Colombia Military - 2023


SOURCE: 2023 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

Military and security forces

Military Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Militares de Colombia): National Army (Ejercito Nacional), Republic of Colombia Navy (Armada Republica de Colombia, ARC; includes Coast Guard), Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea de Colombia, FAC); Colombian National Police (PNC; civilian force that is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense) (2023)

Military expenditures

3% of GDP (2022 est.)

3% of GDP (2021 est.)

3% of GDP (2020 est.)

3.1% of GDP (2019 est.)

3.1% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 260,000 total active troops (200,000 Army; 45,000 Navy, including about 20,000 marines; 14,000 Air Force); approximately 180,000 National Police (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military's inventory includes a wide mix of equipment from a variety of suppliers, including Canada, Europe, Israel, South Korea, and the US; the US has been the top provider in recent years; Colombia's defense industry is active in producing air, land, and naval platforms (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-24 years of age for compulsory (men) and voluntary (men and women) military service; conscript service obligation is 18 months; conscripted soldiers reportedly include regular soldiers (conscripts without a high school degree), drafted high school graduates (bachilleres), and rural (campesino) soldiers who serve in their home regions (2023)

note 1: conscripts reportedly comprise about 50% of the Colombian military's active force with more than 50,000 conscripts brought into the military annually

note 2: the Colombian military first incorporated women in 1976 in administrative positions; women were incorporated as non-commissioned officers in 1983 and officers in 2009; women comprise about 1% of the military

Military deployments

275 Egypt (MFO) (2023)

Military - note

the Colombian military is responsible for defending and maintaining the country’s independence, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity but also has an internal security role, which includes protecting the civilian population, as well as private and state-owned assets, and ensuring a secure environment; the military’s primary focus is the conduct of counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency operations against drug traffickers, several factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the insurgent/terrorist group National Liberation Army (ELN); the Colombian Government signed a peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, but some former members (known as dissidents) have returned to fighting (note - these dissident groups include the US-designated foreign terrorist groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army or FARC-EP and Segunda Marquetalia; see Appendix T);  in 2017, the Colombian Government initiated formal peace talks with the ELN, but it officially ended the talks shortly after the ELN exploded a car bomb at the National Police Academy in Bogota in January 2019; operations against the FARC dissident groups and the ELN continued into 2023, although the Colombian Government resumed talks with the ELN in November 2022 and began exploratory talks with the FARC-EP and Segunda Marquetalia; a 6-month cease-fire agreement was reached with the ELN in June 2023; the military is also focused on the security challenges posed by its neighbor, Venezuela, where instability has attracted narcotics traffickers, and both the ELN and FARC dissidents operate openly; Colombia shares a 1,370-mile (2,200 km) border with Venezuela; ELN and FARC insurgents have also used neighboring Ecuador to rest, resupply, and shelter

the Colombian National Army is one of the largest and most experienced ground forces in the Western Hemisphere, having spent decades conducting operations against insurgents and terrorist groups; it has also kept a small battalion (about 250-300 troops) in the Sinai Peninsula with the Multinational Observer Force since 1980; the Army’s primary focus is ongoing operations against the ELN, FARC dissidents, and other illegal armed groups, which are challenged by difficult topography and long and porous land borders; the Air Force and Navy play a role in the counterinsurgency campaign but their participation is minor in comparison to the Army; the Army is largely configured for flexible and mobile counterinsurgency operations with 1 mechanized and 7 light infantry divisions; the light infantry divisions are not uniformly structured and typically include a mix of conventional infantry and specialized air mobile, counterinsurgency, jungle, mountain, and security brigades; some divisions may also have special task forces for anti-kidnapping, counternarcotics, or urban operations; the Army also has a special forces division, a rapid deployment force (Fuerza de Despliegue Rápido or FUDRA) comprised of special forces and counterinsurgency brigades, and an air assault division with aviation and light infantry/air mobile forces; the National Police works with the Army against illegal armed groups and has a variety of specialized forces, including commandos, quick reaction, counterterrorism, counternarcotics, motorized, and anti-riot (Escuadron Móvil Antidisturbios, or ESMAD) units 

the Navy is responsible for security in Colombia’s waters in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Oceans, the country’s extensive network of rivers, and a few small land areas under its direct jurisdiction; it takes part in multinational naval exercises, and over the past decade has undertaken efforts to modernize; its principal warships are 4 frigates, 6 corvettes, ocean-going, or offshore patrol ships, and 4 attack submarines, which are supplemented by dozens of coastal and riverine patrol craft; the Navy also has a 22,000-man marine force comprised of 5 marine/riverine infantry brigades and a special forces brigade, as well as a small aviation force; the Air Force has an air defense role, but also supports the Army’s counterinsurgency operations; it has a mix of about 50 fighters and ground attack combat aircraft, plus reconnaissance, electronic warfare, logistical, and training fixed-wing aircraft, as well as approximately 100 multirole helicopters 

Colombia has close security ties with the US, including joint training, military assistance, and designation in 2022 as a Major Non-NATO Ally, which provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense, trade, and security cooperation; it also has close ties with some regional neighbors, such as Argentina, Chile, and Peru; Colombian military and security forces have training programs with their counterparts from a variety of countries, mostly those from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean; security ties with Ecuador and Venezuela have been challenged by the presence of narcotics traffickers, ELN, and FARC dissidents in the border regions (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reported no incidents in 2022 in the territorial waters of Colombia; there remains a risk for armed robbery against ships particularly in the main port of Cartagena while ships are berthed or at anchor

NOTE: The information regarding Colombia on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Colombia 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Colombia 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 22 Aug 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.