Colombia’s Armed Forces recognized for professionalism
By Dialogo October 23, 2013
More than 50 high-ranking military officers from more than 60 countries recently gathered in Cartagena for the Senior Workshop on International Rules Governing Military Operations (SWIRMO 2013).
The meeting was sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It took place from Oct. 6 through Oct. 12. The meeting was the seventh edition of SWIRMO, and the first gathering to be held in the Americas. Previous meetings were held in Malaysia, South Africa, and France.
Colombian security forces recognized
Colombia was chosen to host the meeting because of the ICRC’s high regard for the professionalism of the country’s Armed Forces, according to Jorge Enrique Bedoya, Colombian vice minister for defense. The ICRC also recognized Colombia’s rigorous adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Bedoya said.
Organizers of the conference recognized that Colombian military leaders have compiled an impressive record fighting two rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
“Through our long internal armed conflict, Colombia has built up a great deal of experience fighting terrorists and we have worked with partners across the region to share this know-how,” according to Bedoya. “This is the first time this event has taken place in the Americas and both Colombia and our allies should be proud of the achievements we have made.”
Colombian security forces have registered several important victories in recent months. For example, during the first six months of 2013, the Colombian National Police broke up more than 75 extortion gangs which took more than $10 million from victims in four of the country’s largest cities.
Officials from Colombia, Peru, and Chile engaged in simulations of Armed Forces operations to demonstrate how they use IHL in field training, in developing a national doctrine, and in their military disciplinary systems.
Colombia is known for making good use of the IHL, said Frederico Almendra, the ICRC’s military and security representative for South and Central America. “The Colombian Ministry of Defence ensures specific reference to the implementation of IHL is made in all its military operations,” Almendra said.
In recent years, military leaders in Colombia, Chile, and other nations in the Americas have shared their knowledge of security issues to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have also shared their knowledge with military authorities in the Middle East and in Africa.
Chilean peacekeeping operations
With no internal rebel groups to contend with, the Chilean military is particularly active in providing support to U.N. peacekeeping missions.
“Since we don’t have any internal combat operations in Chile, we’ve been actively supporting 48 peacekeeping missions across the globe,” said Chilean Army Col. Andres Schuler.
The Chilean’ military’s primary peacekeeping missions include supporting the U.N.’s Minustah in Haiti, Schuler said. Chilean military forces are also working with Salvadoran troops, Ecuadorian engineers, and Argentinian soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.
Chilean soldiers are also contributing to the European Union’s peacekeeping effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“In Haiti, our main challenge now is dealing with day-to-day operations that involve regular contact with civilians,” Schuler explained. “Up until now tensions between the Haitian population and our soldiers haven’t involved human rights’ violations but if this occurred it would be dealt with by a special Guatemalan investigative body operating under the UN umbrella in Port-au-Prince”.
Confronting the Shining Path
Peru’s Armed Forces are dealing with an adversary – the Shining Path – which is becoming more involved in transnational drug trafficking operations, said Army Col. Hugo Molina Carazas. Peruvian Special Forces are relying on intelligence to battle the Shining Path, Carazas said.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Shining Path committed violence to advance its extremist political ideology, but now, the organization behaves like a drug cartel, Caranzas said. “They [the Shining Path] are now narco-assassins without a political ideology,” Carazas explained. “To target this change, our Special Forces are using targeted intelligence gathering methods to bring down their leaders”.
The peak of the conflict with the Shining Path, in the 1980s, young soldiers did not receive the detailed level of training they do now regarding the IHL, the colonel said. During that time, the Peruvian military’s top priority was to limit the violence of the Shining Path, he explained.
As the conflict has evolved, so too has the training for the Peruvian Armed Forces, Carazas said.
“Now we have a stronger legal structure together with academic curricula that pinpoint the key applicable areas of IHL for use in our operational plans,” said Carazas.
The workshop served as a “unique opportunity for military leaders to exchange opinions and learn new ways to integrate these International Humanitarian Law into their military operations,” Almendra said.
Carazas agreed with this assessment.
“We learned a lot from our Colombian counterparts in terms of ways to instill a community approach to our military operations, integrated with our police forces, as a means to win back the hearts and minds of smaller localities where the Shining Path continue to operate,” Carazas said.
I liked it and Iâ€™m entering the Colombian territory A lot of coca, a lot of money!