Venezuela - How - Concept of Operations and Tactics
When President Donald Trump said in Base Aérea Generalísimo Francisco de Miranda 2017 the US was considering a “military option” for Venezuela, hardly anyone in Washington thought it was a good idea. “It’s a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” Trump said in September 2018.
Trump's threat of military intervention in Venezuela seemed to contradict the advice of his top national security adviser. Citing the resentment stirred in Latin America by the long US history of military interventions in the region, General H.R. McMaster said he didn't want to give Maduro any ammunition to blame the "Yankees" for the "tragedy" that has befallen the oil-rich nation. "You've seen Maduro have some lame attempts to try to do that already," McMaster said in an interview that aired 05 August 2017 on MSNBC.
US Vice President Mike Pence encountered resistance from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos 13 August 2017 over Trump's threat to use military action in Venezuela. Speaking at a joint news conference with Santos in Cartagena, Pence did not rule out using military force, but he did not directly talk about it either. Santos said no Latin America country would accept any form of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and that it should never even be considered. Recalling more than a century of U.S. military action throughout Latin America, Santos said no Latin leader wants "that phantom" to reappear.
The United States President Donald Trump proposed deploying navy ships along the Venezuelan coast to prevent the entry of products into the country according to a 19 August 2019 report by Axios news portal. Trump devised the idea of the maritime blockade of Venezuela with his security advisors according to an anonymous source. According to Axios, the Department of Defense discarded the proposal because it would mean deploying a large number of U.S. Navy forces and for being inconsistent from the legal framework. The Pentagon did not consider Trump's idea seriously and also said it was impossible to put it into practice. Axios revealed that the Navy would require more resources than it can contribute to materializing a maritime blockade.
On Aug. 1, Trump responded affirmatively when a reporter asked him if he was considering a quarantine or blockade of Venezuela. On Aug. 5, he signed an executive order to ban all transactions and a total blockade of the assets of the Venezuelan government in the United States. It also imposes secondary sanctions on foreign individuals and companies that, according to Washington, support Caracas.
On 18 April 2017 President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech from Miraflores Presidential Palace. Along with Minister of Defense, General in Chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello announced the Zamora Plan to guarantee order and security in the country. The decision was prompted after a U.S. State Department statement was released the same evening. The text supported the violence generated by clashes affiliated to the opposition agenda during the "plantón," trying to intimidate key players of Venezuelan military and judicial institutions to allow these events so that they would avoid being the subject of incoming sanctions.
The Venezuelan government’s decision to arm civilians to defend the country’s socialist revolution was part of the Zamora Plan — a readiness operation that calls for the activation of militias when facing an imminent threat of war. The Zamora Plan gave the legal basis for Maduro’s previous announcement that he would give rifles to 400,000 militias to protect his government from a coup that he said was being planned in Washington.
On 24 June 2017, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced a plan by sectors of the right-wing opposition to activate and justify an intervention in that country. "We have contained and defeated the oligarchic, imperialist coup that was being planned against Venezuela this week,” Maduro said. “The homeland is already at peace.”
The Venezuelan president explained that the plan consisted of several stages in a chain of events that transpired. The plan, according to Maduro, involved increased acts of violence to provoke deaths, commotion in the east of the capital and the betrayal of a group of soldiers who called for a coup to justify a process of intervention were part of that agenda. He stressed that the plan was neutralized by the country's executive branch. "From the high military political command we've been in session and permanent activity to cut the chain of coup events,” Maduro said.
What would a military invasion of Venezuela look like? How would it unfold? It is vastly easier to pose the question than to answer it. The aid delivery standoff on 23 February 2019 was very poorly conceived - the opposition forces were channeled into trying to cross a few bridges, and all it took were a few Cuban snipers to hold them off.
An invasion of Venezuela would require between 100,000 and 150,000 U.S. troops, who would face as many as 356,000 Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq, said Rebecca Chavez, senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue (and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs), during testimony at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing 13 March 2019 on H.R. 1004, Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act. “It would be prolonged, it would be ugly, there would be massive casualties,” Chavez said.
Grenada has an area of 344 km2 and a population of 0.1 million Panama has an area of 75,000 km2 and a population of 3.8 million Iraq has an area of 438,000 km2 and a population of 40.2 million Venezuela has an area of 900,000 km2 and a population of 31 million. Venezuela is about as big as the USA east of the Mississippi, with an area of three Californias.
Possibly a buildup of US forces in offshore Venezuela and in Colombia and Brazil would frighten the FANB into switching sides but most doubt it, and in any event the word from Colombia and Brazil was they were not eager to be the launch-pad for the gringos. A Strategic Brigade Airdrop on Caracas could seize the airport, to provide an airhead to bring in heavier troops, and also seize strategic points like government offices, radio & TV etc - the shock of this might provoke the regime to collapse, but observers would not bet on it.
In 2018 Venezuelan Gen. Jacinto Pérez Arcay, general chief of staff of the Command of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), immediately after the decision of the Bolivarian government to replace the dollar with the Chinese yuan in oil sales operations, presented to the General Staff of the FANB and to President Maduro himself, a detailed study on the possible operations SouthCom might carry out to pave the way for a land invasion by U.S. troops. According to Pérez Arcay and other sources of FANB military intelligence, “[T]he first war operation of SouthCom would be a surgical attack with planes and missiles against the air bases of Palo Negro and Barcelona and against the naval base of Puerto Cabello.” As former Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis declared, such a surgical aerial attack must be carried out on all military objectives in Venezuela without suffering any loss in order to cause the dissolution of the organization of the Venezuelan army and encourage the possible arrival of U.S. Marines with the function of “pacifying” and not fighting.
In early July 2018, an Associated Press exclusive report demonstrated that President Trump asked his advisors multiple times if they could invade Venezuela. His aides, including H.R.McMaster, continually told Trump to that it was not a viable option to invade the impoverished South American country.
About 20 km by road, in the parish Urimare of the state Vargas, is the international airport of Maiquetía "Simón Bolívar " which is the main air terminal of Venezuela, since it concentrated the vast majority of international and national flights of the country. Apart from this there are three minor aerodromes. One of them, the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, known as La Carlota, is restricted for private and military flights. It is in the process of closing, with space expected to be converted into a park or a sports center. The Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase, better known as La Carlota, east of Caracas, was the main site of the 30 April 2019 coup. Despite their best effort to break into the military installation, they were unable to penetrate its walls. Two other private airports are the Ocumare del Tuy Metropolitan Airport and the Charallave Caracas "Oscar Machado Zuloaga " Airport.
Important government and other buildings to be seized include:
- Miraflores Palace : it is a Palace, headquarters of the office of the President of the Republic, built by General Joaquín Crespo for private use at the end of the 19th century. It was the most luxurious, elegant and expensive mansion of that time in the country. Since 1900 it is a presidential residence.
- Yellow House : is an imposing neoclassical structure dating from the seventeenth century, was originally headquarters of the General Captaincy and Royal Prison. It is currently the headquarters of the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs.
- La Casona Presidential Residence : it is a modern Palace that serves as a place of residence for the presidents of Venezuela.
- The Military High Command of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is made up of the Minister of Popular Power for Defense, which is an armed force officer. Headquarters of the Ministry of Popular Power for Defense offices 1 and 2 of the Ministry of Defense of Venezuela are in Fuerte Tiuna - Caracas.
- Currently there are 33 Ministries of Popular Power and a state ministry. Each of these entities is headed by a minister.
- Ministerio del Poder Popular de Petróleo
- Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA) and its subsidiaries, the corporation owned by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is headquartered at Edificio Petroleos De Venezuela, Torre Este, Piso 9, Avenida Libertador con calle El Empalme, La Campina, Caracas 1010, Venezuela; and Torre Este Piso 9, Edif Petroleos de Venezuela, Avenida Libertador, Urb La Campina, Caracas, Distrito Federal, Venezuela.
- Banco de Venezuela Calle Pascual Navarro, Caracas 1050, Distrito Capital, Venezuela
- There are seven television networks with stations in Caracas that originate news programming : Globovisión; Venezolana de TV; Telesur TV; Meridiano Televisión; Venevisión; Promar TV; and ANTV.
- Federal Legislative Palace is presumably already in the hands of the opposition. The famous National Capitol is a neoclassical building with an elliptical gilt bronze dome. In the Elliptical Hall is the ark that holds the Act of Independence of Venezuela and several paintings that recall some of the most important scenes in Venezuelan history, such as the Signature of the Act of Independence and the impressive oil of the Battle of Carabobo , which covers the vault of the Blue Room.
Assuming the US would have to defeat the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela "in detail" - that is, defeating each of the 21 combat brigades in separate nearly simultaneous engagements in which the Bolivarians offer more than token resistance, that would require several [3-4?] US army and Marine divisions - the whole operation might take about a month. The FANB had about 100,000-150,000 main force troops, and an equal number of irregulars, so the US ground force might need 50,000 troops - 2 Army divisions and 1 Marine division.
Unfortunately, the FANB brigades are not all garrisoned in one location per brigade, but rather each brigade has multiple battalion scattered all over the place, so mopping up all these battalions might become tedious. as with Cuba, the Venezuelan military has various militia formations that are organized to mount a guerilla resistance to invading gringos, so defeating the FANB main force units might not end what could become a long war.
Harold Trinkunas, a Stanford senior research scholar who has written extensively on the Venezuelan military, told the Lost Angelese Times 03 Feburary 2019 “U.S. intervention would be very risky and a bad idea. Not because it would fail. A U.S. invasion would be over quickly, in weeks, if not days. But because Venezuela has all kinds of other armed actors that I would worry more about than the military.”
As the Venezuelan crisis was gaining momentum in late January, US National Security Adviser John Bolton was spotted holding a yellow notepad with the words "5,000 troops to Colombia" during a presser on new sanctions against Caracas.
Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump - has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela's socialist president, Nicholas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters 30 April 2019. The exclusive report by Reuters revealed that Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security firm, who is also a firm Trump supporter, had offered to deploy an army to the South American country in order to oust Maduro.
According to the report, Prince has been mainly seeking investment and political support for his plan from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan nationals who have long been living in exile. The sources said he has asked for at least $40 million in funds plus a chunk of billions of dollars Venezuela has in frozen assets around the world. In his private meetings, which stretch from the United States to several European countries, Prince has set out a plan to recruit up to 5,000 mercenaries on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
On April 30, 2019 the socialist government said that an "attempted coup" was underway in Caracas, with opposition leader and U.S. recognized interim president Juan Guaido filming his video at the La Carlota Air Base. Unlike the Maiquetía International Airport (renamed Simón Bolívar International in 1972, but still widely known by its former name), which is located some 20 km to the north of downtown Caracas, the Base Aérea Generalísimo Francisco de Miranda is located within the city itself.
Retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane during an appearance on Varney & Co. 02 May 2019 said he thought the administration was still working on a peaceful transition. Gen. Keane said there are several ways in which President Trump can use military force to allow Guaido to take over in Venezuela. “He can bring some U.S. forces and stage them in Colombia and with the implication obviously that they're going to be used inside of Venezuela. That may in of itself change the minds of some of their leaders in terms of who they want to support.”
Gen. Keane said the second option is to move into Venezuela with a coalition of forces, specifically Colombia and Brazil in order to provide humanitarian relief. “It would be non-permissive in the sense that anybody that tried to interfere… with it would have to be dealt with similar to what we did back in Somalia in the 90’s. That was a humanitarian relief operation initially,” he said.
Another option, he said, “is just go in there with an invasion with the purpose of conducting a regime change.”
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