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Cablegate: Colombian Military Civil Affairs Unit Plans Changes

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1401/01 0592129
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 282129Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3041
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7422
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 8746
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB LIMA 4811
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0028
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5460
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP ADMIN/CHAIRS//

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001401

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL MARR EAID PROP CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN MILITARY CIVIL AFFAIRS UNIT PLANS CHANGES

REF: BOGOTA (2006) 10526

-------
Summary
-------

1. The Colombian military's civil affairs unit works to win
the hearts and minds of civilian populations. A new
commander hopes to increase its effectiveness with fresh
ideas and additional resources. End Summary.

------------------------
Winning Hearts and Minds
------------------------

2. The concept of civil affairs in the Colombian military
civil affairs has dramatically expanded in recent years. For
decades, every branch and level of the Colombian military had
a civil affairs unit that focused on small scale
infrastructure projects. In 2001, the Ministry of Defense
announced a new strategy, entitled Accion Integral ("AI"), to
strengthen state institutions and protect the public by
coordinating military, political and social activities. The
government began implementing the AI strategy in 2003: civil
affairs became AI, a general officer took command of the new
unit, and an integrated joint staff, with psy-ops specialists
and public affairs officers, was created.

3. AI works throughout Colombia, but its main goal is
building public support for the government in areas where
state presence is weak. In 2006 activities focused in the
departments of Choco, Norte de Santander, Cauca, Narino and
Arauca. AI also has programs to boost troop moral and to
encourage deserters from illegal armed groups. AI's main
tools are information campaigns, outreach programs, and
community projects. Multimedia information campaigns use
television, radio, and print to improve the government's
image and demoralize illegal armed groups. Most humanitarian
outreach programs ("jornadas") involve medical personnel
traveling to an area for a short time to establish health
clinics. Since 2003, AI has also spent between USD 500,000
and USD one million per year on community projects such as
roads, schools, and health clinics.

4. AI gradually ramped up its activities between 2004-2006.
Personnel increased each year by between 5-10 percent, there
are now about 1,200 soldiers in AI. The number of
humanitarian outreach programs also went up over the past
three years by about 50 percent, while spending rose from USD
750,000 per year to USD 830,000 per year. Military analysts
participating in jornadas generally rate them as successful
in raising public confidence in the government generally and
the military specifically.

5. AI supports, and is sometimes confused with, the Centro
de Coordinacion de Accion Integral (CCAI). CCAI is an
interagency group promoting short-term social and economic
development in nine "priority" zones where security has
recently been established (reftel). The military, including
AI, participates in an interagency group that determines
CCIA's priorities and programs. About 10 percent of AI's
outreach programs in 2006 were done together with CCAI.
Still, coordination between AI and CCAI is a challenge. At
CCIA meeting on February 19, Vice-Minister of Defense Sergio
Jaramillo questioned whether CCAI's priority zones were
appropriate and suggested that the group consider other areas
as well.

----------------------------------
New Directions for Accion Integral
----------------------------------

6. AI's new commander thinks AI can do better, especially if
it gets additional resources. Captain (scheduled to become
admiral in December of 2007) Alberto Bejarano Marin took
command of AI in late 2006. He said AI has been handicapped
by insufficient resources and is sometimes seen as a dead-end
job in the Colombian military. Bejarano also thinks AI
suffers from the absence of a consistent strategy: different
commands develop projects and disseminate messages in an ad
hoc fashion.

7. Bejarano plans to address these problems by changing AI's

command structure to centralize its activities and hiring
consultants to create a unified message. The new
communications strategy will be in place by March 2007.
Bejarano is also reaching out to groups with whom the
military has a rocky relationship, including Afro-Colombian
and indigenous communities, human rights groups, and the
press. He thinks this will help AI identify problems in
advance, rather than reacting to situations as they occur.
Still, the real difference could be money. Bejarano hopes to
receive an additional USD 25 million for construction from
the funds generated by the "wealth tax." If AI gets the
money, Bejarano says he will add 650 new personnel to form
four mobile engineering companies. Construction projects
will still include traditional community projects, such as
schools and health clinics, but the focus will shift to
critical infrastructure (water and sewage systems, roads, and
power production and distribution).

-------
Comment
-------

8. The Ministry of Defense may not give Bejarano all the
funding he wants: the percentage of the "wealth tax"
allocated to AI has steadily shrunk, and the request for
construction funding was already cut from USD 50 million.
Even if Bejarano gets the increased resources he hopes for,
"in-house" construction of this magnitude could bog AI down
administratively and distract it from other facets of its
mission. Still, AI's goals and methods are consistent with
the GOC's focus on using "soft" tools to win over civilian
populations. The administration's latest "Strategy for
Strengthening Democracy and Social Development" for 2007-2013
says that coordinated civil and military effort is the key to
controlling territory, and that political and social actions
are more important than military ones. End Comment.
DRUCKER

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