Small Wars Journal


Irregular Warfare Podcast: Institution Building as a Counterinsurgency Tool: The Case of Colombia

Fri, 01/29/2021 - 5:44pm

In 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal, which ended over five decades of guerrilla war. Having provided the Colombian government with over $10 billion of assistance, the United States played a critical role in supporting Colombia on the path towards peace.

What broader lessons can be gleaned from the case of Colombia for the irregular warfare community?

Our two guests argue that effective US interagency coordination, bipartisan congressional support, and a focus on building institutions and stabilizing the security situation were key ingredients to success in Colombia’s efforts against the insurgency. But more important than anything was that the Colombian government and population owned the commitment to resolve the conflict.

Kevin Whitaker served as US ambassador to Colombia from May 2014 to August 2019, the longest-serving ambassador to that country in a century. Prior to this appointment, he was deputy assistant secretary of state for South America in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. Ambassador Whitaker has served in the United Kingdom, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, where he was deputy chief of mission (2005–07). In addition, he previously served in a number of positions at the Department of State. In 2005, he won the Secretary’s Award for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy. A native of Virginia, Ambassador Whitaker received his degree from the University of Virginia.

Caryn Hollis held a number of leadership roles at the Department of Defense throughout her career. These included performing duties of assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, and acting deputy assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs. In addition, she served as the director of the partnering directorate at US Southern Command and the senior defense policy advisor to the combatant commander, where she was responsible for identifying interagency opportunities and aligning US Southern Command efforts to expand collaboration and integration of interagency representation. Ms. Hollis holds a master of arts from Georgetown University and a bachelor of arts from George Mason University.


Podcast Link:

PLAN COLOMBIA: Learning from a Light-footprint “America Second” Military Strategy

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 8:02am
The United States has intervened repeatedly in the southern hemisphere for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to address growing problems metastasizing at the “Southern strategic approaches” to American territory. While today’s problem of 2015-2020 is one of human mass migration, the previous crisis of 2000 to 2010 stemmed from of an epidemic of illicit drugs. This threat was so pernicious at that period, the United States felt compelled to act with our partner nation of Colombia. With a combination of all instruments of national power, a holistic strategy with a small but powerful military theme emerged.

About the Author(s)

When Insurgent Leadership Splits: Understanding FARC’s Internal Crisis Amidst a Fragile Peace Agreement

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:19am
The internal split leadership within FARC presents the organisation with a significant crisis, particularly amongst a fragile and precarious peace agreement. Given the Colombian conflict’s transformation after the 2016 peace agreement with FARC that resulted in the opening of both territorial vacuums and resources for other armed groups, it remains precarious as to how FARC II will merge or compete given its current resources.

About the Author(s)

The War in Catatumbo: Taking Stock of an Underreported War

Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:17am
Catatumbo seems to be a singular location where some of Latin America’s biggest problems converge, and the local population is suffering for it. This paper intends to take stock of the war’s history, its current status, and to make an argument that the War in Catatumbo deserves more attention from the international community than it is currently receiving.

About the Author(s)

Some Questions to Help You Better Understand the U.S.-Colombia Security Dynamic and Opportunities to Enhance the Relationship

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 11:25am
The dramatic increase of Venezuelan refugees entering the country, record-level coca cultivation and cocaine production levels, and the power vacuum created by the disarmament, and demobilization of the country’s oldest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in key cultivation and smuggling areas are just a few things for U.S. policy makers, defense officials, and legislators to take into consideration as they evaluate bilateral security assistance to Colombia.

About the Author(s)

Colombia’s ELN, Ex-FARC Mafia Recruiting Hungry Venezuela Migrants SWJED Wed, 10/17/2018 - 1:16am
Reports that criminal groups in Colombia are increasingly recruiting migrants from Venezuela shows how these armed actors are taking advantage of those fleeing the neighboring country’s economic crisis in order to strengthen their criminal structures.

The Persistence of the FARC

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 12:28am
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) declared their insurgency in 1964 and did not sign a peace agreement with the Government of Colombia (GoC) until 2016. This qualifies the FARC insurgency as one of the longest running in history (Leech, 2011). Through fifty-two years of government attacks, terrible defeats, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and through the demobilization or defeat of many sister movements, the FARC persisted. In this paper, I will attempt to account for this persistence.

About the Author(s)