The Colombian Armed Forces conducted an operation to arrest dissidents among guerrillas who rejected the peace agreement. On March 18, 2018, Joint Task Force Omega (FTCO, in Spanish) conducted Operation Minerva II and neutralized dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish)—eight men and one woman—in the rural department of Guaviare, in south central Colombia.
“Thanks to the intelligence [work] of the Police and the Colombian National Army, we established the presence of the residual Organized Armed Group (GAO, in Spanish) called First Front,” Army Major General Eduardo Enrique Zapateiro, FTCO commander, told Diálogo. “The planning for the operation was done in a limited time frame, but nothing was left to chance.”
The intelligence information from different sources indicated several probable sites where the group planned to meet. The 2nd Air Combat Command (CACOM 2, in Spanish), an air component of FTCO located in the south of the country, was tasked with corroborating the intelligence with intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft.
“That required that we do an appropriate analysis, a search and analysis of all the information we had—[weather], time of the attack—anticipating that there would be no contingencies with any of the aircraft,” Air Force Colonel Juan Carlos Rueda, CACOM 2 commander, told Diálogo. “This gave us an hour, which was accomplished with precision.”
The operation was conducted on time in a jungle region with adverse climatic conditions. “If we had let another hour pass, we could have lost the target,” said Col. Rueda.
“The precision of CACOM 2’s bombing, then the air assault and combat, ensured that the entire structure we were after would go down in this operation in the Itilla River, municipality of Calamar,” Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas said in a press release. “Numerous items were seized, war material including rifles, pistols, grenade launchers, radios, and geolocators, in a field mined with 10 explosive devices with 100-pound cylinders.”
“Today, guerrillas who didn’t want to accept the peace process between the Colombian government and FARC constitute the residual GAOs, or the FARC dissidents,” Army General Alberto José Mejía, general commander of the Colombian Military Forces, told the media. “When the peace agreement was signed 16 months ago, there were some 500 members; currently there are around 1,200.”
“These residual groups focus on drug trafficking and boosting criminal economies in these areas,” said Gen. Mejía. “Depending on the region, they try to form alliances with the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), the Gulf Clan, or the Popular Liberation Army (EPL, in Spanish), known as Pelusos or Puntilleros. In other words, they all live off narcotrafficking.”
The FARC’s residual groups maintain terrorist strategies they use against the government and the population, but with a smaller number of men. “This made them change their modus operandi, their movements. Many of them operate as civilians. They blend in with the civilian population. Sometimes, they have weapons. Other times, they don't,” said Col. Rueda. “The modus operandi of these residual GAOs is an irregular context, which forces us to get ahead of them.”
Joint Task Force Omega
For its internal defense, Colombia counts on a campaign called Victoria Plus—a strategic program of the Military Forces—and the Safe and Peaceful Communities plan from the National Police. “This is the first time in our history that all campaigns [are] military and police,” explained Gen. Mejía. “That means that from the perspective of planning we anticipate unity and integration; this makes it so that, today, we cannot conduct an operation without each other.”
In accordance with its strategic plans, FTCO has used the joint doctrine concept with its land, air, and riverine components since its inception in December 2003. “In 15 years, the force obtained striking results as part of its offensive operations and maneuvers,” Maj. Gen. Zapateiro said. “During the first quarter of 2018, FTCO seized 431 kilograms of cocaine and heroin and 4 kg of cocaine paste. It destroyed 14 laboratories for cocaine paste processing and a cocaine hydrochloride laboratory. Within the Persistent Threat System, they carried out four operations [against GAOs] and neutralized 431 improvised explosive devices. Thirteen individuals turned themselves in voluntarily, and 18 were arrested,” he concluded.