Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 17: Antipersonnel Landmine Use and Fabrication by the Clan del Golfo in Colombia SWJED Fri, 06/14/2019 - 7:15am
Over the last few months, Colombian army and police have discovered factories operated by the Clan del Golfo engaged in producing and stockpiling antipersonnel mines and explosive devices. In addition, cases of Colombian soldiers sustaining injuries from antipersonnel mines have been documented. These cases illustrate the ongoing, and apparently growing, threat—initially disclosed in an alert made by the Colombian Army in May 2013—of antipersonnel mines employed by criminal organizations or bandes criminals (criminal bands or bacrim).

Lessons for America’s Longest-Running War from the Americas’ Longest-Running Insurgency

Lessons for America’s Longest-Running War from the Americas’ Longest-Running Insurgency by Lionel Beehner and Liam Collins - Modern War Institute

In 2016, Colombia achieved a remarkable success by seemingly bringing to an end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running insurgency. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been at war with government forces for more than fifty years. And yet here was a negotiated settlement by which two parties that had been fighting for generations agreed to lay down their arms—by which the guerrilla organization itself would be brought into the government’s formal power structures. The case raises important questions—not least for a US government that watches the clock on its own counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan tick ever closer to two decades. How was this possible? And are there lessons that can be exported and applied to other intransigent conflicts, like Afghanistan? The Modern War Institute at West Point recently led a research trip to assess these and other questions.

To be sure, the case of Colombia offers not a shining success story but a cautionary tale of how the US military can assist a foreign military and a weak government in fighting a counterinsurgency to bring about peace. A signed peace agreement does not mean that all is instantly well. In Colombia, attacks continue, as the January 2019 terrorist attack against the police academy in Bogotá highlights, and cocaine continues to emanate from Colombia at record levels. Although promptly rescinded, a recent order by the Colombian army to double the number of criminals and guerrillas they kill caused a swirl of controversy among both its rank and file as well as human rights groups, given the armed forces’ past track record of targeting civilians to reach quotas. Still, the conditions in Colombia are significantly improved from what they were a decade ago…

Read on.

Colombia Army’s New Kill Orders Send Chills Down Ranks

Colombia Army’s New Kill Orders Send Chills Down Ranks by Nicholas Casey – New York Times

The head of Colombia’s army, frustrated by the nation’s faltering efforts to secure peace, has ordered his troops to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle — and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process, according to written orders and interviews with senior officers.

At the start of the year, Colombian generals and colonels were assembled and told to sign a written pledge to step up attacks. Daily internal presentations now show the number of days that brigades have gone without combat, and commanders are berated when they don’t carry out assaults frequently enough, the officers said.

One order causing particular worry instructs soldiers not to “demand perfection” in carrying out deadly attacks, even if significant questions remain about the targets they are striking. Some officers say that order has instructed them to lower their standards for protecting innocent civilians from getting killed, and that it has already led to suspicious or unnecessary deaths.

The military tried a similar strategy to defeat Colombia’s rebel and paramilitary groups in the mid-2000s, before a landmark peace deal was signed to end decades of conflict…

Read on.

Counterinsurgency as an Approach to Organized Crime in Latin America

Counterinsurgency as an Approach to Organized Crime in Latin America by Yuri Neves - Georgetown Security Studies Review

The growing complexity and capabilities of criminal organizations in Latin America necessitate a new approach to fight crime in the region. The conditions that give rise to insurgencies, are similar to those that allow organized crime groups to prosper. Furthermore, both entities utilize similar strategies. Therefore, any policy that aims at defeating these groups should utilize counterinsurgency strategies (COIN).

While many have critiqued using counterinsurgency tactics to combat criminal organizations, many of these critiques are misguided or narrowly conceived. Counterinsurgency simply refers to tactics used to combat an enemy that relies upon, and blends in, with the civilian population. So, while counterinsurgency inevitably conjures images of security forces utilizing heavy duty military hardware against masses of populations, this is only one application of COIN doctrine. Using COIN strategies to combat organized crime is not the same as militarizing the police. Rather, it is an appreciation of the political causes of organized crime. Counterinsurgency campaigns can range from a “hearts and minds” approach, in which the focus is on winning the population’s support, to the kind of brutal tactics employed by the Sri Lanka government in their fight against the Tamil Tigers. While insurgencies differ in that they aim to overthrow the existing government, there are enough similarities with criminal organizations to make use of COIN tactics appropriate…

Read on.

Colombian Army’s Kill Orders Put Civilians at Risk, Officers Say

Colombian Army’s Kill Orders Put Civilians at Risk, Officers Say by Nicholas Casey – New York Times

The head of Colombia’s army, frustrated by the nation’s faltering efforts to secure peace, has ordered his troops to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle — and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process, according to written orders and interviews with senior officers.

At the start of the year, Colombian generals and colonels were assembled and told to sign a written pledge to step up attacks. Daily internal presentations now show the number of days that brigades have gone without combat, and commanders are berated when they don’t carry out assaults frequently enough, the officers said.

One order causing particular worry instructs soldiers not to “demand perfection” in carrying out deadly attacks, even if significant questions remain about the targets they are striking. Some officers say that order has instructed them to lower their standards for protecting innocent civilians from getting killed, and that it has already led to suspicious or unnecessary deaths.

The military tried a similar strategy to defeat Colombia’s rebel and paramilitary groups in the mid-2000s, before a landmark peace deal was signed to end decades of conflict.

But the tactics caused a national outrage when it emerged that soldiers, aiming to meet their quotas, engaged in widespread killings and disappearances of civilians.

Now, another incarnation of the policy is being pushed by the new government against the country’s remaining criminal, guerrilla and paramilitary groups, according to orders reviewed by The New York Times and three senior officers who spoke about them...

Read on.

Colombia’s Peace Deal Promised a New Era. This Is What It Looks Like.

Colombia’s Peace Deal Promised a New Era. This Is What It Looks Like. By Nicholas Casey – New York Times

After Colombia’s government signed a peace deal with the country’s main rebel group, ending decades of war and upheaval, both sides said it heralded a new era. But two and a half years after the militants agreed to lay down their arms, many of the promises made are not being honored, and the prospect of a true, lasting peace now seems far from certain.

This is what we found:

  • As many as 3,000 militants have resumed fighting, threatening the very foundation of the accord.
  • Many of the millions of Colombians who once lived in rebel-held territory still await the promised arrival of roads, schools and electricity. The government’s pledge to help rural areas was a big reason the rebels stood down.
  • Since the peace deal was signed, at least 500 activists and community leaders have been killed, and more than 210,000 people displaced from their homes amid the continuing violence. That undercuts a core selling point of the deal: that it would bring safety and stability.
  • Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque, a conservative who took office in August, has expressed skepticism of the accords and wants to change a commitment that was fundamental to the rebels agreeing to lay down their weapons.

Colombia’s five-decade civil war took at least 220,000 lives and devastated large swaths of the countryside. In rebel-held areas, government services disappeared and the infrastructure crumbled. Many turned to the drug economy to survive.

All sides were accused of atrocities — kidnappings, rapes and summary executions — that bred deep-seated animosities across the country and even within families. In a war so deeply personal, finding a way out posed an enormous challenge.

So when the government and the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, reached a peace agreement in September 2016 after years of negotiation, much of the world applauded. Juan Manuel Santos, then Colombia’s president, won the Nobel Peace Prize

Much, much, more - Read on.

SWJ El Centro Book Review - Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The work "Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War" represents the first book (& ebook) to be published by this blog site. Borderland Beat is an informational and collaborative English language blog (drawing upon US and Mexican contributors) reporting on the Mexican narco wars.

About the Author(s)

Inside Gang Territory In Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them’

Inside Gang Territory In Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them’ by Azam Ahmed – New York Times

 

In one of the deadliest cities in the world, an embattled group of young men had little but their tiny patch of turf — and they would die to protect it. Journalists from The New York Times spent weeks recording their struggle…

 

Read on.

Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle

Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle by Michael L. Burgoyne - Wilson Center's Mexico Institute

Facing record homicide rates and a public outcry to reduce violence and restore peace, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed the formation of a “National Guard” as a possible solution. While controversial, it has garnered the support of large majorities in the Mexican Congress, and in two-thirds of the states, ensuring that the National Guard will be constitutionally recognized.

 

In a new report published by the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, author Michael L. Burgoyne, a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer, looks at the limitations of current policing models in Mexico and Central America to confront “militarized criminal violence.” He further examines the historical experiences of Stability Police Forces in France, Spain, and Italy and draws some important lessons that could bolster efforts in Mexico and Central America to form their own versions of gendarmeries to better address the serious threats posed by organized crime. Finally, he highlights the limitations of current United States security cooperation programs for addressing these strategic challenges.

Read the paper here.