As the teams of Fuerzas Comando XIII competitors vied for first place in Vista Alegre, in President Hayes department, Paraguay, a Senior Leader Seminar was held in Asunción, where military, defense, and security leaders, academics, and policy influencers from 20 Western Hemisphere partner nations came together from July 24th-27th to analyze ways to counter transnational, transregional threat networks (T3N) from a common front. During the opening ceremony, presided by U.S. Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM); Air Force General Braulio Piris Rojas, the commander of Paraguay’s Military Forces; U.S. Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM); and Paraguayan Army Brigadier General Hector Limenza, general coordinator for Fuerzas Comando – Paraguay 2017, the predominant theme was one of cooperation to share individual lessons learned to develop a common front against T3N.
“The outcome of Fuerzas Comando 2017 is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Gen. Thomas. “We know that none of us can defeat organized criminal networks on our own,” he added, as he thanked Paraguay for co-hosting a forum where partner nations can work together towards multi-national cooperation.
Gen. Piris likewise welcomed attendees and thanked his U.S. counterparts for sponsoring the event. “This seminar will allow us to analyze the regional problems as a result of transnational transregional organized crime networks from different perspectives,” he said. “Fuerzas Comando underscores the importance of ongoing, joint training for our troops.” He said it is paramount to defeating organized criminal networks affecting the region, and Fuerzas Comando demonstrates the capabilities they have to do so.
Over the course of the four-day event several presentations dealt with ways in which T3N work together to expand, therefore calling on national leaders to think differently, to reframe definitions, and to knock down walls to better communicate. In a presentation that highlighted the cross-border nature of criminal organizations, Paraguayan Army Colonel Hector Grau Dominguez, the commander of the Joint Task Force, a combined effort among police and military elements, expounded on the insecurity at the Triple Frontier between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil due to T3N. “Organized criminal groups such as Brazil’s First Capital Command and Comando Vermelho, and factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are known to be or to have been involved in crime in the region –in narcotrafficking, weapons and assets trafficking,” he said.
Joint Special Operations University academics offered overviews on understanding T3N and the risks they pose to regional security, the role that cross-functional teams play in countering T3N, and their matrix of information exchange. “A terrorist network is interested in a human trafficking network precisely because they know how to get people in and out of places,” said Jack Guy, Associate Professor at JSOU. “They don’t have to share ideologies but they are poly motivated, meaning they have a broad spectrum of motivations for furthering their cause, so they collaborate with each other to further their needs,” he explained.
“The complexity of the characteristics terrorist organizations, criminal organizations, and gangs share and the degree of their differences underscore the necessity of cross-functional teams to successfully counter T3N,” according to JSOU Professor Timothy Riesen, Ph.D. He said building cross-functional teams from different entities within a state (interagency) allows each member to contribute a specific combination of expertise, capabilities, or authorities that will jointly establish the proper solutions at the right time by the right people in the right way. “Effective communication is the foundation of a high-performing cross-functional team”, he added.
Each country faces T3N at different levels, but the information at the seminar provided perspectives and elicited conversations that each country can apply as individual nations and as part of a regional solution to safeguard the region. “We take away facts on each country that presented and all these transnational crimes so that we can also protect ourselves from encouraging these elements in our country,” said Guyanese Army Major Sheldon Howell, the commander of the 31 Special Forces squadron. “Guyana is also a hub for transshipment of illegal arms, ammunition, and drugs. All the challenges that the other countries are facing, we are facing them as well – maybe at a lower level, but we are facing them as well,” he told Diálogo.
“As one of the major countries in the north of the Caribbean, the issues that we face as a region, the issues faced by other countries are entirely relevant to Jamaica and to the regional response,” said Jamaica Defence Force Major Othneil Blackwood. “Being here is good to gain from the perspectives on some of the challenges with transnational transregional terrorist networks. It is important because it puts things into a context that we all can take from to frame our respective response,” he told Diálogo.
In order to further engage attendees in conversation, there were three moderated panels to discuss government responses to countering T3N, the specific threats T3N pose on national security, and understanding the transregional nature of the threats they pose. These elicited perspectives and individual experiences that came to the same conclusion - it is paramount to communicate more, communicate better, share knowledge, work together, and continue to train jointly to create a united front against T3N.
Back in Vista Alegre, Day 9 of the military skills competition began with team Honduras in first place, followed by Colombia and the United States, respectively. For more information on the competition, please follow Special Operations Command South on Facebook @USSOCSOUTH.