In response to growing bilateral and multilateral dialogues on citizen security, Presidents Obama and Santos met today on the margins of the VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, and agreed to deepen coordination of ongoing security cooperation activities throughout the hemisphere and West Africa. Both presidents agreed to formalize this coordination in the form of a U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation. These efforts are in response to increasing insecurity generated by transnational organized crime (TOC) and draw on Colombia’s established and expanding expertise and capacity for countering this threat and shared U.S. responsibility to address the demand for illicit narcotics.
The plan formalizes the security coordination and cooperation component of the inaugural U.S.-Colombia High-Level Strategic Security Dialogue (HLSSD) which took place on February 23 in Washington, D.C. The HLSSD aims to broaden the decades-long U.S.-Colombian security partnership. This new plan paves the way for future cooperation through a strategic and formal partnership. Accordingly, coordinated Colombian and U.S. law enforcement and defense support can more effectively counter the threats of transnational organized crime and strengthen partner institutions.
Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation
As a component of the HLSSD, Colombia and the United States will conduct a series of structured coordination meetings on a frequent basis. These discussions will occur between technical experts and policy officials and will focus on four key areas for expanded collaboration that align with hemispheric citizen security goals and priorities: Narco-trafficking, Combating Crime, Strengthening Institutions, and Fostering Resilient Communities. Both countries will develop complementary security assistance programs and operational efforts to support hemispheric and international partner nations afflicted by effects of transnational organized crime. Increased coordination of U.S. and Colombia defense and security support activities, which are aligned with efforts by both countries to strengthen civilian law enforcement capacity and capabilities, will support whole-of-government strategies and produce a greater effect throughout the hemisphere and West Africa.
Building on Success
The United States and Colombia already provide direct operational support and indirect capacity building efforts to countries throughout the hemisphere and West Africa. One example of direct combined U.S. and Colombian operational efforts is OPERATION MARTILLO, where the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-S) and Colombian Navy and Air Forces are coordinating air and maritime detection, monitoring, and interdiction efforts to detect and disrupt transnational organized criminal elements who exploit the extensive coasts and sparsely populated interior throughout Central America.
An example of complementary capacity building efforts includes the Central America Regional Police Reform Project. With funding from the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), the Colombian National Police provides training and assistance in such topics as community policing, police academy instructor training, and curriculum development in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. To complement this police training by Colombia, the United States trains prosecutors in these countries, resulting in holistic capacity building across the entire rule of law spectrum. Both countries are working to identify new areas for collaboration and committed to coordinate more closely with partner nations throughout the hemisphere.