Archive for March 29, 2012

LATIN AMERICA: Raids on Colombian Rebels, Dempsey’s South American Trip (UPDATE)

Updates with Dempsey visit to Brazil, adds background (in italics)

Colombia Rebels Killed

Wikipedia image

Government troops in Colombia killed 36 rebels Monday (March 26) in an airstrike on a training camp in the state of Metas south of Bogota, the capital.

It was the second such raid against Colmbia’s main guerilla force in less than a week. On March 21, the Colombian military killed 33 rebels in another air raid on Arauca state near the border with Venezuela, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. That raid followed an early March rebel attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers.

The attacks come just as the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, said it would release the last of its prisoners – some of them held for as long as 14 years – early next month.

FARC has been waging an insurgency against Bogota since the 1960s resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, rebels and citizens. In recent years FARC has been battered by an increasingly professional and effective Colombian military with U.S. financial aid and military assistance, the Associated Press reported.

Recently FARC said it was halting kidnappings for ransom, a long-time source of income along with the illegal cocaine trade.

Veteran U.S. Officers to Assist Colombia

The United States is preparing to send Army brigade commanders with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan to Colombia to assist a joint task force aimed at defeating FARC guerillas.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, on a tour of Colombia and Brazil, says the U.S. officers will visit commanders of Joint Task Force Vulcano for two weeks to help with leader development and share their experience fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The task force is one of several created by the Colombian government to disrupt rebel organizations engaging in drug smuggling, arms trafficking, illegal mining and bomb manufacturing. The learning experience won’t be a one way street, Demsey says, adding that he fully expects U.S. leaders to learn from the Colombian counterparts.

On a two-day visit to Colombia to meet with high ranking political and defense officials, Dempsey said Colombia had a good strategy for combating FARC. That strategy calls for cutting FARC’s forces – now numbering 8,000-to-9,000 – by 2014.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listens to Colombian Armed Forces Commander Gen. Alejandro Navas (right) at Joint Task Force-Volcano near Tibu, Colombia. (Defense Dept. photo by Army Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)

During his meetings, Dempsey said the Colombians indicated ways to accelerate their efforts on the ground including: border security, protecting critical infrastructure, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, intelligence fusion, airlift and unmanned aircraft.

The Colombians also would like the U.S. to provide additional aircraft to transport cargo and troops, Dempsey told reporters traveling with him, the Associated Press reported.

Getting Closer to Brazil

Dempsey wound up his first trip to South America as chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a visit to Brazil, where he met with Brazilian military leaders and toured the country’s jungle warfare training center near Manaus in the Amazonia region. The world class training center has seen only a few U.S. troops among its students. In fact, it has graduated more officers and non-commissioned officers from France (86) than from the U.S. (25) in its 48-year history.

Dempsey said Brazil, the largest country and largest economy in South America, has a key role to play in the region. The Pentagon, as part of its new strategic guidance, is seeking to enlist the assistance of Brazil, Colombia and other countries in the region to block the spread of terrorist groups and transnational crime – particularly narcotics trafficking.

To protect its the offshore oil deposits and the water and agricultural resources of the Amazon region, Brazil is expanding its military acquisitions under a 2010 defense strategy. It is building five submarines – one them nuclear-powered – in an agreement with French shipbuilder DCNS. France also has a deal to sell Brazil 50 EC725 Cougar military transport helicopters. And Sao Paulo is said to be close to deciding from whom it will buy 36 next generation mult-role combat jet fighters.

A staff member at Brazil's jungle warfare training center in Manaus explains to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey the importance of natural resources. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)

Brazil is, itself, a military manufacturer and exporter. Recently it sold the Embraer’s Super Tucan turbo-prop plane, which can serve as a trainer or light attack counter insurgency weapon, to three African nations: Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In the past, when it was ruled by a military junta, Brazil was a leading manufacturer and exporter  of armored vehicles, rocket launchers and small arms.

In addition to international drug cartels that move drug shipments by plane, boat and homemade submarines, U.S. security planners are also concerned about the activities of Iran, China and Russia in Latin America and the presence of businesses linked to international terrorist groups – particularly in the largely lawless Triple Frontier region where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay share borders.

Dempsey said he was concerned that transit routes used to smuggle  drugs today could be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in the future, the AP’s Robert Burns reported.

To see a 10-minute French television report on the Brazilian jungle warfare training center click here. (In French except where it’s in Brazilian Portuguese)

March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm 1 comment


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