Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

Visit Douglas Farah's
author page at

Press Releases

Why the Colombian Rescue Mission Matters
As my colleagues Jonathan Winer and Aaron Mannes have written on the Counterterrorism Blog, the spectacular operation by the Colombian military to rescue 15 high-profile hostages was a tremendous blow to the FARC in Colombia.

In the interest of full disclosure, Ingrid Bentancourt is a friend of mine, and I have written about her in the past because of her tremendous courage in acting as a beacon of light in a narco-corrupted congress, and in defiance of her own political party. On a personal level, this was tremendously good news.

As I wrote in this paper published by the NEFA Foundation just before the hostages were freed, the FARC is in a period of decline that will likely end with its implosion and fragmentation into small criminal groups.

Since March the FARC has been pummeled, lost three of its seven members of the directorate, and now, its prize hostages.

The FARC's historic leader, Manuel Marulanda, the unifying force of the organization, is dead. His hand-picked successor, Raul Reyes, was killed in an army attack on his camp in Ecuador. Another member of the high command, Ivan Reyes, was killed by his own bodyguards, who collected the reward money.

Dozens of senior and mid-level commanders have deserted, including Karina, the highest-ranking woman in the FARC's ranks.

Now, a brilliantly executed rescue operation by a military that has often (and rightly) been accused of gross incompetence and corruption, takes the one thing of value (besides the cocaine laboratories) the FARC still had.

This is not random, but the product of years of work in human and signal intelligence, almost always hand-in-hand with U.S. counterparts. It is worth studying because it was done right.

Here are some of the highlights from my sources who are familiar with the operation:

The operation took more than three years to develop. The penetration of the rebel rank over time provided much of the human intelligence that was vitally needed. The infiltrators worked their way up the ranks, until they had access to both the force that protected the hostages and the FARC's general secretariat. The reports of the undercover operatives were wedded, with U.S. help, to signal intelligence, and the combination of the two fed off each other.

This type of patience is extraordinary in operations these days. There was also a systematic debriefing of captured FARC members and deserters. It was not long ago when the military simply killed everyone captured-not only a severe human rights violation, but countless lost opportunities to develop intelligence on the FARC structure.

Finally, the FARC's key weaknesses-communications and the fact that many members were motivated by money rather than ideology-were identified and exploited to maximum effect.

On a macro sense, that will be beneficial to Colombia and the region, because the coherence of the group will be permanently ruptured and it will no longer present a threat to the state.

On a local and regional level internally, however, crime will likely get worse, local kidnappings will escalate and local criminal groups will get an infusion of well-trained and well-armed members in their ranks.

The war is not over, but several important battles have been one. The new leadership of the FARC under Alfonso Cano already was under significant pressure to demonstrate it could carry out significant operations. This will be even harder now.

One must also not forget the rest of the hostages still being held by the FARC. Their fate is precarious now, and any rescue operation will be much more difficult because of the success of this one.

But, one has to say, it was one hell of an operation. My hat is off and my gratitude deep to all who participated.

The Ties That Bind
Why Zimbabwe Won
Maintained by Winter Tree Media, LLC