In 2019, Grey Dynamics published an article about the Columbian governments’ struggle with non-state actors such FARC and ELN and its quest for peace. The article, however, was challenged by a commenter on LinkedIn. As an expert on Columbian security affairs, I asked for an Interview with Major Camilo Mejía about his position was and to my delight, he agreed!
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Well… what can I say about me? I’m an active duty Intel officer (Maj). Joined the Colombian army in 2003, I have been working as an Intel officer since 2006. My speciality is Human Intelligence (HUMINT). I’ve run undercover Intel activities almost my whole career as Colombian military Intel functions like MI5, FBI, etc. (Internal counterintelligence agencies).
I have been on conventional military Intel positions as well such as battalion and brigade S2 officers. During the last part of my career, I served as an Intel officer from special operations units supported by foreign agencies like the CIA and MI6 (SIS).
I have 3 bachelor’s degrees: military science, business administration and social-political analysis. 3 graduate-level degrees: management of resources for national defense, management and leadership for military units and a master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence.
I was a former student and instructor of the Colombian military Intel school and a former student of the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca.
Currently selected to attend the Joint Command and Staff Program of the Canadian Forces College starting next month. Currently, I work at the Colombian Army’s Military Academy (officer’s academy) in Bogota as the Chief of Military Education of the Faculty of Military Science.
Finally, author of 3 academic publications on intelligence with NATO and researcher of the Asymmetric Warfare Research Center—writing bulletins and light stuff like that.
Did you always aspired to this line work?
I have always wanted to join the army. The Intel came after as something unexpected. I just… was chosen to be part of the Intel branch.
What is according to you the biggest misconception around the security situation in Colombia?
Considering our violent non-state actors as Soviet-era communist guerrillas. They are pretty much cartels without an ideology. Making money by drug trafficking and calling themselves “people’s army”
What is the greatest challenge for the Colombian Military Intelligence service today?
Changing the mindset from clandestine operations to conventional military Intelligence in line with NATO standards.
What can other countries learn from Colombia regarding COIN?
Unfortunately, we got the longest non-conventional war on the western hemisphere and it is fought entirely in the jungle and rain forest…. that is kind of awesome for COIN and jungle operations doctrine development
What has Colombia and you in particular learned from other countries about COIN?
The United States is our biggest partner. We recovered this country from a failed state to a middle-term economy in 20 years. All the support we needed to such a great accomplishment came mostly from the USA.
- COIN is more than killing rebels. During the Colombian conflict, there was a vague conception concerning the role of the military forces. They were of course in charge of facing the threats, but the government was struggling to provide support and development to the poorest population. That changed dramatically after the 90s, so the stability of the country improved significantly.
- Being focused on COIN during the last 60 years created a lack of interest in conventional warfare. That lack of interest impacted the purchase and upgrade of conventional military equipment which could undermine our capabilities to face a conventional threat (for example, one with updated Russian or Chinese assets).
- We acquired a deep experience in jungle operations which is valuable for foreign military forces. We help other countries to face similar threats and support international organizations like NATO in refining and developing military doctrine derived from our irregular warfare.
How did modern technology affected your work?
Depending on the threat. Modern technology does not impact as much as you think when tackling irregular threats in the middle of the jungle. Most of the Colombian military Intel is collected by HUMINT operators.
Where do you see the security situation in 5 years for Colombia?
In five years, we hope we have a fully functional peace talk dealing with the ELN. It has not been possible so far like it happened with FARC.
What could you tell me about the continuous targeting of the Transandino pipeline and why is it so hard to stop them doing it?
A considerable portion of the Colombian GDP is based on oil production. Pipelines are targeted across Colombia by several non-state actors. This is a problem of national proportions because those violent non-actors see the pipelines as the government’s “wallet”. They believe that targeting pipelines will reduce military pressure on them. In some cases, large military units are deployed to protect critical infrastructure which facilitates the establishment of sanctuaries.
I would like to thank Major Mejía for his candidness and time to talk to me and bring our readers a rare perspective behind the scenes. We continue to strive to give a platform to active and retired professionals in the security industry and welcome any suggestions from our readers.
Image: UN Dispatch (link)