Friday, March 11, 2011

U.S. training of Argentine security forces

The following post was authored by WOLA Fellow Lucila Santos.

In recent months, controversy has arisen over U.S. agencies’ training of Argentine police officers. As different political actors in Argentina argue about whether or not this training is appropriate, legitimate and/or useful, it is worth reviewing the extent of Argentines’ participation in U.S. training programs and exercises. We can do so by consulting reports presented to the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Department of State (DoS) jointly present each year a report to Congress required by Section 656 of the Foreign Assistance Act. Some of this report is classified, but much is unclassified, published and accessible on the internet. In the unclassified volume of the report “Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest,” information on the number of foreigners by country trained by U.S. programs is available.

According to this information, Argentina ranks eighth in the list of countries to have sent the most military and police officers to be trained by U.S. programs from 1999 till 2009. The total number of Argentines to have participated in U.S. programs in those ten years is 5597. In 2009, Argentina ranked fourth in the list of countries that participated in U.S. training programs, with 688 students. The “Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest” report for 2009-2010 details the programs that these 688 students participated in and which U.S. agency was in charge of them.

To begin with, 51 of the 688 participated of the Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP), a Defense Department program. These students belong to different Argentine agencies: the Argentine Counter Terrorism Intelligence Special Unit; the Federal Police; the Argentine Navy Intelligence Directorate; the Intelligence Delegation Mar del Plata; the Criminal Intelligence Directorate; the Counterdrug directorate; the Air Force; the Witness Protection Corps; Police Agreements Audit Section; Prefectura San Fernando Operations division; Mounted Police Horse Department; Federal Police International Affairs; etc. Argentines from the military as well as from the police participated in this program. CTFP’s courses, which are run by DoD, are on Civil-Military responses to Terrorism, Combating Organized Crime, Intelligence in Combating Terrorism, Joint Operations Mobile Training Team (MTT, in which U.S. instructors visit the country), and Legal Aspects of Combating Terrorism, among others.

According to the report, Argentina started receiving CTFP funding in 2004. These funds are destined for training in counterterrorism techniques and the conduct of small-to-medium scale operations. The report acknowledges that counterterrorism is the Argentine Police’s responsibility and highlights that this agency has “a strong special operations group, skilled at real world hostage rescue and good marksmanship skills.” CTFP funds also pay for training of Argentina’s Gendarmerie and Coast Guard personnel, and for Argentines’ participation in Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies courses – in which many of the students are civilians – in the United States.

In addition, 358 Argentines participated in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program in 2009. Unlike CTFP, IMET is administered by DoS. Argentine officers came from the II Air brigade, Military academy, I Air Brigade El Palomar, Directorate General for Defense Logistics Service, Army Secretariat, Ministry of the Interior, Senate Defense Committee, and others, almost all of them military units. The courses taught by IMET were: Air Defense Artillery Captains Career, Air Intelligence, Air War College, Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course, Avionics Instrument Systems, Captains Career Common Course, Corrosion Control Technologies, Disaster Planning Methodology, International Logistics/Supply Management Course, and Methodology of International Defense Transformation, among others.

In 2009 three Argentines from the Air War College and Joint Chief of Staff participated in Professional Military Exchange (PME) training, dictated by DoD. Moreover, 47 Argentines participated in trainings offered by Latin America’s Regional Center, that is, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS). This is funded by DoD. According to the report, the “Regional Centers for Security Studies support the U.S. Defense Strategy and DoD security cooperation priorities with programs designed to enhance security, deepen understanding of the US, foster bilateral and multilateral partnerships, improve defense-related decision-making, and strengthen cooperation among U.S. and regional military and civilian leaders.”

Finally, Section 1004, “Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities: Counter-Drug Training Support (CDTS),” the Defense Department’s counter-narcotics aid program, funded the training of 86 Argentines from the Counterdrug Operations Center, the Drug Trafficking Department, the Criminal Intelligence Directorate, the Gualeguaychu 56th Squadron, the Guardacostas GC- 79 Rio Deseado, the Buenos Aires Intelligence Special Unit, the Mounted Unit, the Federal Police, Infantry Unit, Federal Police, and Interior Security Intelligence Department, among others. In this case, almost all officers belong to law-enforcement related institutions. The squadrons are part of Gendarmerie and Prefectura –the Argentine version of the U.S. Coast Guard. Both agencies integrate the military system but function under the command of the Minister of Security and have law enforcement responsibilities. The courses these officers took were, among others, the Spanish Military Decision Making Process (taught by a visiting Mobile Training Team), Counterdrug Operations-Spanish, and Counter Narco-Terrorism Information Analyst, among others.

Less detailed information is available on the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, through which the Argentine security forces paid for their own training. The report indicates that 42 Argentines were trained through this account, but there is no information on the Argentine agencies that supplied these students nor what courses they took. Likewise, 69 Argentine students participated of Non Security Assistance (SA), UC, and Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programs, likely taught by visiting U.S. Special Forces, but no further information is available on this.

Some observations are worth highlighting. First, that police agents from Argentina, like from the Federal Police, have participated widely in training given by the U.S. military (DoD). Second, though Argentina’s armed forces are proscribed from playing a law enforcement role, the CTFP program trained an Air Force student in “Combating Organized Crime” in 2009. Third, in DoD’s Section 1004, courses dictated by the “Spanish Military Decision Making Process Mobile Training Team (MTT)” were taught to students from the Federal Police Mounted Unit and students from the Gendarmerie and Coast Guard. Fourth, some of the students listed in the report’s section on Argentina are actually from Uruguay – most likely, participants in a joint training event held in Argentina. This could actually reduce the real number of Argentines who received U.S. training in 2009.