WOLA’s Adam Isacson: Why the U.S. Should Support the Reintegration of Ex-Guerrillas
Washington, D.C.— Colombia’s historic 2016 peace agreement ended over 50 years of conflict with rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). However, as WOLA Director for Defense Oversight Adam Isacson argues in a new op-ed for the New York Times, this peace is looking increasingly fragile.
A major challenge for the peace process will be successfully reintegrating some 13,000 former rank-and-file FARC combatants, many of whom were recruited by the guerrillas as children. As experiences from other peace processes show, if former combatants aren’t given the vocational training and other forms of support they badly need, this could derail prospects for lasting peace and security. As Isacson explains, reports already indicate that ex-FARC members are turning back to the drug trade and illegal gold mining in order to support themselves. Should former FARC combatants form part of a new generation of criminal groups in Colombia, a key ally of the United States in Latin America could once again see a rise in violence and criminality.
Foreign donors can help support Colombia with the reintegration of rank-and-file FARC combatants, so as to help secure a more lasting peace. However, because the U.S. government currently classifies the FARC as a terrorist organization, ex-combatants cannot receive any “material support” or aid from the United States. “The United States should be able to help ex-guerrillas who are not top leaders, not wanted by American justice, not awaiting trial for war crimes and reasonably believed to have abandoned violence,” Isacson writes.
Read the full op-ed below: