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Partnership, Continuing Cooperation: Examples of Security Success in the Americas

Partnership, Continuing Cooperation: Examples of Security Success in the Americas

By Dialogo
August 05, 2015

After decades of armed conflict, Colombia now stands as a testament to the success of persistent security cooperation with regional partners and is also the best-case scenario of what these relationships can achieve in regards to both internal and regional stability.

“Today, Colombia is stable, thriving and taking on greater responsibilities to improve international security in Latin America and the Caribbean and overseas as well,” U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) commander, told a Senate panel in March.

Interagency relationships and bilateral cooperation not only aid in regional stability, but also are critical to U.S. national security, added Gen. Kelly.

As regional leaders, the U.S. and Colombia continue to demonstrate their resolve and commitment to improve security and stability not only in Colombia, but also in the region through new strategic initiatives. One of the more evident examples can be seen in Colombia’s capital city, where security has improved dramatically over the past decade.

In early May 2015, the Center for Strategic Studies in Regional Security (CREES, for its Spanish acronym) in Bogotá hosted a three-day seminar on Countering Violent Extremism: Strategic Communications in the Struggle Against Terrorism, with 25 delegates from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the U.S., alongside Colombian officers attending a staff course at the War College.

SOUTHCOM, Colombian military leaders, and Special Operations Command South members formed CREES in May 2014, in direct support of Colombia’s defense ministry initiative against emerging regional security threats.

The center’s architects and Colombia’s Superior War College have sought to prevent and counter common threats collectively by fostering governmental policy research and problem analysis to aid in the development of effective responses.

“The center’s program takes participating countries’ lessons learned in years of conflict to help other nations avoid similar types of problems,” said retired U.S. Army Col. Robert Gaddis, a SOCSOUTH strategic plans and policy official. “CREES also provides partner civil and military organizations a platform to exchange information and strategies generating a common vision between partner nations.”

The initiative, which began as an idea by former U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) commander, retired U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, is now a reality and is effectively addressing growing global threats. Since the center’s launch, the center has hosted seven seminars with more than 350 participants from countries around the world, focusing on security issues in the western hemisphere and how to confront them.

The seminar examined topics about the strategic value of information, terrorist’s use of information and social media, and information and communication strategies against terrorism.

Even successful operations can have adverse effects if civic and military leaders do not properly inform the public or mishandle the operation’s information, said Vice Adm. Ordoñez. “That is one important lesson learned from our counterparts. Americans know how fundamental information is in all operations and its usefulness as a tool to countering terrorism.”

In a March statement to members of the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, USSOCOM’s commander, underscored the role unconventional tools like cyber threats and social media play in the strategic and security environment.

As global security challenges become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, USSOCOM is investing in connections that help build common understandings of shared threats and facilitate cooperation, added Gen. Votel.

Those connections are the reason why a strategic center like CREES is so important to the region. The center not only provides security and defense professionals a stage for the exchange of experiences and knowledge on policies and strategies common between nations in the region, but also provides participants a chance to build joint solutions to regional security challenges.

“Programs like CREES help us meet other professionals in the region dealing with similar threats,” said Dominican Republic Army Lt. Col. Dagoberto Severino, commander of his country’s counterterrorism unit. “In the Dominican Republic, some of the common threats that affect us and the region are natural disasters and drug related issues such as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.”

“We then expand or develop our own programs to improve our country’s tactics, techniques, and procedures with the experiences learned at CREES,” added the commander, who has attended four CREES seminars since its inception.

For Chile, the anarchist bombing campaign in 2010, demonstrated how real common threats are to all of those in the region, said Chilean National Police Lt. Col. Victor Casanueva, operations chief of the special police operations group known as the GOPE in Spanish. The event also highlighted how cooperation with partners led to the eventual arrests made in Spain in 2013.

“We need to be in constant evolution through continued exchanges with other countries, and CREES provides us all with essential tools needed in today’s battlefields,” said Lt. Col. Casanueva.

“[A lot of today’s battles] are taking place in the information environment and driven by intelligence,” he added. “We have come to realize that emerging threats are a world problem that requires institutions to remain prepared and alert. And so, we come together to generate new ideas so that we may apply them throughout the region to strengthen security policies.”

That is to say, the more countries discuss and examine the problems we are facing in all its facets, the better, said Colombian Army Maj. Gen. Ricardo Gomez Nieto, Colombia’s Superior War College commander.

“Terrorism continues to advance worldwide and with increasingly less restraint in the execution of barbaric acts,” he said. “Unfortunately, Colombians have been victims – not only of terrorism, but have also felt the repercussions of illicit drug trafficking, gangs and organized crime. Nevertheless, our experiences in dealing with all of these matters, has allowed us to lead such an undertaking as the CREES.”

Yet with all the challenges Colombia has overcome, there is an immediate awareness that it is almost impossible to maintain security and stability in a region without cooperation among regional partners. Even so, Colombia now looks beyond its once turbulent borders to assist and advise its regional partners.

“That is why we see this as a fine cooperation [between regional partners] that we hope to continue because it develops a lasting relationship of security cooperation that benefits the hemisphere,” added the general.

Through their resolve and regional partnerships, Colombia has become an example of what partnership is capable of achieving. Now Colombia exports a new and possibly more valuable resource in the region: Security.

“In an uncertain and turbulent world, we're lucky to have partners like Colombia,” said Gen. Kelly.