Colombia’s Armed Forces are participating in a military exercise with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S Army in which 150 paratroopers must take control of an airport in the hands of a terrorist group.
Planned months in advance as part of tactical operations conducted among allied nations to share intelligence and expertise in combat situations, the so-called Multinational Strategic Exercise 2020 is taking place over the skies of the department of Cundinamarca with responsibilities evenly shared between 75 Colombian and 75 assault troopers from North Carolina’s Fort Bragg – home to 82nd Airborne.
Based at the country’s largest military base, Tolemaida, the assault exercise involves plenty of heavy artillery and air power with two U.S C-130 aircraft, a Colombian C-295, and three UH-60 helicopters. On Sunday, as the assault was launched, the first two officers to jump from a Hercules over the town of El Nilo were General Daniel Walrath Commander of the U.S Southern Army, and General Eduardo Zapateiro Commander of Colombia’s Military.
The exercise was accompanied on the ground by the country’s Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, U.S Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg and General Luis Fernando Navarro Commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces. “We work to be increasingly inter-operable, share knowledge at strategic and tactical levels. These types of exercises are a valuable tool and opportunity to strengthen our joint struggle against the transnational threats we face,” remarked Minister Holmes Trujillo.
U.S Ambassador Goldberg stressed that this exercise is of great importance as it demonstrates the joint operational preparation of the U.S military to respond quickly in support of its allies. “This exercise shows regional unity. The close training with Colombia communicates our commitment to the region and excellent relations with the country,” he said.
For General Walrath, having the 82nd in Colombia exemplifies two pillars of the Airborne: Defense and Fraternity. “The brotherhood we share with our friends in the Colombian Army is the safest way to protect the way of life in our neighborhood, in the Western Hemisphere, and shared values of democracy, sovereignty and individual freedom.”
The maneuvers come a week after a high-profile visit by U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to attend an anti-terrorism conference in Bogotá, where he held talks with President Iván Duque and Venezuela’s opposition leader and interim president Juan Gauidó. The III Hemispheric Conference for the Fight against Terrorism brought together foreign ministers from 25 nations, as well as delegates from Interpol, Ameripol and UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.
The conference addressed regional threats by terrorist organizations, including Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), and presence of Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela. On Thursday, U.S immigration authorities arrested three Syrians in Dallas, Texas, with Colombian passports. Al Raefee, Tuameh Tuameh and Al Harari are suspected members of Al-Qaeda and entered Colombia from Venezuela by acquiring residency papers, identification cards and passports through a criminal network.