Colombia’s oldest rebel group FARC has undergone significant changes concerning military strategy since entering the ongoing peace talks with the government, according to a new report. The report by think tank Fundación Paz y Reconciliación which was partly released in national newspaper El Espectador on Dec. 17 revealed how the rebel organization changed their military strategies, adapting to the rhythm of this year’s peace talks. “In September and October when the negotiations were in a crisis due to a lack of progress concerning the point of political participation, [the FARC] launched a minor offensive, attacking the oil and energy infrastructure that left Tumaco 20 days without power. This shows that the operational capacity of the FARC is not that decimated,” the report was quoted in El Espectador.
Another aspect of the FARC’s new flexibility is the return to classic guerrilla warfare strategies, avoiding open combat with the armed forces. Instead, the rebel troupes have been divided in smaller units for quick hit-and-run raids. According to the report, this is also due to the loss of man-power after the state’s military offensive against the rebel group during the period from 2002 to 2008.
The FARC now boasts 12,000 combatants, while the Defense Ministry puts the figure at 8,000. The report, however, emphasizes the FARC’s networks in society, counting “40,000 people with some kind connection to the organization.”
The report also claimed renewed efforts by the FARC to infiltrate social and political movements that have been involved in the numerous uprisings in Colombia this year. “It is no secret that in the zones where the FARC are exercising influence, the population has been actively participating in the strikes, protests, roadblocks, marches for peace, and the events that have to do with the negotiations in Havana,” as it was stated in the report.
The report also saw a shift in the rebel group’s operational alignment, increasingly attacking Colombia’s oil and energy infrastructure. As the report mentioned there have been about 200 attacks against infrastructural targets in 2013. This new focus on the oil and energy sector also implied an increase of extortion against businesses in that sector.
This new operational focus stands in line with an agreement between the FARC and Colombia’s second rebel group ELN, cemented after a meeting of their leaders about six weeks ago near the border of Venezuela. There, they decided to join forces in attacks against Colombia’s oil and energy infrastructure of Colombia.
However, the new cooperation also points to the potential for the ELN to join the FARC at the peace table in Havana. The Colombian government earlier this month broached a figure of 20,000 fighters that that would need to demobilize in the event of a peace agreement with both rebel groups. (Colombia Reports, Dec. 19)
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