Salvadoran and Colombian Armed Forces Share Post-Conflict Experiences

Salvadoran and Colombian Armed Forces Share Post-Conflict Experiences

By Dialogo
November 23, 2015

The Salvadoran Armed Forces (FAES, for its Spanish acronym) recently shared their post-conflict experiences with instructors and officials from the Superior War School of Colombia during a special meeting at the headquarters of the FAES' College for High Strategic Studies in San Salvador.

“This exchange of information concerning successful strategies to combat terrorist groups gathered over the last 23 years can end up being very useful now for Colombia, as it finds itself in the midst of a peace negotiation process,” said Colonel Juan Molina, the Operational Chief for the FAES Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the end of one of the meetings on September 5.

Since El Salvador's internal armed conflict ended in 1992, the FAES has become known for their peacekeeping efforts, providing national security and supporting law enforcement agencies in combating illegal armed groups, including the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs.

Since April 18, 600 highly specialized military personnel have been patrolling the streets of the country’s 50 most dangerous towns alongside the National Civil Police (PNC) to ensure peace. Additionally, 1,000 members of specialized units have been deployed since July throughout the country's entire public transit system. They travel in pairs, select routes and buses randomly between 6 a.m. - 9 p.m., and protect the public from possible gang attacks.

El Salvador's Ministry of Defense won’t release the results of these operations, citing an effort to protect the methods' security and effectiveness. However, data has been made public for the “Safe House” operations, where the Military and PNC work together to clear out the abandoned homes that gangs use illegally to plan crimes. This year, authorities have closed 381 of the approximately 6,300 occupied houses and arrested 1,178 alleged gang leaders.

Transitioning toward peace

The process of transitioning toward peace in Colombia will involve security and defense challenges, said Brigadier General Rodrigo Valencia, Chief of Staff of the Colombian Air Force's Joint Special Operations Command.

“The upcoming challenges that the Colombian Armed Forces will have to overcome during the peace negotiation process will deal with combating terrorism and violence that are products of drug trafficking. In addition, security problems that used to be taken care of by the Police alone – such as migration or the illegal trafficking of weapons and chemical substances – are all now considered to be ‘new threats.’”

Due to these “new threats,” learning about the strategy used by their Salvadoran colleagues to perform operations that aim to keep the peace allows the Colombian Armed Forces to accumulate tested knowledge.

“The Latin American Armed Forces are facing what we call ‘emerging threats’ such as gangs and conflicts with drug traffickers.Thus, it has been very important for us to learn from the experiences of our Salvadoran colleagues, their theoretical underpinnings, and the tactics they have used in the field to combat these groups that appear after a conflict, such as those which Colombia is currently combating.”

At the close a recent meeting, Brigadier General Carlos Mena Torres, the Salvadoran Air Force's General Chief of Staff, highlighted the importance of such meetings between fellow security forces.

“Ever since we achieved peace, it has been of utmost importance for us to share with other military forces how the Salvadoran Armed Forces have developed post-conflict, and it continues to support the ongoing efforts aimed at protecting the public from emerging threats."