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Operation Safe Border

In early 1995, a long-standing border dispute between Ecuador and Peru resulted in armed conflict. In early 1995 Peru and Ecuador engaged in sustained combat in a remote area where their common border has never been fully demarcated. Dozens were killed, hundreds wounded, and escalation to cities was feared. Ecuador and Peru agreed on February 17, 1995, to stop fighting and seek a peaceful solution to remaining issues between them. De?ciencies in Peru’s inventory of major weapon systems — aging equipment and outdated technology — were major factors in the military’s relatively poor performance in the 1995 border con?ict with Ecuador.

As Guarantors of the 1942 Rio Protocol of Peace, Friendship and Boundaries which ended the 1941 Ecuador-Peru war and defined the border, the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Chile worked for a comprehensive settlement.

By October 1995 Guarantor military observers (MOMEP) organized the withdrawal of some 5,000 troops from the Cenepa valley and supervised demobilization of 140,000 troops on both sides. The combat zone was demilitarized and Ecuador and Peru began to contribute officers to the observer mission.

SOCSOUTH was designated the executive agent to plan and organize the initial Military Observer Mission Ecuador/Peru (MOMEP), a peacekeeping mission established to seek a resolution. SOCSOUTH initiated a command and control element, provided military assets, and deployed troops for the multinational peacekeeping mission. Also providing support were Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The observer operation significantly reduced tension in the region, leading to the withdrawal of 10,000 troops and demobilization of 140,000 troops.

Operation Safe Border is an excellent example of USASF providing U.S. diplomats a low-end alternative to commitment in stopping the violence between Peru and Ecuador without full-blown involvement. As Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Higgins stated, "Special Forces were critical to the Military Observers Mission in Ecuador and Peru (MOMEP) success. The high utility, low-key involvement of our troops (USASF) was the determining factor in the regional leaders remaining dedicated to the plan of demilitarization and peace through the auspices of MOMEP." These missions alone validate the U.S. Army Special Forces skills and capabilities in these challenging operational environments.

Col. Mark Gorton and a small team of 7th SFG(A) Soldiers were deployed as part of Operation Safe Border. The 7th SFG(A) intervened in the growing border dispute in 1995 to keep it from growing militarily before being defused diplomatically. “We immediately stopped the fighting and drew-down both sides of the border,” said Gorton. “Then we created a demilitarized zone and conducted patrols to prevent (the enemy) from building new fighting positions or moving weapons and ammunition in. The conflict was resolved before it evolved into all-out war because we were on the ground every day, keeping the peace and living next to both sides.”

The Army assisted in the peaceful settlement of the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador by providing support personnel, helicopters and US observers to Operation Safe Border.

The operation highlighted the important role SOF can play in the United States' Preventive Defense program, and MOMEP also marked the first time SOF were used in a multinational observer and observer support roles in South America. The long-standing presence of SOF in the region improved their language skills, knowledge of the region, and culture and interoperability with Partner Nations (PNs), making them an invaluable asset in helping to resolve the dispute. The command was also a participant in the Inter-American Defense Board demining program. SOCSOUTH's support of the program resulted in the removal or destruction of 3,629 mines and the clearing of 275,241 square meters of land.

In addition to the UN, DoD has entered into Section 607, Agreements with Foreign Governments. An example is the Military Observer Mission in Ecuador and Peru. Known as Operation Safe Border, the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Special Operations Command provided support along the border of Ecuador and Peru in order to prevent armed conflict in the region. In accordance with the agreement, DFAS-DE/ICCI billed both countries monthly based on documentation received and consolidated from the DoD Components involved.

Ultimately the dispute was resolved in 1998.

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Page last modified: 17-06-2016 13:15:29 ZULU