The Colombian Military Forces’ Joint Special Operations Command (CCOES, in Spanish) began operations in April 2009. Its commander, Colombian Army Major General Jorge Isaac Hoyos Rojas, spoke with Diálogo during a visit to the CCOES headquarters in Bogotá in August 2021, to discuss the command’s mission and interagency work, among other topics.
Diálogo: The CCOES executes special operations of strategic importance for the State, such as operations against terrorist leaders and criminals. What is the overall assessment of these operations?
Colombian Army Major General Jorge Isaac Hoyos Rojas, commander of the Joint Special Operations Command: The CCOES is the nation’s strategic weapon, and its assessment is totally positive. Thanks to the CCOES, the command-and-control structure for the narco-terrorist organization FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] was fractured, which accelerated its defeat and forced them to pursue a dialogue process in Havana in 2012.
We can also highlight the October 2020 neutralization of Andrés Felipe Vanegas Londoño, alias Uriel, who was responsible for the urban terrorism of the narco-terrorist organization ELN [National Liberation Army], and of Robinson Gil Tapias, alias Flechas, the main leader of the Los Caparros criminal network, who we neutralized in May 2021 with a strategic blow that dismantled that criminal organization entirely. We also have rescue operations for those who were kidnapped, among others. We can mention Operation Chameleon [Operación Camaleón] in June 2010, where we rescued four soldiers and police officers who had been abducted by the FARC for 12 years. And we have rescued 53 minors, who were forced to commit crimes in the different remnant groups that threaten the country.
It is important to highlight that my organization includes the AFEAU [Urban Anti-Terrorist Special Forces Group], which has managed to protect and prevent the power and strategic centers of our nation from falling into the hands of different terrorist threats, which are increasingly difficult to identify, as sometimes they camouflage themselves among the population.
Diálogo: What is your main challenge as CCOES commander?
Maj. Gen. Hoyos: My biggest challenge is to always keep this organization effective and integrated, and to continue strengthening all its components to carry out different joint, coordinated, interagency, binational, and multinational special operations, obviously to combat any type of threat that attacks our country or puts national security at risk.
Diálogo: How does the CCOES handle the concept of interoperability?
Maj. Gen. Hoyos: We manage interoperability through bilateral cooperation agreements, training, [and] invitations to interoperability exercises and joint training, mainly with the U.S. Army, with whom we share the most agreements and coordination. We use interoperability to focus on improving our capabilities to analyze internal and external threats. We also use a linear doctrine with international standards, like NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], which enables us to have a common language.
Diálogo: ¿How does the CCOES work with the U.S. Army Special Forces?
Maj. Gen. Hoyos: Our CCOES integrates with various special operations worldwide, thanks to our high standards of quality, professionalism, and interoperability, which NATO itself recognizes. In the specific case of the United States, we manage a constant exchange of experiences and knowledge, as well as our strategic and tactical training that we carry out both ways in different trainings and operations.
Diálogo: Could you mention a joint operation that the CCOES and the United States carried out jointly?
Maj. Gen. Hoyos: We have conducted different joint exercises with the U.S. Army South 82nd Airborne Division, such as the Hydra I and Hydra II Multinational Strategic Exercises, in which we exchange knowledge and train side by side to ensure readiness and interoperability in airborne operations, such as urban combat and amphibious operations.
Diálogo: What kind of relationship do the Colombian Special Forces have with partner nations in the region?
Maj. Gen. Hoyos: Cooperation between the special forces of our partner nations in the region and our special forces is extremely important. Crime and terrorism phenomena have transcended borders, and everyone’s cooperation is necessary to combat them. Special forces from many countries have come to train side by side with our men, and we have visited those countries to learn. Colombian special forces operators are known for our tenacity, dedication, respect for norms, doctrine, and above all, our defense of human rights, which is paramount in every operation we execute. In general, our professionalism is known worldwide. An example of this is the Fuerzas Comando competition, where we have won 10 out of 15 global competitions carried out at a global level.