Peru, US Exchange Knowledge on Information Operations
By Gonzalo Silva Infante/Diálogo October 19, 2018Peruvian officers took part in a U.S. Southern Command- (SOUTHCOM) coordinated Information Operations (IO) knowledge exchange, with support from the Eighth Information Operations Division of the Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff (8VA DIEMCFFAA, in Spanish). The Bilateral IO Seminar was held September 10th-14th at the Peruvian Army Computerized Tactical Training Center in Lima, Peru.
The seminar’s objective was to strengthen and promote hands-on military capabilities in IO by way of exchanging experiences and lessons learned. The seminar will enable the Peruvian Armed Forces to use best practices and develop methodologies to support strategic efforts to counter threats in the region.
“These workshops are a means to exchange information and then adapt it to different realities,” Peruvian Army Colonel Jorge Reyes Gutiérrez, commandant of the Army School of Psychological Operations, told Diálogo. “We saw exercises fail when they attempted to apply [the information] directly, because the social, economic, and cultural realities are different—coastal, highland, and jungle communities are not the same.”
A total of 50 service members, including students of the Army Psychological Operations School and members of each branch of the Peruvian Armed Forces, took part in the seminar. About five elements of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM, in Spanish) Special Command also participated.
“One of the goals was to learn about the experience that the U.S. gained in Information Operations, since they work worldwide,” Peruvian Army Colonel Emilio Rodríguez Freundt, 8VA DIEMCFFAA commander, told Diálogo. “They have the experience and developed it. That’s what we wanted to do.”
The seminar kicked off with three days of presentations on doctrinal IO concepts and specific cases. The event concluded with two days of practical group exercises to present products.
Strategic planners from SOUTHCOM conducted talks about IO concepts, how their division is organized, and its interaction with related capabilities. U.S. delegates also addressed IO planning at a strategic level.
“The course was important because we brought members of SOUTHCOM with a lot of experience in the region,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo Lauer, special forces liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Peru. “We wanted to go beyond the tactical level to focus on the operational aspect.”
As part of the presentations, a lieutenant colonel from the Brazilian Army who attends the Peruvian Army School of Psychological Operations, explained and analyzed the Brazilian Army’s operations in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Another focused on the situation in VRAEM, which remains a hub for organized crime, armed groups, and narcotraffickers in Peru.
“The problem we have in Peru is not operational but tactical,” Col. Reyes said. “When [service members] deploy to VRAEM, they provide tactical, non-operational solutions. It’s true that the easiest move is the use of force, but the problem isn’t just military, and the solution isn’t 100 percent military either. That typical, anachronistic vision that everything can be solved in a military way, as Machiavelli would say, is no longer the modern outlook.”
Participants concluded the seminar working on practical group exercises to present strategic IO plans based on a terrorism scenario that destabilized a region with drug, arms, and human trafficking. Spread into several work tables, military teams shared ideas—with the support of experts sharing lessons from previously detailed real operations—to address problems and search for non-war solutions.
The seminar “was very beneficial,” Col. Rodríguez said, highlighting that the Joint Chiefs of Staff only has five years of experience in IO. SOUTHCOM and 8VA DIEMCFFAA coordinated the event for the second time—the first seminar took place in 2016.
“The level that students will reach in time will bear fruit,” Col. Rodríguez said. “The seminar was so beneficial, that we agreed to carry it out again next year so that this can continue over time. If possible, we want to do two seminars next year. We definitely look forward to continuing.”