Peruvian Navy Commander Eduardo Díaz León, of the Marine Corps Special Forces, is the second Peruvian service member to take part in the International Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C. The officer earned a Master of Strategic Security Studies degree in May 2018.
The U.S. Security Cooperation Office extended an invitation to Cmdr. Díaz to take part in the program from June 3, 2017, to May 31, 2018. A total of 87 students from 29 countries took the course. All are members of the armed forces, special units, and agencies involved in the fight against terrorism and transnational threats.
“The program started after 9/11, when the U.S. government reconfigured its whole strategy,” Cmdr. Díaz told Diálogo. “The United States considered the need to train military and civilian advisers at a strategic level against terrorism and create a global network with all partner nations, including Peru.”
The educational program was divided into three cycles. The first focused on philosophy studies, the different ideologies, and the analysis of terrorist and insurgent groups. Students then learned how to combat groups and analyzed the different strategies countries around the world use. In the last cycle, participants learned about the creation and implementation of strategies and guidance for their countries.
Students also delved into U.S. national security and democracy. “The process helped me understand that war isn’t just in the battlefield. The program teaches us to analyze the roots of the problem to make a correct diagnosis,” Cmdr. Díaz said. “The military is just a tool that the government can and must use against insurgency. There are economic, social, and cultural aspects that we need to learn to connect and use.”
Lines of Effort
Radical groups, Cmdr. Díaz stressed, are known transnational threats that operate against the global community, such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Shining Path, and the National Liberation Army. Latin America, he added, should focus more on terrorism, because risks arise where appealing and vulnerable targets exist.
For example, the Peruvian area in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM, in Spanish) is vulnerable to terrorism. In the hard-to-reach area, lacking a communication network, people live in isolation.
“It becomes a nest that any group can use. It’s known that when there’s a vacuum, someone fills it up. The lack of governmental presence allowed the Shining Path to maintain extensive relationships with narcotrafficking,” said Peruvian Minister of Defense José Huerta Torres in a release. “The armed forces are determined to fight against this social evil [terrorists partnering with narcotrafficking] that remains in the VRAEM.”
“After learning and studying about different terrorist and insurgent groups, I think that the problem of terrorism can be solved in my country. When you fight against this kind of insurgency, you need to attack the root,” Cmdr. Díaz said. “Insurgency has many arms, which we call lines of effort. There is a military line of effort, as well as a political, an economic, and an international line. We may only see the military part, but we should [fight against] every line of effort.”
According to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace, three quarters of all worldwide deaths related to terrorism occur in only five countries: Turkey, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Terrorism affects those countries the most since 2013.
“Transnational threats force us to have an international response; we cannot be isolated from the world against a threat that moves through different countries,” Cmdr. Díaz said. “Terrorism has an ally, narcotrafficking, which moves at a [global] level. If we make our fight international, terrorism will be left without its main source of funding.”
International network against global crime
“I’m grateful to the Peruvian Navy and the U.S. government for the opportunity to take the master’s course, an efficient and rigorous program that created cohesion among us [the students],” Cmdr. Díaz said. “I feel I belong to an international network against global crime. We strengthened professional academic bridges and bonds of friendship, which are important when operating against these threats.”
Graduates can join a network of more than 500 professionals devoted to fighting terrorism in more than 80 countries. According to NDU, alumni use their education and partnership through the network to achieve a significant impact when fulfilling their mission.
“It’s key to keep up our contact network and be up to date with this issue, because terrorism evolves,” Cmdr. Díaz said. “I’m living proof that classmates matter. I advise graduates to maintain and use the networks they created.”