Argentina set in motion a restructuring process in its Armed Forces to enable them to collaborate on internal security tasks. The goal is to modernize the defense system to confront the challenges of the 21st century, such as narcotrafficking and terrorism.
The reform started in August 2018 with the National Defense Policy Directive issued by President Mauricio Macri. Service members have mainly been deployed on the country's northern border, where they provide logistics support to the Gendarmerie and the Argentine Naval Prefecture in the fight against narcotrafficking.
“We face a more volatile environment nowadays. New forms of conflict, as well as rapid technological advances, are factors driving this restructuring process,” Argentine Minister of Defense Oscar Aguad told Diálogo.
The minister explained that the goal is to have top notch, flexible forces, capable of withstanding all sorts of conflicts, whether defending the nation or interacting with other countries’ forces in the international arena. “We are acting with a new vision on the use of military resources in the framework of joint military action, which enables us to be dissuasive, with forces that are versatile, agile, and equipped to provide an effective response to national strategic issues,” Aguad said.
The plan foresees airspace radar coverage, interagency work, a larger presence in areas with low population density, and maritime surveillance. It also includes assistance to underprivileged communities and those affected by natural disasters.
Concern for Venezuela
Aguad expressed his concern about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, one of the issues discussed in his June 2019 meeting with U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
“Consolidation of the democratic, peaceful, and respectful tradition of human rights in South America is at risk because of the situation in Venezuela,” said Aguad. “Our main concern is that the region does not lose its status as a peace zone. That's why we are following closely the health situation and other problems that Venezuelans are going through.”
Aguad recalled that Argentine service members have a lot of experience in humanitarian assistance, carried out in the framework of peacekeeping operations under multilateral international organizations.
Aguad highlighted the support the United States provided to Argentina during the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires in November 2018. “We were able to strengthen our defense capabilities to confront the security demands that such a massive international event required.”
Aguad also said that military exercises like UNITAS and PANAMAX help revitalize the relationship between the United States and countries in the continent, by enabling them to analyze strategies in hypothetical scenarios. “These exercises are aimed at evaluating interoperability, exchanging information, and strengthening bonds of cooperation,” he said.
The most recent example was operation UNITAS LX 2019, which concluded on August 30 in Brazil, and saw the participation of more than 3,300 service members from the Americas. “There's a common need to maintain the balance and control of natural resources along the vast South Atlantic coast,” Aguad concluded.