U.S. Army South Fostering Peace and Security in South America, Central America and the Caribbean

October 7, 2013

Between the end of the Vietnam War and the 11 September 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. military was involved in three armed conflicts. Two of the three—Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and Operation Just Cause in Panama—occurred in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility (AOR). This area encompasses 31 countries and 15 special sovereignty areas across more than 15 million square miles, including all Central and South American landmass and adjacent waters south of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea and island nations. This environment presents challenging conditions such as unequal wealth distribution, social exclusion and corruption. It also poses a unique combination of security issues: transnational organized crime, illicit networks, mass migration, narco-terrorism and natural disasters.

Joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational commitment has quietly but effectively prevented additional armed conflict, but this environment remains influenced by persistent tensions, challenging conditions and security issues that make it imperative to maintain an engaged, committed presence in the region. Conditions in the AOR, just a short distance from the U.S. southern coast, present a real and present danger to the homeland.

As the United States, after more than a decade of war, reprioritizes to operate within a complex, uncertain and resource-constrained environment, its security depends on leveraging capabilities and forward presence. The 2013 National Security Strategy outlines new priorities and emphasizes the nation’s ties to its allies:

We must begin to reposition our worldwide force projection capabilities, defend critical strategic resources, and promote stability in the international system through unilateral strength and multilateral alliances. 

The U.S. Army, with a long history in the Caribbean and Central and South America, continues to share responsibility for fostering peace and security in the Western Hemisphere. From Hurricane Mitch humanitarian assistance in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua (1998), to Operation Just Cause (1989), to the 2010 Haiti earthquake response, U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH), the Army’s land force in the Caribbean and Central and South America, has supported U.S. national security objectives in the region through proactive engagement and enduring partnership.