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The Collective
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Betancourt: Rescue in Colombia was ‘impeccable’

Colombian spies tricked leftist rebels into handing over kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors Wednesday in a daring helicopter rescue so successful that not a single shot was fired.

Betancourt called the rescue “impeccable” in a statement to the press.

Not only is the rescue itself tremendously good news in terms of the lives of those freed, but the rescue of Betancourt and the three Americans have deprived the FARC of their most precious political assets.

There has never been, in the history of the FARC, a year such as this. The closest analog that I can come up with in terms of a Colombian militant group would be 1985 when the M-19 occupied the Palace of Justice only to have the military bombard the place, leading to the deaths of most of the top leadership. While the FARC still has operational leadership and continued fighting ability, after various deaths, captures and other defeats of late, they are nowhere near where they were even six months ago.

The operation itself appears to have been rather impressive:

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas’ supreme leader.

Only when the helicopters were airborne did military crewmembers reveal their identity, she said.

“The chief of the operation said, `We’re the national army. You’re free,’” she said, adding that the hostages were so shocked, it was as if “the helicopter almost fell from the sky.”

Most impressive.

They also captured the FARC commander, Cesar, and “another rebel” were captured.

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3 Comments

  1. I’d say the closest analog for the Farc would be in the 1980s when its above-ground allies were systematically gunned down after attempting to play the electoral game while the Farc itself remained armed. But 2008 has been an especially bad year for the “revolutionary” armed forces.

    On the Palace of Justice and the M-19, worth adding for those who don’t follow Colombia: the military assault on the building held by the rebels destroyed the building. And it was quite an edifice. I remember the large hole in the ground in the early 1990s where the building had stood (as I am sure Steven does, as well, given that it is right across the plaza from the congress).

    Comment by MSS — Thursday, July 3, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  2. When I was there in 1992 and lived there from 1994-1995 they were in the process of reconstruction.

    And it should be noted that along with the M-19 leadership, most of the Supreme Court died that day as well.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, July 3, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

  3. I’m not as qualified to talk about the implications of this raid as you are, but after reading your post I exchanged some quick notes with friends in 7th group. Didn’t learn much but I did discover that the helicopers used in the raid were modified US supplied birds.

    I don’t think our advisors were directly involved in this and might not have had operational knowledge of it, but probably the Colombian military who conducted the raid were trained by 7th group and other US personnel. This brings a big smile to my face because this is Army Special Forces at its best: training and assisting indigenous forces to do their own work, and do it better than we ever could as outsiders.

    Why we can’t get it through our thick skulls that this is the way we should be fighting elsewhere in the world is beyond me; but it’s good to see our foreign policy working at least SOMEWHERE in the world.

    And not to steal the Colombian military’s thunder. They deserve all the kudos for the operation - but there is no doubt in my mind that it was enabled by the training and funding of the US.

    Comment by Captain D — Friday, July 4, 2008 @ 10:34 am

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