Manual The Looming Conflict

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By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. The White House announced new sanctions on Iran in the wake of the Sept.

Smith said the shift of more U. He has covered Washington, D.

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Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military's most comprehensive news and information every morning. Colombia has presented evidence of Colombian armed groups active in Venezuela though photos Duque presented at the UN in September were actually taken in Colombia , but that isn't a controversial allegation, according to Geoff Ramsey, assistant director for Venezuela at the human-rights advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America.

Colombia has stuck to its assertions.

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At the end of August, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said there was " no doubt " it would be easier to fight those groups if Maduro were gone. A military vehicle carrying missiles during a military exercise at Garcia Hevia airport in La Fria, Tachira state, September 10, Those tensions increased in September, when Maduro said military exercises would take place along the border and ordered the armed forces to be alert for a potential attack by Colombia.

The exercises kicked off on September Remigio Ceballos, the Venezuelan military's Strategic Operational Commander, said , troops and police were conducting activities "related to security Trujillo called the drills "a threat" reflecting "the consistent bad actions of a [Maduro] government which creates crisis situations. A senior military commander said on September 11 that Colombia's forces were " on a special alert " in response to the exercises. Maduro's government is "spending money on moving their forces around to make a statement to the neighbors," Faller said, calling Maduro "an illegitimate leader" propped up by Russia, Cuba, and, to a lesser extent, China.

I would never discount or discredit somebody's forces as being incapable.

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That's not the right approach for planning. The US will "look at what [Venezuelans] have or what they could have, and we work through that continuously and share that assessment with our partners," Faller said. Faller didn't elaborate on that readiness, but in an email, US Southern Command said Venezuela's "security capabilities continue to decline steadily. Venezuela's "inability to address pressing internal security challenges and continued desertions indicate low levels of operational readiness and professionalism," it added.

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A woman with a rocket launcher during military drills in Caracas, August 26, Venezuela's military has been strained in Hundreds of members have defected this year, and discontent is widespread among those who remain, particularly lower-ranking troops. I think there was an expectation in January that this whole thing was just going to fall apart.

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Late President Hugo Chavez and his successor, Maduro, have cultivated loyalty and punished dissent in the ranks, which has helped keep Maduro in power despite deepening disdain for his government. Russian-made Venezuelan air force Sukhoi SuMKV multirole strike fighters fly over a military parade for Venezuela's th independence anniversary, in Caracas, July 5, The functioning of that equipment, like those Ss, is owed largely to Russian support, including repeated deployments of technicians to Venezuela, including a contingent that arrived on September Those technicians, like Maduro's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the deployment of Russian bombers to Venezuela in December, have taken the current tensions beyond a regional dispute.

Those military contracts include Russian Su fighter jets, 24 of which Venezuela ordered in and now operates alongside US-made F fighters acquired earlier.

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At least two Sus have been lost in fatal crashes , including one this month. Colombian air force personnel do maintenance checks on a Kfir fighter jet in Barranquilla, July 17, Danny Rangel.

Those Russian jets are "a threat to the region," Maj. That's part of the reason the US has offered to sell Colombia 15 of the latest version of the F, according to Foreign Policy. Those jets would be "a great advancement" for Colombia's "capability to defend their sovereign air space," Croft said at the time.