Operation Mistral

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Operation Mistral
Part of the Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War
1995 Croat and Bosniak Counteroffensives.jpg
Bosnian War situation in August–December 1995: Croatian gains during this time period (including Mistral) are light blue (contemporary Bosnian gains are light green)
Date 2–15 September 1995
Location Western Bosnia and Herzegovina
Result Decisive Croatian and Bosnian victory
Croatia Croatian Army
Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia Croatian Defence Council
Bosnia and Herzegovina Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Republika Srpska Army of Republika Srpska
Commanders and leaders
Croatia Ante Gotovina
Croatia Ivan Korade
Bosnia and Herzegovina Atif Dudaković
Bosnia and Herzegovina Mehmed Alagić
Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia Anton Luburić
Republika Srpska Ratko Mladić
4th HV Motorized and 7th Mechanized Brigade
ARBiH 5th and 7th Corps
HVO 3rd Brigade
Units of the 2nd Krajina Corps of the VRS (3 motorized brigades, 5 infantry brigades, 5 light brigades and support units)
Elements of the 1st Krajina Corps of the VRS (Banja Luka Corps)
Casualties and losses
HV & ARBiH: 443 soldiers killed (RDC)[1]
ARBiH 5th Corps: 1,000 soldiers killed (Ripley)[2]
1,162 soldiers killed[1]
665 Serb civilians killed, 125,000 Serb refugees (Serbian sources)[3]
RDC figures represent total losses for each side during September, 1995

Operation Mistral and Operation Mistral 2 were two linked military offensives of the Croatian Army, the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian Defence Council launched in western Bosnia and Herzegovina during September 1995 as part of the Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War. It ended with a decisive victory for the Croatian and Bosnian forces. At the same time, NATO began its bombings of Serb-held territory in (Operation Deliberate Force), which further demoralized and weakened the Serb position.


The Croatian Army (HV)-led Operation Storm was renamed Operation Mistral in September 1995 and saw the HV join forces with the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) in an attempt to drive the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) out of western Bosnia.[4] The operation was launched on 2 September 1995 after weeks of great planning.[5] General Ante Gotovina was one of its main architects.[6] Its commencement was likely timed to coincide with the beginning of Operation Deliberate Force and the rapid erosion of Bosnian Serb defensive capabilities. Most of the Bosnian Serb units involved in the operation had been mangled by the HV during Operation Storm and consisted largely of untrained and demoralized recruits. The HV took advantage of this and seized several strategic highlands from the Serbs on the operation's first day, rendering most Bosnian Serb positions indefensible. Over the next several days, the HV broke down several Bosnian Serb defensive lines, forcing the VRS further east. With his long-range communications system destroyed by NATO, Mladić was left unable to coordinate an effective defense.[5] The HV quickly captured Drvar as VRS troops and Bosnian Serb civilians fled to Serb-controlled areas around Banja Luka and Brčko. The HV and HVO walked into a deserted Jajce on 13 September and raised the flag of Croatia over the town.[7] The rapidity of the VRS retreat led several analysts to conclude that the operation was more damaging to the VRS than NATO bombing was. Author Robert C. Owen disagrees, arguing that the HV would not have advanced as rapidly as it did had NATO not intervened.[5]

The ARBiH launched its own offensive against the VRS, codenamed Operation Mistral 2, on 13 September. Bosniak commander Atif Dudaković ordered four brigades of the ARBiH 5th Corps to attack VRS positions east of the Bihać pocket, opening a front 20 kilometres (12 mi) wide. His forces entered Bosanska Krupa just after midnight on 14 September and marched into Bosanski Petrovac the following day. Mistakenly thinking that he had routed the VRS, which had only conducted a tactical withdrawal, Dudaković attempted to capture Kulen Vakuf on 15 September without assistance from the HV. The attack was unsuccessful and ended in a friendly fire incident in which the ARBiH and HV fired on each other, resulting in several fatalities on both sides. Dudaković than attempted to enter Sanski Most, only to be beaten back by a VRS counter-offensive on the morning of 17 September. This made Operation Mistral 2 come to a halt.[8] The ARBiH 5th Corps alone had suffered 1,000 fatalities.[2]


Following the collapse of Serb resistance in west Bosnia, Serb forces regrouped and launched a counteroffensive which was repulsed by Croat and Bosniak forces. This enabled the ARBiH's Fifth Corps to launch Operation Sana in October 1995, pushing further east; simultaneously Croat forces advanced further northeast.

The success of the Croat and Bosniak post-Storm offensives meant that the entire region of western Bosnia was now in their hands. The vital Serb center of Banja Luka was now a realistic next objective, whose capture would mean total defeat for Serb forces in Bosnia at the hands of the Croats and Bosniaks. This new situation finally convinced the Bosnian Serb leadership to agree to negotiate and the Dayton Agreement was reached only one month after Mistral, ending the Bosnian War.