Wikileaks. Cable

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000715


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2009

Classified By: DCM Brian A. Nichols for
Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) On February 19, President Uribe approved a
comprehensive plan known as the “Strategic Leap,” designed to
achieve irreversibility in the GOC’s fight against the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other
criminal groups before his term ends in 2010. The plan calls
for the decisive dismantling of terrorist organizations,
stabilizing key border areas, and the consolidation of GOC
control over key geographic areas through integrated GOC
action. The Strategic Leap identifies 17 strategic focus
areas, and proposes to stand up six new inter-agency fusion
centers in these regions. The centers will be modeled on the
successful approach taken in La Macarena. Still, serious
obstacles to implementation remain, including budget
shortfalls and continued inter-agency wrangling. End summary.

2. (C) In August 2007, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) engaged
an Israeli company, Global Comprehensive Security
Transformation (Global CST), to help the GOC conduct a
strategic assessment of the internal conflict. Global CST is
a security company run by Israeli Defense Forces Reserve
Major General Yisrael Ziv, former Director of Operations for
the IDF and a personal acquaintance of Defense Minister Juan
Manuel Santos. The Israeli contractors had been in
preliminary discussions with the MOD about such a strategic
review since 2007, when GOC officials were frustrated over
their lack of success against high value FARC targets (HVTs).
The assessment became known as the “Salto Estrategico”
(Strategic Leap). The MOD spearheaded the initiative, but
the idea was to adopt an integrated GOC approach.

3. (C) Vice Minister of Defense Sergio Jaramillo, one of the
intellectual authors of the assessment, told us in a February
26 briefing that several factors prompted the GOC to
undertake the review. The principal driver was the desire to
achieve “irreversible” progress in the war against the FARC
and other criminal groups before President Uribe’s term ended
in 2010. There was a perception that the Uribe’s Democratic
Security Policy had stalled, with new criminal groups arising
after the demobilization of the United Self-Defene Forces of
Colombia (AUC), continued widespread illegal coca
cultivation, and a resilient FARC remaining in the field.
Jaramillo noted that Uribe feared that the GOC lacked the
strategic framework needed to win this conflict.

4. (C) Jaramillo added that Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez’s growing influence in the region was also alarming,
and said that terrorist and criminal groups were exploiting
border areas with Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela to develop
sophisticated narcotics supply chains. Colombian military
forces were too dispersed, lacked operational flexibility,
and suffered from limited–and likely shrinking–resources to
effectively confront these external and internal threats.
The Strategic Leap exercise provided a framework that would
ensure more strategic use of these limited military resources
as well as greater coordination with civilian agencies. Vice
Minister of Defense Juan Pinzon described the assessment to
us as a “time out,” to make sure that the GOC was doing
everything possible to move towards the victory line by 2010.

5. (C) Jaramillo said the GOC did not think that the
Strategic Leap would solve all of Colombia’s problems by
2010. Still, he explained that the GOC hoped to lock in
place systems that would achieve “irreversibility” in the
fight against illegal armed groups–regardless of who may be
president after 2010. Jaramillo said that instead of using
statistics like hectares of coca eradicated or arms caches
seized to measure progress, the GOC needed a more
comprehensive, territorial vision that would focus on
consolidating control of critical geographic areas.

6. (C) MOD officials concluded that relatively few regions
accounted for most criminal violence and narcotics activity,
and that a clear-and-hold approach was needed in these areas.
GOC officials were heartened by their successes in La
Macarena, where coordinated inter-agency efforts through the
fusion center in Vista Hermosa had largely dissuaded drug
traffickers from moving in after the Colombian military had
driven the FARC out. There was almost no coca re-planting in
this area, and increased citizen cooperation with state
entities. The idea was to replicate this successful approach
in other key regions.

7. (C) Jaramillo said the Strategic Leap exercise evolved
over time, eventually producing the following mission
statement: “A national integrated, harmonized and
synchronized plan of state institutions against
narco-terrorist and criminal aggression in Colombia,
consisting of a coordinated, progressive and irreversible
process, designed to guarantee in a sustainable manner and
within the framework of the Democratic Security Policy, an
environment of security and peace, the strengthening of
democratic institutions, and the social consolidation of
territory and state institutions, in order to benefit the
free exercise of societal rights and the social and
productive development of Colombia.”

8. (C) Jaramillo explained that while the MOD spearheaded the
Strategic Leap review process, the idea was to integrate all
relevant government agencies and to adopt a coordinated and
sequenced approach. From September to December 2007,
officials from various agencies, including the MOD and the
Ministries of Social Protection, Interior, Finance and
Communication, met to review the situation. They concluded
that the government needed to focus on the following tasks:

a) Decisive dismantling of principal terrorist structures
and organizations in order to achieve irreversibility;
b) Containment efforts, to block enemy supply and support
lines and to keep problem areas from spreading;
c) Sustainable consolidation, to guarantee an environment
of security and peace to permit the strengthening of
democratic institutions; and
d) External dissuasion, to block the influence of countries
that provide material support to illegal groups.

The following supporting areas were also identified:

e) Legal efforts, to attack terrorist organizations and to
ensure that all military operations comply with applicable
legal norms;
f) Perception, to convert achievements into messages both
nationally and internationally to generate a positive impact;
g) Finances, to attack terrorist’s abilities to finance,
invest and spend their resources.

9. (C) Working groups met regularly in 2007-2008 to develop
policies in these areas. The MOD considered USG
participation critical to this effort and included Embassy
officials in the meetings–despite initial resistance by
GLOBAL CST to the USG presence. Differences emerged between
Colombian operational commanders and policy makers on issues
such as whether all consolidation and development efforts
would have to wait for security to be completely
established–in Narino, for example. Still, officials from
diverse ministries were working side by side on a strategic
plan, which represented a significant advance.

10. (C) In determining territorial focus areas, Jaramillo
said that officials overlaid maps with the following
indicators: centers of narcotics production, FARC and armed
group mobility corridors, militia presence, presence of
criminal bands, terrorist acts, kidnappings and extortion,
and displacements. What emerged were two key swathes of
territory going from east to west across the country. One
zone starts in Meta and runs across Tolima and Huila, ending
in Cauca, Valle de Cauca and Narino. The other zone starts
in Northern Colombia, running from Cesar and Norte de
Santander across Bolivar and southern Cordoba, and ending in
Choco and the Uraba region of Antioquia.

11. (C) The 17 areas identified under the Strategic Leap, in
priority order, are: 1) the Meta-Caqueta border; 2) Southern
Tolima; 3) Valle – Cauca – Narino; 4) the Nudo de Paramillo
region in Antioquia; 5) the Catatumbo region in the border of
Norte de Santander and Cesar; 6) the Cundinamarca border with
Tolima-Huila-Meta; 7) Southern Bolivar; 8 ) Arauca; 9) Eastern
Antioquia; 10) Guaviare; 11) the Putumayo – Bota Caucana
region in Cauca; 12) the Serrania del Perija region where
Norte de Santander borders Cesar; 13) the Atrato region of
Choco and the Uraba region in Antioquia/Cordoba; 14) the
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Magdalena; 15) the Cumaribo
region in Vichada; 16) Bajo Cauca; and 17) the Montes de
Maria region in Bolivar and Sucre.

12. (C) On February 19, President Uribe was briefed for four
hours on the Strategic Leap recommendations and formally
approved the plan, which is now moving into the execution
phase. Execution is scheduled to take place in three phases:
emergency attention, transition, and stabilization. The
plan calls for six new fusion centers to be stood up
throughout the country, modeled on the approach in La
Macarena. In one of the first concrete actions under the
plan to focus military resources on priority geographic
regions, the Joint Forces Decisive Action Unit (FUCAD) has
been relocated to the Meta-Huila border to pursue FARC
Secretariat member Mono Jojoy.

13. (C) Jaramillo acknowledged that resources are limited to
fund the Strategic Leap, and that the GOC was looking to
various funding sources, including the private sector. He
said that some new hires were already being made for the
fusion centers, but agreed that the GOC needed to ensure that
more resources continue to flow in. Jaramillo underscored
that USG funding and expertise would be a key to success–as
it was in La Macarena–and noted the Dutch have provided some
two million euros with another five million euros under
consideration. Jaramillo said when Uribe was briefed,
officials did not dwell on recent GOC budget cuts due to
falling economic growth and its possible impact on the
Strategic Leap.

14. (C) The largest impediment to implementing the plan
remains the lack of commitment of some government agencies
and ministries to make the structural changes needed to
implement an integrated consolidation plan–and reprogramming
resources within existing budgets. Jaramillo mentioned that
there is some support for the creation of a new
reconstruction ministry, since the current development agency
(CCAI) does not have its own funding and relies on other
ministries. He noted that there was a dispute about which
ministry should take the lead in the various focus areas, and
insisted that proper sequencing would be critical. He also
observed that the issue of how to measure success would be
difficult, commenting that the GOC had set up a complicated
structure to try to measure success in territorial terms.

15. (C) Jaramillo said the Strategic Leap will need to tackle
complicated issues involved in consolidation, such as land
tenure and titling, promotion of legal economic development,
and lack of infrastructure. He also conceded there could be
a balloon effect, where narcotics activity could simply move
from one sector to another in Colombia. Still, he said the
idea was to move the conflict and coca entirely away from
population zones. Jaramillo noted that impending changes in
the MOD leadership could also hinder implementation. Defense
Minister Santos is expected to resign in the coming month to
launch his presidential campaign, and Vice Ministers
Jaramillo and Pinzon will likely depart with him.

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Publicado el Martes 12 de febrero, 2013 a las 2:56 | RSS 2.0.
Última actualización el Martes 02 de abril, 2013 a las 14:21

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