Risk Areas

3.6 Links with criminal, paramilitary and insurgent groups

Explanation of risk area

Where armed forces support or lead operations against criminal and insurgent groups, infiltration by said groups – especially when their resources exceed those of particular units – is a very real risk. That infiltration can take the shape of members of the security forces being bribed or invited to partake in illegally obtained gains in exchange for not making arrests, passing on sensitive information, or protecting illegal activities.

Consequences for the mission

Weakening of the HNDSF and their unsuitability as a reliable partner

Strengthening of adversary groups

Threats to civilians

Increasing levels of violence and insecurity

Diversion of resources

Weakened force protection


Case Study: Corruption and Plan Colombia: The Missing Link

Colombian security forces and narco-infiltration

In Colombia in the 1990s and 2000s, the huge profits offered by the drug trade presented a serious corruption risk for members of the security forces, especially those deployed in front-line positions and remote from centres of support. Police officers would transport chemicals needed to make drugs; air force planes were allegedly used to transport cocaine; naval officers would pass on information about patrols to traffickers; and some army units would protect drug factories from patrols and facilitated the smuggling of fuel to drug smugglers. A case of narco-infiltration that drew particular attention in the US was the 2006 killing of 10 elite US-trained counternarcotics police and an informant in the region of Jamundí, in west Colombia. They had been ambushed and gunned down by an army unit, which was apparently in the pay of a criminal group. Notably, in some cases these relationships were motivated not by greed, but by need: with limited resources and little political support, armed forces often lacked the ability to mount effective operations and to protect themselves.

View case study

Indicators & Warnings

Adversary groups enjoying freedom of movement in certain areas and/or evading capture

Evidence of contraband smuggling, including cross-border

Criminal groups' access to small arms, some of which could be tracked to security forces

HNDSF undertaking unscheduled and unreported flights and movements