Combat in Apure: A Political-Military Crossroads

Fernando Rivero
https://dialogo-americas.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/1__COL-OTAN.jpgU.S. Military Doctrine. Neoliberal Globalization conditions the current U.S. Military Doctrine. Its principles, tactics, techniques, procedures, terms and symbols are based on a dense political philosophy, from a particular interpretation of the philosophy of war.

U.S. military thought (based on the theoretical approaches of Hobbes, Machiavelli, Foucault and Morgenthau, among others) evolved in the 20th century from being strictly technical-military to focusing on population control.

For this reason, the semiotic battle is transversal to its war effort. To subvert symbols, to resignify concepts, to destroy the political-emotional affiliation of the people with their leaders, to demolish national identity, to suggest through the exploitation of fear, to sow uncertainty, to corrode hope and to reposition conservative ideas, are key concepts for current U.S. military thinkers. Disciplining the population, once the institutions of control are broken, requires breaking with the regulations of war as well as its outsourcing, in order to systematically deploy violence to modify political behavior.

Undoubtedly, neoliberal capitalism requires museums of order to teach humanity, with a pedagogy of violence, to impose its sense of human existence. The use of military force, from the perspective of bio-politics, is an inherent part of the imposition of the current civilizing project.

The Southern Command. In tune with this Doctrine, the United States Southern Command Mission coined by its Commander Admiral Craig Faller (2019), states that, “USSOUTHCOM deters aggression, defeats threats, responds rapidly to crises, and builds regional capacity, working with our allies, partner nations, and the U.S. government to enhance security and defend the U.S. homeland and our national interests.” This Mission places the defense of its partnership model at the forefront through a joint strategy with allied governments such as Colombia. It also envisions a “portable border” projected to wherever U.S. interests are affected. Commander Faller (2019) likewise endorses the economic dimension of the Strategy as well as underscores the existence of states harmful to the United States.

Reliable partnerships and investments yield solid, high returns for the United States, our allies and partners. Hesitation to confront challenges throughout this hemisphere will result in increased threats from transnational criminal organizations, violent extremist organizations and harmful state actors.

From this perspective, the role of the United States as a regional gendarme can become militarily operational anywhere in the Americas. In 2019, Faller outlined the end state pursued: “That all nations support democracy, sovereignty, human rights and the rule of law. That nations be stable, friendly and prosperous.” The U.S. Southern Command Strategy also ratifies the defense of liberal democracy as the political model promoted by the West. Before the U.S. Congress in 2021, Faller said that Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela are a threat. Therefore, reaching the end state conceived in his military planning, involves a change of government and, consequently, of the political model in the three Latin American countries mentioned.

Colombia in the Pentagon Plan. The seven US Military Bases installed in Neo-Granadian territory in 2009, the incorporation of Colombia to NATO in 2018 and the arrival in Colombia in 2020 of the US Army Security Force Assistance Brigade, highlights the strategic planning designed by US imperialism for the control of the region and especially, of Venezuela.

In line with this planning, since 2016 Colombia has been restructuring its armed forces. The Damascus Doctrine represents a doctrinal conversion that, without neglecting the counterinsurgency war, aims to train its Armed Forces to face internal and external threats. It is the creation of a multi-mission force prepared for a regular war scenario. Colombia has set out to transform its military institution to assume NATO military standards and achieve interoperability in multinational missions.

The Damascus Doctrine, with its novel Unified Ground Operations Concept, its Joint Commands and the constitution of Task Forces in accordance with the challenges faced, turn the Armed Forces into a military arm of the White House. Indeed, in order to enhance its competencies within the framework of the Extended Area Security concept, it has announced the purchase of state-of-the-art fighter jets and, in line with its new concept of armored warfare, it has plans underway to acquire a fleet of armored vehicles. In synthesis, the Damascus Doctrine, inspired by U.S. military thinking, is based on the premise of a complex operational environment, which is why it prepares the Colombian Armed Forces to face new “threats” (read Venezuela) through unified action in operational art and design.

Paramilitarism, Irregular Warfare and Unconventional Warfare. In the preparation of Colombia for a war scenario against Venezuela, paramilitarism continues to be an important political-military force of the elites in the Casa de Nariño. Colombian paramilitarism, an old creation of the neo-Granadian extreme right in alliance with the Israeli Mossad, serves not only for the counterinsurgency war in Colombia but is also the spearhead of the Pentagon’s plan against Venezuela.

It is worth noting that the US military thought created in 2010 the “US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Manual” identified as TC-1801. This document provides guidelines for Special Forces to create, develop and consolidate an “insurgent or resistance movement” capable of destabilizing or overthrowing regimes adverse to Washington. The Manual lays the doctrinal groundwork for covert operations to disguise U.S. military involvement against sovereign states.

In this order of ideas, the war initially adopts an irregular character as is currently being evidenced in Apure. It is a limited war, executed by third parties (paramilitaries), under the strategic direction of U.S. military personnel. However, this does not rule out a greater U.S. military involvement in a conventional war in the future. In effect, what is happening in Apure is part of a long-term campaign, conceived as Phase 6 of the aforementioned Manual:

In a limited war scenario this phase still consists of a guerrilla warfare and subversion campaign, but the forces execute it slightly differently. Generally, combat operations are not focused on a single, climactic event on D-Day. Forces develop these operations over an extended period of time, with the purpose of slowly eroding enemy strength and morale. (U.S. Department of the Army, 2010)

Drug Trafficking and Criminal Gangs in Venezuela. The infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism in Venezuelan territory is part of a plan of the U.S. intelligence services. In our country, paramilitaries have been linked to local criminal gangs, using money from drug trafficking they have strengthened their leadership and have established a set of criminal practices that were unknown to Venezuelan society.

For years, paramilitarism was not an exclusively border phenomenon. Under paramilitary influence, criminal gangs have emerged and exercise territorial control in different parts of the country. These gangs, with significant firepower, composed mainly of small arms and long arms, have established strategic corridors in which they intend to supplant the State. When examining their location, it can be seen that these gangs are located near objectives of high strategic value from the military point of view, such as: entrances to the capital of the Republic, military installations, drinking water reservoirs, communication routes of national importance, etc.

Likewise, it is necessary to highlight that during the acts of violence organized by the right-wing parties in 2017, the gangs served as an armed group in the aforementioned actions to confront the police forces and the militancy of Chavismo. Therefore, it can be affirmed that the largest criminal gangs in Venezuela are related to paramilitaries and respond, consciously or not, to a plan conceived against the Bolivarian Revolution.

Perfidy in the Peace Process. The non-fulfillment of the Peace Agreement reached in Cuba between the Colombian State and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), unleashed a massacre against ex-combatants and the resurgence of the internal political, social and armed conflict. After the failed Accord, the former FARC-EP has divided into three major groups. The Comunes Party led by Timoleón Jiménez, is still engaged in the political-legal struggle. The structure of Front 1 (along with other structures) of the former FARC-EP commanded by Gentil Duarte, which since 2016 declared that it would not sign the Agreement and therefore was never pacified. Finally, the FARC-EP-Segunda Marquetalia that returned to the armed struggle in 2019 led by Iván Márquez, Jesús Santrich, Oscar Montero and Edison Romaña, among others.

These last two revolutionary organizations face the brutal onslaught of the Colombian Armed Forces advised, trained and equipped by the United States. The “Plan Colombia Crece” agreed in 2020, a re-edition of the old Plan Colombia, is further proof of U.S. interference in the Colombian conflict and of the close military alliance between Washington and Bogotá. Therefore, it is unreasonable to assume that the so-called FARC-EP groups are colluding with the Colombian State and the U.S. government to attack Venezuela.

Fighting in Apure. Colombian paramilitary groups operate on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. These groups create diverse networks from multiple illicit activities, enjoy impunity on the neo-Granadian side, coordinate operations and exchange intelligence information with the Colombian Armed Forces. Paramilitarism is trying to strengthen itself in the Zulia-Táchira-Apure axis because that area, in the Pentagon’s plans, is a tactical direction of approach to achieve defined operational objectives both in the scenario of a conventional war as well as in an irregular war. Any enemy military campaign in that sector seeks the control or secession of a part of western Venezuela as a preliminary step for a total offensive over the rest of the territory.

So far, the violent actions of paramilitarism in Apure outline the pattern of a war of attrition. Perhaps it is an operation aimed at projecting in the short term an “insurgent or resistance movement” against the Venezuelan State in the public opinion, covering up the participation of U.S. and Colombian Special Operations Forces in such actions. Perhaps, although unlikely, they are trying to create the casus belli for a large scale military aggression perpetrated from Colombia. Or to take up the argument of the humanitarian crisis to again promote a “multilateral military intervention limited to the conflict zones”.

Beyond the hypotheses, it is confirmed that the Task Forces and the Rapid Deployment Forces of the Colombian Armed Forces did not attack the irregulars who retreated to the Department of Arauca once they were repelled in Venezuela. This was not due to ignorance, since the U.S. bases and the neo-Granadian State permanently carry out joint Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence tasks, which allow them to know in real time the development of combats of the proportions that have been fought in Apure.

These events are part of a U.S. plan with a Colombian facade that is in full development. It is a process of accumulation of forces, in tune with James Story’s recent announcement of the New Alliance for Free Elections, which intends to lead to an “electoral exit”. The Unconventional War of broad spectrum, at this stage, seeks to prepare a climate of political upheaval with a dimension of armed confrontation, for now limited, which is projected in time at most until the recall referendum is held. The year 2022 will be a defining year for Venezuela by virtue of the political-military offensive planned by the Biden administration. Consequently, the fratricidal war is a Pentagon ploy. In that context, it is a mistake for Bolivarians in Colombia and Venezuela to dismiss the importance of anti-imperialist unity in the face of ongoing challenges.

Notes:

*Magister in Philosophy of War, Specialist in Government and Public Policy, Lawyer and Bachelor of Philosophy.
Constituent of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in 2017 for the PSUV.

Bibliography cited.

UNITED STATES ARMY DEPARTMENT (2010) “US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Manual” according to circular with alpha-numeric identification TC-1801. Accessed June 3, 2018. Available at: https://forocontralaguerra.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/circular_tc1801-guerra-no-convencional-manula-usa.pdf

FALLER, Craige. (2019) “United States Southern Command Strategy 2019.” Accessed November 9, 2020. Disponible en: https://www.southcom.mil/Portals/7/Documents/USSC%20Strategy%202%20Pages%20SPN%20-%20FINAL.PDF?ver=2019-06-19-110747-643

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