Naval Intelligence in the Colombian Conflict

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 11
Words: 3037
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: PhD

Context

Colombia has been going through many internal and international conflicts. In most of these, the role of naval intelligence is a constant. In the latest conflicts, the Colombian government has faced the threat of the guerrilla arms of the Colombian communist party that are opposed to the United States having strong ties to drug dealers. There is also struggle to deal with drug trafficking in the country with the trade known to have significant effects on relations with her neighbours and international partners especially the United States, which forms a large market for the illegal trade (Espinosa & Blanquer 2006, p.13). The conflict involves the government, the FARC rebels, and the other insurgents such as the ELN, the drug lords, and the other armed groups involved in the drug trade. The conflict has been fuelled by the large amounts of money available in the drug trade with this coming from foreign illegal markets. The government has used several measures to stop the conflicts in a bid to bring back control of the vast areas under armed rebels’ rule in the country. One of the deterrence measures used is the military, which employed the use of intelligence. The navy has been a prime source of this intelligence over the years. It has participated in intelligence gathering in the internal conflicts as well as those with her neighbours. In the drug war, the drug lords are at one time considered having gained control of more parts of the country than the central government (Espinosa &Blanquer 2006, p.13). Few studies have been published, if any, detailing the involvement of the navy in the operations of the government. Few of the studies detail the intelligence gathering by the same organ of the Colombian armed forces. With the front on the drug cartels opened before the 1990s, the FARC rebel are said to have expanded their territories of control because of funding from the illegal drug trade (Leech 2011, p.23). The intelligence gathering had failed to produce results. The government at the time had few options available to deal with the conflicts. The FARC rebels even ended at some point controlling more than 40% of the country without any presence of government troops (Leech 2011, p.23). Seven organisations exist in Colombia. These are the institutions responsible for intelligence gathering in the country. The armed forces have their own intelligence services with the navy therefore running an independent intelligence service aimed at guiding its operations and those of other arms of the Colombian government. The intelligence service in the Navy runs in the control of naval vessels involved in the drug trade. The organisation is also a member of the joint intelligence system in the military. In this research proposal, a focus is made to the role of the Colombian navy in intelligence gathering, institutional dynamics, variation and effects, and the role that this arm of the army will play after the conflicts.

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Existing Academic Literature on the Research Area

Are there needs for change in doctrine of the navy as the conflicts abate? The research proposal tries to answer this question. Besides, it tries to explain the role that naval intelligence has played in internal and international conflicts in Colombia. Research in this area has not been forthcoming. According to published literature, the Colombian conflict has many dimensions. The role played by military intelligence is unclear (Hartlyn 1988, p.24).The future of this intelligence is also unclear with the conflict turning to be mainly local in origin. This research therefore establishes a knowledge gap in the future of naval intelligence in the Colombian war after the conflict is resolved. Will the intelligence be adequately utilised to solve the internal security cases in the country in the future?

At present, the intelligence system in Colombia is more effective and transparent than it was a decade or so ago (Simons 2004, p.34). However, the effectiveness has been sacrificed for transparency, which has ensured that the internal threats are continually multiplying. Despite these factors, Colombia has improved in security with the internal threats, though present, reducing in number and magnitude. The research examines the role of naval intelligence to this effect, and the future that it is likely to have. The research proposal establishes that there is inadequate research done on the subject of naval intelligence in the Colombian conflicts. This means that the field is an important one to consider.

Research Area of Focus

The research area that the proposal focuses on is conflict management and the tactics of achieving peace. It uses naval intelligence in Colombia as a basis to address the specified research area, which is of great academic importance, as it will facilitate formulation of policy that is geared towards the attaining of universal peace.

Research Questions or Aims

In this research proposal, the aims are to evaluate the role played by naval intelligence in Colombia, the effectiveness it has had, and the quality of this intelligence. Has the naval intelligence contributed towards the greater goal of realisation of sustainable peace in this country? It also sets to answer the question of the role that the naval intelligence will play in the light of the internal conflicts in the country. Does it have any role to play in the territorial and maritime disputes dogging the country? The paper also focuses on the institutional dynamics, variation and effects in the naval intelligence system in Colombia.

Institutional dynamics, variation and effects

As indicated above, the central government has often changed since the start of the 1900s. Each administration has had different uses for naval intelligence. Each of the successive administrations has then had an effect on the functioning of the intelligence arm of the navy with President Alvaro Uribe making the most significant use of the units. These highlights will be discussed in the theoretical research section in details.

Empirical Research Methods and Theoretical Research

The research methods utilised were by the use of databases and information gathered from the Colombian national army documents since the Colombian conflict started. In the analysis of the literature search, a variety of methods came in handy with research including documents written in English or translated to it. The literature works that qualified for review included international reports on the Colombian conflict, study books used in class on international relations, and other reports related to the research questions. From the literature, it is clear that the research question is supported by few studies, which are not even related to the topic. The research therefore utilises data and information as provided by the Colombian literature to deduce the relevant information or the research proposal.

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From the literature analysed, the origin of the Colombian conflict dates back half a century ago in 1948 when there arose a scandal on the importation of arms into the country to deal with the liberal unrest at the time (Ruis 2001, p. 52). The assassination of Gaitan who blew the trumpet on the government then caused outrage and mass action with the beginning of the civil war being witnessed. The origin of the conflict was also marked by external forces such as the US, which shipped weapons to the country in support of the military in fear of communist takeover (Stokes 2005, p.68). There are many military operations, which have utilised Naval Intelligence since 1993. These include the mission against Pablo Escobar, Fenix Operation against Raul Reyes, Jaque Operation, Camaleon Operation, Emanuel Operation, Sodoma Operation, Nemesis Operation, Odiseo Operation, Sol Naciente Operation, Alcatraz Operation, and others (Larsdotter 2011, p.72: EjércitoNacional 2010, p.26). They had varying success with some failing miserably.

The FARC rebels have also been in existence over the past decade with this posing a significant challenge to achieving lasting peace in the country and the region in general (LeongoÌ & Peñaranda 1991, p.37). The traditional political parties in the country, Liberal and conservative party for instance, had formed the national front with alternation of presidents between them over the years. This case is reported not to have ended the violence (Hartlyn 1988, p.24). The operation to rid the country of rebels called operation Marquetalia, which originated because of the uprising by the low and middle class people who thought that the power sharing made their leaders forget about them, was not successful. Instead, the rebels regrouped and formed the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces-FARC, which was far much stronger (Gilhodes 1991, p. 317). The operation was backed by the US. The government was less experienced in dealing with this kind of operation hence the little success.

The role played by the then ill-equipped Navy and military depending on poor intelligence sources is significant in the failure of this operation. Gilhodes argues that it was the implementation of national security doctrines in the region and the need to put into place measures aimed at curtailing the spread of communism that constituted the main reason for the origin of the FARC rebels (1991, p.318). There are however different schools of thought with some suggesting that the FARC had already developed even before this period of time (Pisarro & Leongomez 1991, p. 168).

The US worked with the government to try to halt the transformation of the FARC rebels in the Colombian internal conflict to a communist movement (Randall 1992, p. 188). The transformation of the movement into a guerrilla outfit was the major blow that the government had in the conflict. This made the gathering of intelligence hard (Alape 1998, p. 110). For the naval intelligence, the US navy was busy training the navy in Colombia on intelligence gathering and the approach to the conflict. This effort was focused mainly in dealing with the internal conflict and the territorial conflicts with her neighbours that were already beginning (Porch 2012, p.32). The FARC grew at a fast rate in the years after 1988, which is a decade that marked its highest support within the country with renewed efforts from the US Navy and the Colombian Army to stem its growth (Murillo 2004, p.62).

The naval intelligence in the country however began to bear fruits when the military started planting informants within the organisation. This facilitated the capture of a significant number of the rebels. In the reign of Julio Cesar Turbay, the use of intelligence was mainly to defeat the guerrillas in a bid to present them as a product of international conflict so that the global partners would help him in controlling the conflict (Garcia 1992, p. 48). The presentation of the conflict as being because of East West enmity only resulted in more emerging local movements.

In the international conflicts, Colombian intelligence was utilised in the invasion of Grenada in 1983. The Malvinas conflict where the state did not take the side of Argentine was observed with most other Latin American countries (Tokatlian 2000, p. 337). Naval intelligence was increasingly used in the international conflict that they participated in during this period in time. The local conflicts also consumed a large part of the work force involved in the intelligence gathering. In the early 1990s, the intelligence gathering systems in the country were focused on the drug trade that had dominated the headlines. There were a series of murders and kidnappings in the country with the major drug cartels controlling a large portion of the country (Bruce 2001, p. 13). The army and the navy in particularwas increasingly involved in intelligence gathering to deal with the drug cartels in the country. This domestic and civilian issue was increasingly becoming militarised. An example is in the case of Pablo Escobar who was increasingly a bother for the government. The increasing use of intelligence in dealing with internal conflicts meant that the Navy could plant moles or intelligence sources within the ranks of any organisation both within and outside the central government (Villamisar 2004, p. 63: Goebel 2003, p. 67).

In the recent past, the military under the combined intelligence organ of D2 has been involved in intelligence gathering. This attempt has focused on the traditional enemies of the government mainly the FARC and the drug lords. This therefore has shifted intelligence gathering from international conflicts that Colombia was involved in to the local problems. Besides, it has been lauded as an apt move. Most analysts have advised that internal problems in Colombia should only be handled as internal and or international (mainly Central American problems) at an international level (Deas 1988, p. 12).

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The role of naval intelligence receives support and facilitation from the police intelligence-gathering organ in Colombia known as DIPOL. The organ has contributed towards stopping the illegal drug trade, kidnappings, and the breaking up of insurgent cells (CueÌ 1997, p.18). A civilian-based intelligence system is currently in place in the country dealing with issues such as money laundering and extortion. There are various branches concerned, which have increasingly led to the shifting of crime control to the government agencies away from the traditional naval and military involvement.

The period beginning from 1991 marked a change in intelligence gathering and sharing since this marked the period, which the Colombian constitution was enacted, and the beginning of reformation of the country (Singer 2006, p. 38). Cesar Gaviria, the president at the time embarked on security control and reforms and increasingly became involved in security in the country, which culminated in him giving orders that all the intelligence systems in the country at the time to focus on drug cartels and drug lords (Leech 2011, p.23: Carlisle 2005, p.12). National intelligence then fell under the control of the newly reactivated Presidential Advisory Council for Defence and National Security, which had been idle for a number of years (Galula 1964, p.23).

The president then embarked on a project to strengthen the intelligence organs in the military by the provision of equipment and training to the people involved in intelligence gathering (Leech 2011, p.23). It is during this time that the Navy began to increase in strength and resource. Its role in intelligence gathering was boosted. The country however did not experience as many international conflicts at the time. Therefore, the intelligence in the navy was mainly in internal conflicts. The year 1996 was significant in intelligence gathering in the country, as there were no resources forthcoming because the country was reported to have fallen out of favour with the US after the government and its leader were named in high-level drug trafficking scandals (Leech 2011, p.23). The naval intelligence at the time therefore had challenges in carrying out its functions due to the limitation in resources. The leadership that followed this one gave importance to the intelligence gathering especially the role of the military in intelligence gathering, which was given a priority (Robinson 2011, p.21: Dudley 2004, p.45). The changes however were not enough. The conflicts within the country continued to pose a problem to the administration (Llana 2011, p.12).

Gathering Data for my Research Area

The research targets to utilise data collection methods used in previous studies related to the subject of naval intelligence. In obtaining the security details of the operations, a database search for any reports and literary works on the operations in Colombian territory that might have utilised naval intelligence will be conducted. The results will then be analysed using keywords established and grouped into categories. These will then be used to draw up conclusions on the research questions. A key ethical consideration in doing this is the secrecy accorded to any data on naval intelligence in Colombia.

Reflections

The proposal on the study of naval intelligence in Colombia establishes some of the challenges that the actual research may face. In the literature review, there is the inadequacy of sources detailing the operations against the drug cartels in Colombia. The few works available have no component of intelligence structures in the operations therefore being of little value in the topic. There are also the limitations brought about by the secrecy of the information on the operations that were carried out by the various governments in Colombia, as some of them were classified (DuBois& Jermyn 2002, p.87).

The literature review found and earmarked various military operations with Naval Intelligence since 1993 for consideration. These include the “operation against Pablo Escobar, Fenix Operation against Raul Reyes, Jaque Operation, Camaleon Operation, Emanuel Operation, Sodoma Operation, Nemesis Operation, Odiseo Operation, Sol Naciente Operation, and Alcatraz Operation amongst others” (Torres 2009, p.33: Jacinto 2008, p.7). In all these operations, the findings that the proposal is seeking to publish in the study were not available. The naval intelligence system is also not independent from the other intelligence services in Colombia. One cannot say the exact value that the navy adds to the body. The Colombian conflict has been running for decades. Naval intelligence has been utilised in most of the armed struggles against the central government and in the drug wars. However, with adequate time and resource, most of these challenges will be overcome.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the research proposal targets to analyse the role of naval intelligence and the Colombian Special Forces since the 1990s in the security operations in Colombia. It focuses on the role played by the intelligence gathered by the navy and other branches of the military in the attempt to stabilise the country that has been marked by conflict since its independence. Specifically, it gives weight on institutional dynamics, variation and effects in the naval intelligence system in Colombia. As demonstrated in the literature review, there is little information detailing the operations in Colombia especially those that utilised naval intelligence.

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The origin of the conflict has been discussed. The attempts made by successive governments and rulers to calm or aggravate the situation have been discussed. The naval intelligence utilised in the Colombian missions in international conflicts was mainly shared with the United States with gains being made on the domestic front. The FARC rebels constitute the largest single organisation that the naval intelligence has been used against since inception. This attempt has proved to be of value. As a result, the dominance of the movement has diminished with time. The challenges that the research is likely to experience have also been highlighted, with the main one being the absence of reliable information. The proposal however proposes how to deal with the problem.

References

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