View Full Version : El Salvador war: postscripts

Bill Meara
02-01-2007, 06:41 AM
Having recently finished writing a book that covers my service on an MTT (El Salvador) it is very interesting to read about the experiences of others in this kind of work. I think ours was a bit unusual in that we only had two Americans (me and one other Captain).

Oh yea, BTW, In my book I point out that I am the inventor of what became a permanent Army acronym: MIST. We were thinking about how we were going to get a PSYOP team for Honduras approved by all the worry-warts in the clearance chain. I decided to change the name of the team from PSYOP to "Military Information Support Team" Who could be worried about a little mist?

11-30-2008, 05:01 PM
Moderator's Note

The first seven posts were in 'External Support to El Salvador Insurgency' in the Historians section and has been moved here.

Need some input from some SME's for a paper -

In the El Salvadorian insurgency of the 80s/90s, I was under the impression it was almost entirely "homegrown". However, it appears Nicaragua supported the insurgents with at least some material aid.

Did the rebels in El Salvador receive significant material assistance from outside sources?

Bill Moore
12-01-2008, 02:46 AM
Finding non-bias unclassified sources has proven to be a challenge. For example, there are Cuban Exile websites and extreme right wing sites that state beyond a doubt Cuba provided substantial logistical support. While it has been proven that Cuba provided support, the degree of support is hard to determine.

This first article is an excellent professional development article regarding logistic support for insurgents. A couple of excerpts below, much more at the link.


The success of the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979
highlighted the need for a coordinated effort by all five anti-government groups operating in El Salvador. After months of negotiations in Havana, Cuba, the major guerilla groups emerged consolidated under the Unified Revolutionary Directorate (DRU). In part this unity is believed to have been due to the pressure of Fidel Castro who sought to consolidate training and
logistical support. Shortly after the announcement of the creation of
the DRU, in May, 1980, there were indications that approximately 600
tons of weapons had arrived in El Salvador.

The largest percentage of 5.56mm M16/AR15 rifles captured have been traced to weapons either provided to the Republic of South Vietnam or issued to US units sent to Vietnam. Both US Defense Intelligence Agency serial number trace data and the Institute's samples examined in El Salvador show the single largest source of M16/AR15 rifles provided to the FMLN has been

Between 1984 and 1989, Eastern Europe emerged as an important new
source for FMLN small arms. Salvadoran government documents show that
prior to 1987 so-called "Communist Bloc" weapons represented less than
one percent of all captured weapons. By 1990 the total of such weapons
had grown to over 30 percent and continues to grow.

Eastern Europe has not been the only recent supplier of weapons to the
FMLN. Increasing numbers of North Korean manufactured 7.62 x 39mm Type
68 (AKM) rifles have been captured by government forces.

Logistical support for the FMLN has not been dependent upon a single
source, nor a single region.

This information seems plausable, but I'm a little leery of the source:


With unified tactics and operations now possible, Cuba began to assist the guerrillas in formulating military strategy. Cuban specialists helped the DRU devise initial war plans in the summer of 1980. The Cubans influenced the guerrillas to launch a general offensive in January 1981. After the offensive failed, guerrilla leaders traveled to Havana in February 1981 to finalize a strategy to "improve our internal military situation" by engaging in a "negotiating maneuver" to gain time to regroup.(11)

Cuba provided few weapons and ammunition to Salvadoran guerrillas from its own resources but played a key role in coordinating the acquisition and delivery of arms from Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Eastern Europe through Nicaragua.(12) After the unmasking of this network, Cuba and Nicaragua reduced the flow in March and early April. Prior to a guerrilla offensive in August an upswing in deliveries occurred. The arms flow continues via clandestine surface and air routes. In addition, the Cubans over the past year have established a network of small ships to deliver arms to Salvadoran insurgent groups.

Cuba also assists the Salvadoran guerrillas in contacts with Arab radical states and movements to arrange military training and financing for arms acquisition. In September 1980, Cuba laundered $500,000 in Iraqi funds for the Salvadoran insurgents. In March 1981, the Salvadoran Communist Party Secretary General, Shafik Handal, visited Lebanon and Syria to meet with Palestine leaders. Cuba also coordinated the training of a relatively small number of Salvadoran guerrillas in Palestinian camps in the Mideast.

The El Salvador civil war still interests me, because of the second and third order effects ranging from MS-13 gangs (several members were in the FMLN), cached arms that are available to highest bidder, probably narcoterrorists, and the fact that the FMLN is now a credible political party that is capable of winning the national election in 2009. I don't know what color their stripes are now, but the effects of the conflict still linger.

12-01-2008, 03:45 AM
Most of the ICJ judges in 1986 agreed with your initial impression; and ignored the materiality of the evidence submitted by the US. So, judgment for Nicaragua - a victory for the "anti-colonialists"; judgment enforcement sought in UN with most everybody against the 600 lb. gorilla; an SC veto effectively ended the sideshow.

Wiki summary of this leading I Law case is here.


The ICJ webpage is here (menu to all pleadings, docs, etc.), where you find a summary of Judge Schwebel's opinion (in full, available from ICJ menu):

Dissenting Opinion of Judge Schwebel

Judge Schwebel dissented from the Court's Judgment on factual and legal grounds. He agreed with the Court in its holdings against the United States for its failure to make known the existence and location of mines laid by it and its causing the publication of a manual advocating acts in violation of the law of war. But Judge Schwebel concluded that the United States essentially acted lawfully in exerting armed pressures against Nicaragua, both directly and through its support of the contras, because Nicaragua's prior and sustained support of armed insurgency in El Salvador was tantamount to an armed attack upon El Salvador against which the United States could react in collective self-defence in El Salvador's support.

Judge Schwebel found that, since 1979, Nicaragua had assisted and persisted in providing large-scale, vital assistance to the insurgents in El Salvador. The delictual acts of Nicaragua had not been confined to providing the Salvadoran rebels with large quantities of arms, munitions and supplies, which of themselves arguably might be seen as not tantamount to armed attack. Nicaragua had also joined with the Salvadoran rebels in the organization, planning and training for their acts of insurgency, and had provided them with command-and-control facilities, bases, communications and sanctuary which enabled the leadership of the Salvadoran rebels to operate from Nicaraguan territory. That scale of assistance, in Judge Schwebel's view, was legally tantamount to an armed attack. Not only was El Salvador entitled to defend itself against that armed attack, it had called upon the United States to assist it in the exercise of collective self-defence. The United States was entitled to do so, through measures overt or covert. Those measures could be exerted not only in El Salvador but against Nicaragua on its own territory.

In Judge Schwebel's view, the Court's conclusion that the Nicaraguan Government was not "responsible for any flow of arms" to the Salvadoran insurgents was not sustained by "judicial or judicious" considerations. The Court had "excluded, discounted and excused the unanswerable evidence of Nicaragua's major and maintained intervention in the Salvadoran insurgency". Nicaragua's intervention in El Salvador in support of the Salvadoran insurgents was, Judge Schwebel held, admitted by the President of Nicaragua, affirmed by Nicaragua's leading witness in the case, and confirmed by a "cornucopia of corroboration".

Even if, contrary to his view, Nicaragua's actions in support of the Salvadoran insurgency were not viewed as tantamount to an armed attack, Judge Schwebel concluded that they undeniably constituted unlawful intervention. But the Court, "remarkably enough", while finding the United States responsible for intervention in Nicaragua, failed to recognize Nicaragua's prior and continuing intervention in El Salvador.

For United States measures in collective self-defence to be lawful, they must be necessary and proportionate. In Judge Schwebel's view, it was doubtful whether the question of necessity in this case was justiciable, because the facts were so indeterminate, depending as they did on whether measures not involving the use of force could succeed in terminating Nicaragua's intervention in El Salvador. But it could reasonably be held that the necessity of those measures was indicated by "persistent Nicaraguan failure to cease armed subversion of El Salvador".

Judge Schwebel held that "the actions of the United States are strikingly proportionate. The Salvadoran rebels, vitally supported by Nicaragua, conduct a rebellion in El Salvador; in collective self-defence, the United States symmetrically supports rebels who conduct a rebellion in Nicaragua. The rebels in El Salvador pervasively attack economic targets of importance in El Salvador; the United States selectively attacks economic targets of military importance" in Nicaragua.

Judge Schwebel maintained that, in contemporary international law, the State which first intervenes with the use of force in another State - as by substantial involvement in the sending of irregulars onto its territory - is, prima facie, the aggressor. Nicaragua's status as prima facie aggressor can only be confirmed upon examination of the facts. "Moreover", Judge Schwebel concluded, "Nicaragua has compounded its delictual behaviour by pressing false testimony on the Court in a deliberate effort to conceal it. Accordingly, on both grounds, Nicaragua does not come before the Court with clean hands. Judgment in its favour thus unwarranted, and would be unwarranted even if it should be concluded - as it should not be - that the responsive actions of the United States were unnecessary or disproportionate."


A partial summary of the evidence presented by the US (76 pp. of a 476 page doc) is here - with the links to Cuba, how C&C worked, etc.


I expect a large number of original source materials are available for this case, which would further prove the extent of Nic & Cuban support.

Judge Schwebel's 538 page full opinion (32 MB download) is here.


Hope the above helps.

John T. Fishel
12-02-2008, 06:06 PM
where the classified intel was actually better than what was in the public domain. The Soviets, Cubans, and Sandinistas all provided material aid and support to the FMLN. I heard GEN Paul Gorman discussing supplying the FMLN from Nicaragua via the Gulf of Fonseca by small boat - 1985. It was still being done in 87 and 88. Cuba was responsible for the unification - such as it was - of the FMLN by insisting on it if the 5 insurgent groups wanted any aid from any communist source. Note that negotiations between the govt and the FMLN began in earnest only as the USSR was falling apart and the Sandinistas had been voted out of power in Nicaragua. Both events meant that no more Soviet bloc supplies would be coming in to the FMLN.

Arms aid also came through Honduras. Sanctuaries existed in the disputed pockets on the Honduran Salvadoran border called the "Bolsones" where FMLN units could rest and refit while arms were smuggled to them from Nicaragua under the not very watchful eyes of the UN bureaucrats who ran the refugee camps.

Gorman produced a pamphlet at the time. I suspect that the CARL has it and others - all unclas - but because they were sanitized from classified stuff, less than 100% compelling.



Tom Odom
12-02-2008, 06:29 PM
As I recall Contra Cross (http://contracross.com/)has some tidbits on this as well.

PM Bill Meara and ask him!


John T. Fishel
12-03-2008, 12:18 AM
Bill was there, after all.

Cavguy, PM me and I can give you a couple of email addresses that might be useful.



12-03-2008, 02:51 AM
Thanks for all the replies and PMs, I'm digging in.

Without going too deep into anything classified, can anyone comment as to whether the amount of support and sanctuary that may have been offered materially affected the length and outcome of the insurgency?

To add clarity, I'm doing some academic research on whether our COIN best practices are based on cases where insurgents received little outside support and/or sanctuary (Kenya, Malaya, Philippines) versus insurgencies with significant outside assistance and sanctuary (Afghanistan (1), Vietnam, etc.) The next step is comparison of successful COIN examples of each type and seeing what the critical types were.

Going into it I thought El Sal was overall a non-externally supported insurgency (meaning for the terms of my paper it had some but not meaningful support), but have run across some conflicting sources, hence this question.


03-16-2009, 09:23 AM
Just spotted the victory of the FMLN candidate in El Salvador: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7944899.stm

A close result and hopefully violence will remain a memory.

I know references have been made to the US role in the COIN campaign / war back in the 1980's, so thought worthwhile adding.


John T. Fishel
03-16-2009, 11:29 AM
marks the fulfillment of the promise made by President Duarte in 1985 and President Cristiani in 1991/2 - that if the FMLN laid down its arms, it would be able to compete freely for power in elections. That it has done and finally won. It also has nearly two decades of playing a major role in the Legislative Assembly - mostly constructive (as much as Arena's role has been mostly constructive) and of governing a number of towns and cities.

I believe (and hope) that this electoral transfer of power will demonstrate El Salvador's political maturity and I wish Mr Fulnes toda la suerte posible (all possible good luck) in his Presidency.

In the end, this transition is what we sought to help the Salvadorans achieve.



03-16-2009, 05:42 PM
and possibly good news. A tidbit in Mauricio Funes' Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauricio_Funes) - his wife was involved in the Workers' Party in Brazil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Party_(Brazil)). Of course, that is a big tent (multi-factions). Any idea of whether she was closer to Articulação, the center-left group that Lula da Silva is a part of ?

Also, how does Funes fit into the spectrum of the other Central American figures, Álvaro Colom (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81lvaro_Colom) (Guatemala); Manuel Zelaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Zelaya) (Honduras); Daniel Ortega (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Ortega) (Nicaragua); Óscar Arias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93scar_Arias) (Costa Rica) ?

These mostly (Zeleya ?) seem center-left, SDP types.

John T. Fishel
03-16-2009, 06:31 PM
election rhetoric, Funes is likely to govern fairly center-left (which will be a big change from ARENA). The real concern about FMLN politicians is that because of party rules on term limits about the time a legislator built up substantive expertise and cross party connections he was term limited out of office. Note that this was not law but FMLN rules. So a lot of power resides in the professional cadre of the FMLN whether it has hels office or not.

A friend of mine - and student at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in my seminar group - was an FMLN Comandante during the war and later served on the Defense Committee of the Assembly where he was best friends with the ARENA chairman, a retired Army COL. He was term limited out. In fact, when I met him at a seminar we held in San Salvador, he and another COL were chatting after the session about where they had been in Feb 87. It turns out that the COL and the Comandante had both been operating in Cabanas department on opposite sides. At that point, I interjected that I, too, had been in Cabanas in Feb 87, observing the operations of the Bracamonte Immediate Reaction Bn as part of a team from Southcom's Small Wars operations Research Directorate (SWORD).

While we will have to see what transpires in the new govt, Funes seems like an appropriate choice to lead the FMLN as a responsible govt.



John T. Fishel
09-23-2009, 12:09 PM
(See Post 7 for why this thread appears please).

Ken, I suspect you are right that most post WWII wars have been characterized by meeting engagments including the war in El Salvador - which is where I'm going with this.

By1987, the ESAF, govt, and the US had developed a holistic COIN strategy that included political and economic reform and development - the development strategy had evolved from the 1983-84 National Plan to Unidos Para Reconstruir 85 - 87 to Municipios en Accion after 87; from centralized phased to decentrralized. The corresponding military strategy had three parts:
1. Protect infrastructure - a prime target of the FMLN - which also meant protecting the population because the infrastructure was located where they lived. This aspect of the strategy involved the most troops but was limited to regular brigades and miilitary detachments and Civil Defense (local militia) units.
2. 24/7 patrols by Immediate Reaction Bn in areas of FMLN concentration characterized by meeting engagements. The objective was to keep the FMLN off balance and constantly on the move. Since these bn were operating in thirds - one third in the field, one third recovering, one third preparing to go back - they were rested compared to the guerrillas.
3. Intel targeted operations by the national Special Operations Group (GOE) and similar operations by brigade long range patrol elements focused on specific identified concetrations of FMLN leaders and fighters.

Together this national pol-econ-mil strategy won the war. Clearly, El Salvador is NOT Afghanistan or Iraq but we can certainly learn and adapt that which is appropriate. It is also useful to note that it took between 8 and 10 years to get all elements of the strategy in place. It is equally important that the big picture really was not clear to any single individual at the time. I never heard the military strategy described as I just described it by anybody - US or ESAF - while I was in country conducting the Combined ESAF Assessment (87-88) and I was talking with the MOD, the C3, the US Ambassador, and the MILGP commander along with the Southcom J3 who headed the team. Nevertheless, that is what was actually happening on the ground.



09-23-2009, 03:13 PM
Together this national pol-econ-mil strategy won the war. Clearly, El Salvador is NOT Afghanistan or Iraq but we can certainly learn and adapt that which is appropriate. It is also useful to note that it took between 8 and 10 years to get all elements of the strategy in place. It is equally important that the big picture really was not clear to any single individual at the time. I never heard the military strategy described as I just described it by anybody - US or ESAF - while I was in country conducting the Combined ESAF Assessment (87-88) and I was talking with the MOD, the C3, the US Ambassador, and the MILGP commander along with the Southcom J3 who headed the team. Nevertheless, that is what was actually happening on the ground.

John/Dr. F/Sir,

As a fellow CA-bubba I recognize parts of your pol-econ-mil strategy from my time in Mosul, and saw some old echos of the El Salvador fight during a VETRETE there. During OIF 1 in Mosul we were able to reach large numbers of the populace and engage through the pol-econ-mil spectrum. As a result of this we reaped the benefits resulting from a greater mass of combined numbers (US & Iraqi) working to stabilize the area. My observation was that both US and Iraqi cultures were committed to centralized control however...later that summer de-bathification and disbanding the Army were some pretty serious below the belt shots to what we were doing...security deteriorated and the pol-econ side followed. There were still some older FMLN warriors around whom I bumped into during my visit to El Salvador. The FMLN had a distinct vision of themselves but they were peacefully pushing the pol-econ side of things in the small area that I observed. Peaceful integration is a worthy goal and I see the outcome as a success.

John T. Fishel
09-23-2009, 04:01 PM
To me, the ultimate success of the El Sal strategy was the election last year of an FMLN president and his peaceful assumption of office. I saw this foreshadowed in a 2000 conference in El Sal where FMLN and aRENA legislators had forged friendships and working relationships.

On decentralization: Amb Ed Corr was the father of the MEA plan that decentralized development - at least on the US side. In his article on mil-mil contacts in Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement (vol 10 # 2) John Waghelstein who commaned the first big Milgp in 82-83 and was godfather of the original national plan, credits MEA with being the right approach.

Me, with my CA hat, am a strong advocate of local level development planning. Villagers really do know what they need better than the central govt.



Pol-Mil FSO
09-24-2009, 01:03 AM
A somewhat tardy post related to Dr. Fishel's El Salvador comments:

In a 1988 visit to eastern El Salvador, I accompanied Ambassador Walker as a junior officer horse holder. In San Miguel, we heard 3d Brigade Commander Colonel Ponce tell us that he was more interested in protecting the population than killing guerrillas, and that he preferred turning a guerrilla to killing him. We saw this policy in action when we flew up to San Francisco Gotera, the capital of Morazan Department. Colonel Barrera, the Military Detachment Commander in Morazan, showed us a FMLN fighter who had surrendered to ESAF troops. Colonel Barrera told us that that the fighter had been a guest at the cuartel for a week and had been receiving food and shelter with no attempt at interrogation. They were waiting for the fighter to cooperate, something that they predicted would happen soon, given the good treatment and the fact that his ex-companeros were convinced that he had gone over to the other side.

It may be a somewhat simplistic formulation, but it seems to me that the ESAF COIN strategy evolved from killing the villagers whom they believed to support the guerrillas in the early 1980's, to chasing guerrillas during the middle 1980's, to considering the population as the center of gravity in the late 1980's.

John T. Fishel
09-24-2009, 01:39 AM
Not only did the ESAF change over time but individuals did as well. By the time I met COL (later Gen Ponce) in 87 he was very much a pop centric believer but he had not always been so. (My source for that is a very senior US diplomat in a postion to know.) Domingo Monterrosa, who commanded the Atlacatl BIRI during the massacre at El Mozote was, by the time the FMLN assasinated him with a bomb on his helicopter, very much a believer in a pop centric strategy. (That comes from COL John Waghelstein who commanded the MILGP in 83-84 as well as other sources.) Some leaders of the ESAF changed, some stayed as hard liners, and some began as and stayed as democrats. Much was due to the constant pressure from MILGP commanders and US Ambassadors reinforced by then VP Bush reading the riot act to the High Command. For me, the traumatic event that cemented the change in the ESAF was the coming to light of the murder of the Jesuits in 89 and the choice forced on Ponce and the rest of his Academy class, the Tandona. Prior to that event the hierarchy of loyalty among ESAF officers was Tanda first, Army second, and country third. The atrocity was oredered by a member of the Tandona which forced Ponce and his classmates (who held all the key position in the ESAF) to choose where their loyalty lay. To their everlasting credit, they inverted the old loyalty pyramid and supported the prosecution of their classmate. I will be forever impressed and in awe of the American Ambassadors - Deane Hinton, Tom Pickering, Ed Corr, and Bill Walker - the MILGP Commanders - John Waghelstein, Joe Stringham, Jim Steele, and John Ellerson - and those who worked for them, and, especialy, the ESAF officers - Rene Emilio Ponce, Mauricio Vargas, Rafael Bustillo, Campos Anaya, and others - with all their faults who fought a hard war, learned and changed and adjusted to peace.



Pol-Mil FSO
09-24-2009, 04:11 AM
Dr. Fishel:

The Jesuit massacre happened a few months after I left El Salvador but I followed it closely and discussed it with several persons who were involved in the investigation or had related knowledge of the event. As a result, I do not believe that COL Benavides ordered the killings as it would have been out of character. Benavides was known within the Tandona (Academy Class of 1966) as a follower rather than a leader. In addition, he was the Military Academy Director during the FMLN Offensive and was assigned responsibility for an ad hoc security sector that included the Military Academy, ESAF Heaquarters, and UCA; from what I have heard I understand his role to have been more in the deconfliction rather than planning of operations as he had TACON of units only when they were actually moving within his assigned sector.

Despite the assertion of the UN (so-called) Truth Commission Report, I have strong doubts that COL Ponce gave the order - he was too intelligent and not prone to panic. Nevertheless, I think the order did come from a Tandona member as those are the only persons from whom COL Benavides would take orders on such a serious matter - I think the most logical suspects would have been 1st Brigade Commander COL Zepeda or Vice MOD for Security COL Montano.

Re your list of officers - I would add two more officers whom I believe to deserve a great deal of credit for holding ESAF together from 1983 to 1988 - Generals Adolfo Blandon and Eugenio Vides Casanova, the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister, respectively. Vides Casanova played an unheralded but key balancing role in preventing right-wing coups from within the ranks while addressing the concerns of his civilian counterparts and the USG. I also believe that it was a great shame and stain on our honor that nobody in the USG did anything to support Vides Casanova when he was the target of civil suits from human rights groups in the 1990s.

09-24-2009, 11:24 AM
This will be an odd thread and I have checked that there is not a suitable existing thread on El Salvador. In a recent thread on Afghanistan several posts have been added drawing attention to this war and really they are best placed here (the thread being: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=8467&page=4 ).

Accordingly the thread will appear with this introduction at the end.


09-24-2009, 11:40 AM
An article by Tom Ricks on Afghanistan: http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/09/18/mcmaster_speaks_what_went_wrong_in_iraq led to several comments on the war in El Salvador, especially by David Ucko. He particularly cited a RAND paper:

I would recommend Benjamin Schwarz's study on El Salvador for RAND (www.rand.org/pubs/reports/R4042/), written in 1991. What Schwarz does is illustrate the critical weaknesses of the U.S. approach in El Salvador, most of which centre around its limited leverage: its inability to get the armed forces of El Salvador (ESAF) and the government (GoES) to do what the U.S. reforms asked of them.

I know John Fishel does not agree with Schwarz or Ucko's viewpoint:

The war was never a stalemate. It proceeded as a series of shifting equilibria where first one side had the advantage and then the other would catch up. Then the initiative shfted and the process repeated. In the end, however, the Chapultepec Accords terminated the war on almost exactly the terms offered by President Duarte in 1984. That, I call, a win for the govt! An unspoken term of settlement, however, was that the govt could not publicly claim victory and was wise enough not to do so.


John T. Fishel
09-24-2009, 12:23 PM
on giving us a separate thread and bringing in the Ucko comments.:D

FSO, I really overlooked Vides. He was a really impressive guy and, when we briefed Pres Duarte on the Combined ESAF Assessment, Vides was the only person in a room fulll of senior gringos and Salvadorans who was able to answer Pres Duarte's question about whether the govt was winning the war. (Vides answered in the affirmative, correctly IMO.) I never got to know Blandon but I would agree with your assesment. I also agree that Vides got a raw deal from the USG in those suits. Amb Corr, to his everlasting credit, went out ofhis way to testify for Vides.

I also agree with you on Ponce. The Truth Commission report clearly leaves much to be desired. In general, it accepts as true any allegation about ESAF crimes without investigation but invstigated allegations of FMLN crimes and/or lumped them together while treating each allegation against ESAF individually and as true.

Finally, regarding Benavides, my sources tell me he was responsible - but he had been stashed at the Academy because he was considered to be among the least comptent of his Tanda mates - but he was a known hard liner. The problem was that whe San Salvador was underattack he had responibility for the defense of the sites you indicate and TACON of the Atlacatl for purposes of site defense. Motive and opportunity.



Pol-Mil FSO
09-25-2009, 04:51 AM

A Vides Casanova story for you: in response to continued Embassy pressure to remove COL Staben from command of the Arce BIRI, Vides reportedly said "I can't remove him, he is our Patton." (The Embassy rejoinder should have been that Patton inherited his wealth.)

One of my favorite books on the El Salvador conflict is the 1988 NDU oral history volume edited by your colleague Max Manwaring, "El Salvador at War." (See: http://www.amazon.com/EL-SALVADOR-AT-WAR-Insurrection/dp/B000RGDU9U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253890512&sr=1-1 ). It has a lot of interesting and useful comments from most of the U.S. and Salvadoran military players during the 1980s.

Another of my favorites is "Strategy and Tactics of the Salvadoran FMLN Guerrillas." (See: http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Tactics-Salvadoran-FMLN-Guerrillas/dp/0275950182 ) As you probably know, it was ghost written by Gustavo Perdomo, the Commander of the Special Operations Group (GOE) during the war. I got to know General Perdomo when he was assigned to Salvadoran Embassy in Washington in the mid 1990s. A very sharp and charismatic guy - until Iraq and Afghanistan came on the scene he probably had more combat experience than any other Special Forces officer in the world.

John T. Fishel
09-25-2009, 02:25 PM
his wealth, he did marry it (or at least most of it). For those who don't know Staben was accused of being part of a kidnapping ring. My personal belief is that if he was it was not (less) for the money but for Tanda (Academy class) loyalty. Regardless, it's a great story and captures some of the dilemmas of COIN.

We certainly worked hard on El Salvador at War which Max and Court wrote while under contract with SWORD. I was the active officer supervising the project.

I think that Dave Spencer told me that Perdomo was the real author of much of the book - that was after Dave joined us at CHDS. I met Perdomo at the Centro de Altos Estudios Estrategicos (CAEE) in 1996 when he was a Colonel and "going through the course." Camps Anaya was the CAEE Director at the time. Incidentally, CHDS just announced that it was awarding the William Perry Award (for institutions) to the CAEE this year.



02-13-2017, 09:40 PM
Spotted via Twitter an article by David Ucko, on this 2016 article 'Influencing Clients in Counterinsurgency: U.S. Involvement in El Salvador’s Civil War' and so this thread has been re-opened.

Here is a telling phrase:
the United States struggled to persuade its proxy in San Salvador to follow its advice. Whereas American offers of aid and assistance were warmly welcomed, guidance on how to do things differently often fell on deaf ears. Simply put, interests in San Salvador did not always match those in Washington DC and, more often than not, local preferences won out. In this regard, El Salvador is far from unique.Link:https://issforum.org/articlereviews/69-el-salvador?platform=hootsuite