President Juan Manuel Santos is attempting to enhance his security credentials ahead of the 2014 election.
Increasing militant activity in the barren region is concerning for both Egypt and Israel.
This map shows the approximate locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups.
A militant group has vowed unspecified, albeit credible, attacks.
Developing a few inland cities alone is unlikely to reduce economic imbalances or social tensions.
Though intercartel violence could drop, renewed fighting may erupt as Gulf rivals pursue their interests.
A lower target would have short-term benefits but long-term drawbacks for Madrid and the European Union.
Two main rebel groups continue to jockey for position in advance of the al Assad regime's fall.