Under the leadership of the Colombian Air Force (FAC), air forces of the Americas train to create a multinational task force to counter narcotrafficking. The idea, conceived in 2018, culminated with the Colombia-Guatemala binational air interdiction operation COLGUA II, conducted in the first half of 2019, which activated the multinational task force dubbed Caribbean Shield.
According to FAC, the force aims to conduct joint operations against transnational narcotrafficking groups to neutralize the use of corridors and guarantee air security in participating nations. The force would have the participation of countries with which FAC shares current operational procedures, Colonel Jorge Augusto Saavedra Chacón, director of FAC's Air and Antimissile Defense and coordinator of the initiative, told Diálogo.
“The countries that could participate are Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil,” said Col. Saavedra, adding that other countries of the region will also be invited.
Based on the needs of a country, the force takes action, providing the resources, knowledge, and capabilities of FAC or any other country that would like to take part in a specific operation.
“The task force is activated and deactivated for a specific objective,” said Col. Saavedra. “The structure begins to be implemented when we arrive in X country, like what happened in Guatemala, where an operational commander, a joint staff, and some components start to operate.”
According to FAC’s proposal for Caribbean Shield, the exercises will be conducted in two stages: a doctrinal stage and an operational stage. The first edition of exercise COLGUA took place in 2018, with a simulated air interdiction scenario between Colombia and Guatemala. Operation COLGUA II, conducted in Guatemala in April 2019, yielded concrete results: the neutralization of three aircraft, the capture of two narcotraffickers, the destruction of an illegal airstrip, and satellite image collection of 25 clandestine airstrips.
In June 2019, the binational simulated exercise Colombia-Ecuador Andes II, conducted from different air bases near the border of both countries, reactivated Caribbean Shield.
“We intend to conduct an analysis to check if the mission is completed. [We’ll] evaluate tactics, techniques, and operational procedures and finally share lessons learned, so that in the future we can react optimally and promptly when intercepting illicit flights that attempt to cross our common border,” said Brigadier General Mauricio Campuzano Núñez, commander of the Ecuadorean Air Force.
The objective of the air forces of Colombia and Ecuador is to conduct exercise Andes III in 2020 to yield results like those of COLGUA II. Similar procedures are expected soon with other countries, such as Peru and Panama, which will have operational exercises planned for 2020 as well, Col. Saavedra said.
“If we are united, things get more complicated for criminal organizations devoted to narcotrafficking,” Col. Saavedra concluded. “If every country contributes resources, it’s possible to disrupt narcotraffickers and their plans, and to destroy the corridors these organizations use.”