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Reinforced presence

Conflict in Kosovo has increased the tension in Bosnia and introduced a new threat to SFOR troops patrolling in the Republic of Serpska.

This threat follows a period of more than two years during which SFOR was able to work without fear of attack from the former warring factions.

'Under the Implementation Force we were operating out of bunkers,' says Major Guy Marot, commanding officer of 5 Field Squadron which is carrying out the work. 'SFOR has been operating in a much more benevolent atmosphere. But things are changing.'

Operation Niagara intends to 'harden and strengthen' SFOR's bases and telecommunication outposts to guarantee that, should tension turn into unrest, its military presence and defence capability cannot be undermined. It is part of SFOR's priority operational tasks carried out 'in reaction to a perceived threat'.

This work makes extensive use of wire netting gabion walling filled with aggregate, combined with more traditional sandbags and reinforced concrete. In particular, satellite and radar dishes within bases and radio relay stations on top of Bosnia's mountain range are being protected to ensure that countrywide communications can always be maintained.

While these tasks are generally quite simple in construction terms they are significant in terms of planning. Operation Niagara has top priority. As soon as materials are available sappers are pulled off other jobs to carry out the work - frustrating for those trying to get other construction tasks completed.

But maintaining the combat capability to meet the new threat is vital for SFOR. 'The reason I'm here is not to do construction,' says Marot. 'The reason I'm here is for war fighting in support of the battle group and the Dayton Agreement. Anything else is extra.'

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