the BiH AF officer corps would be depleted by over 60% within the next 10 years. McKane said, “I am delighted to hear that such rapid and positive progress is being made. This new young officer selection and training system will be more effective and transparent than the current selection process. We will continue to provide advice and practical support in this vital area.”
McKane met the Brigadier General Merle Hart, the NATO HQ Commander, and thanked him for the commitment and professionalism of his staff and for the support that NATO continues to provide to BiH Armed Forces. He also met a number of British officers serving on the EUFOR HQ staff and confirmed that the UK would continue to commit a full infantry company to EUFOR as part of the Operational Reserve throughout 2014. As he explained, “EUFOR remains an essential investment in the security and stability of BiH.”
McKane also visited the Peace Support Operations Centre (PSOTC). McKane was impressed with the results of PSOTC’s work made since it became an integral part of the BiH AF in January this year. ”I am delighted to see that so many of the instructors are drawn from countries throughout the region. The PSOTC is still very much a regional training centre of excellence and retains a strong international reputation,” said McKane. The Director of Studies at PSOTC, Lt Col Hazim Hodzic thanked McKane for displaying so much interest in the Centre and he thanked the UK for the consistently high quality of support the country has provided to the Centre over the previous seven years.
(Source: British Embassy Sarajevo)