Ecuador Fuerza Terrestre / Ejercito Ecuatoriano - Recent Operations
Ecuador continues to confront the presence of illegal armed groups, weapons smugglers and narco-traffickers along their northern border with Colombia. Since 2001, the U.S. Military Group has provided nearly 100 humvees and 50 military five-ton trucks to the Ecuadorian armed forces. The vehicle donations have been augmented by an extensive maintenance program.
On November 19, 2007, the 4th Division of the Ecuadorian Army began an operation of a series of military confrontations against the FARC in Puerto El Carmen de Putumayo, between Santa Rosa and Quinche, along the San Miguel river, in the Northeastern province of Sucumbios, along the Colombian border. The operation began after an exchange of fire between Ecuadorian military and FARC guerrillas at a known FARC camp. However, unlike the standard operating procedures of a brief exchange of fire and then retreat by the FARC, this initial exchange continued longer than normal; the FARC held its ground and the Ecuadorian military continued pressing the camp. Hours later, after the FARC had evacuated the site, blood and munitions were found at the FARC camp, along with documents and books which confirm that Luis Edgar Devia Silva (aka Raul Reyes), Secretariat Member, Spokesman and Advisor to the Southern Bloc of the FARC, was present at the camp. Troops from the 54th Special Operations Battalion Shushufindi, the 55th Jungle Battalion, the 24th Special Forces Group, other members of the 19th Jungle Brigade, and commandos from the Iwias Unit in Shell, Pastaza Province, have been deployed to control this zone along the Northern Border with Colombia.
Ecuador's greatest counterterrorism and security challenge remained the presence of Colombian narcotics, criminal and terrorist groups in the northern border region. In order to evade Colombian military operations, these groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), regularly used Ecuadorian territory for rest, medical aid, weapons and explosives procurement, recuperation, resupply, and training, as well as coca processing and limited planting and production. This involved significant numbers of Ecuadorians and Colombian refugees in northern Ecuador in direct or indirect ways. The extremely difficult terrain along the porous 450-mile border with Colombia, and the lack of adequate licit employment opportunities for Ecuadorians and Colombian refugees in the region, have made the area vulnerable to narcoterrorist influence and created a contraband economy. Some Ecuadorian officials along the border believed that the FARC's economic impact allowed it to buy silence and compliance. Another factor that may deter a stronger stance against the FARC is that the group could carry out reprisals, particularly against the oil industry in the northern region of the country.
Ecuador continued its response to this threat, although it still faced constraints on resources and limited capabilities. The Correa Administration, while maintaining the country's traditional with respect to the Colombian conflict, has stated that it opposed armed encroachments of any kind across its borders. Tensions between the governments of Ecuador and Colombia were elevated following the March 2008 Colombian bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador, which resulted in the killing of the FARC's number two in command Raul Reyes, plus 24 Colombians and one Ecuadorian associated with the FARC. However, the two governments embarked on a path of rapprochement in September and assigned charges d'affaires in November.
In 2009 soldiers with the Ecuadorian Army 4th Division "Amazonas" patrol the Payamino River in a PiraAfA+-a, a river patrol boat. Members of the Ecuadorian Army patrol the rivers of Ecuador in order to protect their border and prevent the flow of drugs. Recognizing the importance of Riverine operations, the U.S. Military Group in Ecuador, in partnership with the Ecuadorian Army, began training together in October to enhance the capabilities of jungle units to control the rivers in their zones.
The Ecuadorian military's First Joint Task Force (formerly Fourth Army Division) has engaged the FARC in a series of operations along the border and has increased its presence with additional personnel and assets. The First Joint Task Force has taken the lead in efforts to control the Northern Border area and to remove incursions of armed insurgents within its territory by increasing the intensity of its operations.
In 2010 training events were organized by the U.S. Military Group and the Ecuadorian Army 2nd Division. Ecuadorian officers and soldiers received instruction on the fundamentals of mounted reconnaissance, security and patrolling operations. The participants learned and practiced critical crew drills, mission planning, recovery operations and actions on contact. The training also included an intense three day field exercise in which the students tested their skills against a determined and thinking opposition force provided by the Ecuadorian Special Forces.
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