By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRASILIA, Brazil – The Colombians have a good strategy to counter the main terrorist group in the country, and they will stick with it, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke with reporters traveling with him from Colombia to Brazil. He spent two days in Colombia meeting with senior leaders and visiting Joint Task Force Vulcano – a new interagency force aimed at defeating the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC.
Dempsey said he was impressed by the senior leaders he met during his visit. “They had a remarkably coherent vision of where they are today to where they need to be,” he said.
The strategy calls for Colombia to cut the FARC forces in half in two years. “They selected 2014 as a key moment for them,” he said. “They want to accelerate their effects against the FARC.”
The conversations he had with senior leaders dealt not only with equipment, but also intellectual capital, the chairman said. “We’re getting ready to send some brigade commanders who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan down here to partner with their Joint Task Force commanders in a leader developmental function,” the general said. “The challenges they face are not unlike the challenges we’ve faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
These American officers will visit with joint task force commanders for two weeks and share insights into their fights overseas. Dempsey said he fully expects the American leaders to learn from their Colombian counterparts, too.
The Colombians began by speaking about their personnel, Dempsey said, and then went to ways to accelerate the effects they were trying to make on the ground. He said this includes border security; critical infrastructure protection; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; intelligence fusion; airlift; and remotely piloted vehicles. “It wasn’t a shopping list,” the chairman said. “It was more, ‘We have the strategy. We’ve got the resources we need to do it, with a few exceptions, and we can work together to close those gaps.”
The Colombians have made great progress and they want to take advantage of that, Dempsey said. They have found that as they introduce the army into the populace, people became fond of its presence, he added.
That works well, Dempsey said, until you want to move the units. “The army has become fixed to an extent, and part of the strategy is to reintroduce mobile forces,” he explained. “They are forming a number of joint task forces, but also national police, and they are putting them in the places where the FARC has migrated to.”
The Colombians are doubling their efforts and making sure they are integrating their efforts as a nation, the chairman said. “It really has to be the whole of government,” he added. “It is really emphasizing what we called in Iraq ‘clear, hold, build.’”
Colombia has been working closely with the U.S. government in the fight. Current Colombian military leaders all have received at least some American military training.
“There was a gravitas about them, and they have a grasp of what they are facing,” Dempsey said. “There was a real appreciation of the task at had. The Colombians are winning. The FARC has had a few successes, but so have the military.”