Colombia to get access to NATO technology to fight terrorism
By Dialogo October 30, 2013
Colombia recently took an important step toward finalizing a cooperation agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) involving the sharing of intelligence to fight international terrorism.
On Sept. 11, 2013, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón presented a bill to Congress to approve the ratification of the cooperation agreement. That accord was informally reached on June 25, 2013, when Colombia’s Defense Ministry signed the cooperation agreement with NATO.
“If we can achieve peace, the army will be in a place where it will be able to distinguish itself internationally as well. We are already doing it on many fronts,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said after the accord was signed.
The cooperation agreement was signed four months after Colombian security officials attended NATO’s annual Building Integrity conference, held in February 2013 in Monterrey, California.
Access to NATO technology
When finalized, the agreement could give Colombian security officials access to advanced NATO technology, such as advanced computer simulations of maritime interdictions.
Colombia and NATO have no training exercises or other activities scheduled. Colombian officials and NATO representatives will discuss the best way to maximize go forward with the accord, said Alexander Vershbow, NATO deputy secretary general.
“We welcome Colombia’s interest in cooperating with NATO,” said Alexander Vershbow, NATO Deputy Secretary General. “While there is no immediate plan for establishing a formal partnership between the Alliance and Colombia, we are exploring the possibility of carrying out specific activities together.”
The agreement will help Colombian security forces fight global terrorism, Pinzón said.
"This agreement gives us the possibility to exchange information with an organization comprising the 28 most-recognized democracies in the world,” Pinzón said. “These countries can also gain access to Colombia's experience in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.”
Colombia a ‘global player’
Over the past decade, Colombian security forces have provided training in how to battle global terrorism to officials in Afghanistan and countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa, according to Pinzón. Colombian security forces have trained more than 15,000 soldiers and police officers from more than 40 countries in how to fight drug trafficking and extortion and how to engage in maritime interdiction and jungle combat.
The Colombian Armed Forces and National Police have earned a reputation for fighting terrorism, explained Roman Ortiz, the director of Decisive Points, a Colombian national security and defense affairs company. For decades, Colombian security forces have battled the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
“Colombia is now moving fast as a global player in exporting security know-how, built up through 50 years battling drug traffickers and organized crime groups,” Ortiz said. In October 2013, Colombia hosted a global conference in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and an General Assembly meeting of Interpol, in Cartagena.
Colombia’s Armed Forces and National Police both have an excellent reputation for being effective and efficient in fighting global terrorism and domestic crime, Ortiz said. That reputation is why security officials from other countries seek training from Colombia’s military and police forces, he explained.
“Colombia has played an increasingly prominent role in police training in Central America and has also built stronger ties with countries like Mexico, Peru and Chile through the Pacific Alliance,” Ortiz said. “There is nothing strange about Colombia looking to strengthen ties with both its existing Latin American partners as well as NATO member countries.”
Colombia is not the only country whose security forces are known internationally. In recent years, the Armed Forces of Argentina and Chile have also provided support to NATO troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ortiz pointed out.
Access to advanced technology
Colombia will not be able to become a member state of NATO because of its geographic location, Ortiz said. Colombia is a member of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which is similar to NATO, Ortiz said.
“It´s quite straightforward really. A stronger alliance with NATO offers Colombia access to (NATO’s) computer simulations advanced technological development techniques and its best practices in relation to transparency, humanitarian operations and strengthening the army,” Ortiz said. “On the other hand Colombia offers a wealth of expertise in using combined military and police tactics to root out terrorists in both remote rural enclaves and urban jungles.”
In addition to computer simulations, NATO has other technology that could be helpful to Colombian security forces. For example, in September 2013, NATO tested a device which stops the vehicles of suicide bombers before they reach their targets. The device uses a high-intensity electromagnetic beam to turn off engine vehicles. Testing of the device is scheduled to be completed in 2014, according to published reports.
The primary threats faced by NATO countries include nuclear proliferation, terrorism, cyber-attacks, organized crime, drug trafficking, and the volatility within failed states, according to Carmen Romero, NATO Deputy Spokesperson.
“No country or organisation can deal with these challenges on its own and that is why NATO is working with countries around the globe that share the same values and security concerns as NATO,” said Romero. “Colombia has strong expertise in counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency operations and we look forward to developing our dialogue with Bogota in these areas,” said Romero.