Integrated Action and Consolidation in Colombia
By Dialogo February 07, 2014
In 2012, Colombia created Operation Sword of Honor as a counterinsurgent strategy to confront guerrilla violence in the country, by which the list of military targets and locations where the Armed Forces would confront guerrillas was increased, with the aim of undermining the FARC not only in the military field, but financially as well.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced the second phase of Sword of Honor, a military offensive against the FARC in seven departments in southern Colombia, on October 11. As a result, the 'Comando Conjunto Número 3 Suroriente' with over 50,000 members was created.
During Colombia’s internal conflict, the South American nation developed unique strategies and capabilities, which can now be used as an example by other countries that are experiencing similar conflicts. This is the case of 'Integrated Action and Consolidation' (Acción Integral y Consolidación,) two strategies that promote a solid state intervention in rural areas swamped by illegal armed groups, and foster development.
During a recent visit to Bogotá, Diálogo had the chance to speak with the Colombian Deputy Defense Minister for International Affairs and Policy, Jorge Enrique Bedoya, who told us about the role of Integrated Action in the development of operation Sword of Honor, as well as the current and future role of Integrated Action towards peace, among other topics.
Deputy Minister, we are aware that the Colombian war plan is under revision in a process of improvement; could you tell us about the current role of Integrated Action in the development of the 'Sword of Honor' war plan? How is it connected to the Colombian consolidation policy?
Deputy Defense Minister for International Affairs and Policy, Jorge Enrique Bedoya: The revision of the 'Sword of Honor' war plan concluded in a series of recommendations for the Armed Forces and the Police High Command, issued by the Strategic Revision and Innovation Committee (CREI II) in September, under a joint, coordinated and interagency approach. CREI II favored the support of state policies and efforts, in order to guarantee a permanent state presence in areas where it is absent, by strengthening the relationships between civil population and Public Forces.
As a result, with regard to Integrated Action, this war plan is intended to achieve short- (early victories), mid- and long-term (transformation) goals. Early victories include the development of infrastructure projects that will benefit populations in strategic areas where the influence of the Total Terrorist Threat System (SAT-T) still persists. The Ministry of National Defense has invested $100 million that is being used by the National Army's Central Office of Military Engineers in road, aqueduct and basic sanitation, electricity, and social infrastructure projects, bringing benefits to the population of these areas. Integrated Action uses tools such as those developed by Integrated Action Companies, Demobilization Support Groups, Commander's Assessing Team, and the National Police's Prevention System.
In regards to mid-term goals, the strengthening of liaison offices with ethnic groups is a very important tool of unarmed capabilities that Public Forces use to build relationships with ethnic communities (indigenous, African descendants, Raizals, and Palenqueros) within a culturally diverse state, reinforcing strategies to generate trust and familiarity between special populations and the Public Forces.
In the long term, a transformational process will take place within the Forces, to gain a greater impact in the coordinated interagency work that will allow Integrated Action and the Prevention System to become a main tool to disseminate governance. Therefore, incentives for the Integrated Action personnel will be created, promoting specialization in the field.
What is the future of Integrated Action in Colombia? What is its strategic perspective?
Deputy Minister Bedoya: The 'Sword of Honor' plan states that 40% of the military effort should be aimed at kinetic action, while 60% should be aimed at non-kinetic action, making Integrated Action a fundamental tool for the Armed Forces to design and apply social, political and economic strategies that are consistent with the National Policy of Territorial Consolidation and Reconstruction PNCRT.
Therefore, Integrated Action as the non-kinetic component of the war plan allows a strategic alignment of actions aimed at winning the minds and hearts of populations where it is enforced, keeping them away from the Total Terrorist Threat SAT-T. As a result, a general, coordinated and decisive Integrated Action will allow the application of territorial consolidation in strategic areas where this threat is concentrated and keep it in isolation.
What is the importance of the coordination of Integrated Action with the civil component in the consolidation?
Deputy Minister Bedoya: The coordination of Integrated Action with the civil component of consolidation is represented in a coordinated, joint, and interagency effort conducted between the Armed Forces and the State, which is represented by its Ministries and the Social Action Department (DPS). State policies are enforced through the Special Administrative Unit of Territorial Consolidation (UAECT), an organization that works jointly with the state in order to create development projects in order to reinforce institutional legitimacy.
This interaction with the Public Force also requires the private sector's participation through consolidation initiatives and projects (economic, social, cultural, infrastructure, etc.) in the quest for a more thriving country.
Colombia becomes officially a post-conflict scenario, what do you think Integrated Action's role will be
in this process?
Deputy Minister Bedoya: The role of Integrated Action in a post-conflict scenario will be to facilitate and support state presence throughout the nation, by using a sustained and inclusive social offer that generates the conditions for free active citizen participation, the reinforcement of civil power and rural development as a thriving force.
Post-conflict Integrated Action will demand the Public Forces - among other actors - to be devoted to developing permanent infrastructure projects in remote and difficult-to-access areas in the nation with the help of the current Central Office of Military Engineers, which will become the Corps of Military Engineers, with disaster assistance, humanitarian demining and construction brigades.
DIÁLOGO: What is Colombia's current role as a cooperating partner with other nations that work jointly with the U.S. (for instance, the CENTAM case)?
Deputy Minister Bedoya: Currently, Colombia is offering its knowledge and expertise with subject matter expert exchanges in Integrated Action and Civil Affairs. We are especially interested in increasing this cooperation, considering that this knowledge is supported by the construction of legitimacy, trust, and identity of citizens towards their Public Forces in the process of reconstruction and consolidation of territories.
Security Forces of other countries are interested in learning the doctrine used by Colombia, the way in which it is developed and how Integrated Action plans are designed.
During 2013, we conducted two activities in Guatemala, which were coordinated between the governments of Colombia and the United States. The former was a meeting of Integrated Action experts held on April 22 - 26, 2013, and the latter will be conducted on November 3 - 10 with a meeting of experts to make an action plan (working route) official, as well as an integrated strategic proposal in the cooperation framework between Colombia and Guatemala.
DIÁLOGO: How do you think that other countries with conflicts or violent scenarios may learn from the Colombian experience? How can Colombia benefit from this situation?
Deputy Minister Bedoya: Due to the security problems that Colombia has faced for over 50 years, especially in the fight against international drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, terrorism and other threats, the Public Forces have gathered experience and knowledge that created human potential and top-notch capabilities to support the improvement of internal processes, as well as reinforcing capabilities in countries that confront similar threats.
Therefore, Colombia can provide and share its knowledge through cooperation mechanisms, training, technical and legal assistance, expertise exchanges, defense and security courses and assessments, so that these countries can confront transnational threats more efficiently.
The results obtained by the Public Forces and the higher effectiveness achieved in land, air, and maritime interdiction procedures show the great potential of the country to support and assist institutional reform processes, and to provide assessment in building security knowledge and doctrine, as well as operational and coordination capabilities in security institutions of those nations.
Colombia will be able to strengthen its domestic capabilities even more, by becoming a strategic partner to confront regional and international security challenges on technical cooperation in security and defense. This is a joint effort that will allow strengthening friendships between the regional states, and increasing their cooperation by making the fight against common and organized crime more efficient.