[Marxism] US Military Personnel in Colombia to Double With DP Approval
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Fri Mar 26 17:10:20 MST 2004
White House Wants More U.S. Personnel in Colombia
Wed Mar 24
By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration wants Congress to let it send
more military and civilian personnel to Colombia to help it "deal a decisive
blow against narco-terrorists" in the decades-long conflict there, the top
U.S. general for the region said on Wednesday.
Gen. James Hill, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, said the administration
has asked Congress to raise the cap that lawmakers imposed on U.S. personnel
in Colombia to 800 military personnel and 600 civilian contractors from the
current 400 limit on each. He said the ban on U.S. involvement in combat
operations would be kept.
"It is vitally important that we sustain Plan Colombia's progress," Hill
said at a House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing, where
he praised Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for turning the tide in the
40-year conflict against rebel insurgents that has been fueled by the
illegal drug trade.
Uribe, in Washington this week, met with President Bush on Tuesday and was
meeting lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
"As a result of this substantial progress, a window of opportunity has
opened in which the Colombian government has the potential to deal a
decisive blow to the narco-terrorists," Hill said.
More U.S. personnel are needed to help train and plan for the Colombian
government's expanded, more aggressive military operations, he said.
Congress, worried that the United States could be sucked into the bloody
conflict, put tight limits on the number of U.S. personnel who could be in
Colombia at any particular time. The six-year operation was intended to
contain the violence and trafficking in drugs that largely wind up on U.S.
Four years into it, Hill said the personnel limit will hurt the mission just
as it "is beginning to pay huge dividends."
But a number of lawmakers remained skeptical, saying Colombia has not done
enough to fight its own conflict.
"They ought to be digging deeper into their own pockets and they ought to be
asking their own kids to serve," said Rep. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi
Taylor complained that while Colombia passed a one-time tax to help finance
its military, it has not approved long-term revenue measures. He also said
Colombia has not reformed draft laws that keep wealthier, educated people
out of the service.
After the hearing, Hill said he would like to have the limit raised
immediately, and that the administration was looking for a bill moving
through Congress quickly as a legislative vehicle for the request.
25 March 2004
Top Democrat in U.S. Senate Voices Support for More Aid to Colombia
Bush plan would double U.S. military presence in Colombia
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Senator Tom Daschle, the leader of the Democratic Party in the
U.S. Senate, says he is "inclined" to support President Bush's plan for
doubling the American military presence in Colombia to help that Andean
nation fight narco-terrorist groups.
Daschle indicated to reporters March 24 that though he first wants to get
all the details about the Bush plan, he tends to agree with Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe about the need to raise the present cap of 400 U.S.
military personnel in Colombia to 800, and to increase the number of U.S.
civilian contractors from 300 to 600. Such an increase would require passage
of new legislation by the U.S. Congress.
The Voice of America quoted the Senate minority leader as saying that
raising the cap on U.S. personnel is necessary in order to continue the
"effective approach that we have used" in supporting Colombia. "And we
cannot address it unless we have the resources. Our governments have a
mutual interest in stability and security," Daschle said.
The U.S. military in Colombia serves in an advisory capacity, in a
non-combat role, as part of the American aid package to Colombia known as
"Plan Colombia," begun in 2000.
The U.S. departments of State and Defense have been consulting with
congressional leaders about raising the ceiling on the number of U.S.
military personnel and civilian contractors who can be in Colombia to
support Plan Colombia, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told
reporters March 22.
"We're requesting the flexibility to use up to 800 military personnel and
600 U.S. civilian contractors in support of Plan Colombia," Boucher said.
Boucher said the United States thinks that the Colombian government "has
been dealing severe blows on the narco-terrorists" in Colombia and that an
increase in the number of U.S. military and civilian contractors is needed
to help the Colombians "sustain the current high tempo of operations."
Daschle, speaking after he met with Uribe during the Colombian president's
visit to Washington, said he is pleased with Colombia's efforts to reduce
drug trafficking and is impressed with Uribe's efforts to fight Colombia's
main left-wing guerilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC). The State Department has designated the FARC, along with another
left-wing group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the right-wing
paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) as foreign
The Senate Democrat from South Dakota said the United States continues to
want to help create a "good partnership" with Uribe's government.
The White House said President Bush commended Uribe for his strong
leadership -- particularly in standing firmly against terrorism and drug
trafficking -- when the two leaders met March 23.
Bush and Uribe also discussed the importance of continuing to work together
to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, and the shared commitment to
expanding trade and open markets by entering into discussions on a
free-trade agreement between the United States and Colombia, the White House
Colombia's Urbie has voiced strong support for increasing the number of U.S.
personnel in his country.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government's annual estimates of coca cultivation in
Colombia indicate that the Andean nation experienced a "dramatic drop of 21
percent in coca cultivation" during 2003, according to the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
The ONDCP credited Uribe's leadership for much of this success. Citing
Uribe's "unwavering support" for "an aggressive aerial spray program" that
targets illegal coca crops in Colombia, the ONDCP said the "accelerating
trend of declining coca cultivation demonstrates once again the
effectiveness" of the aerial eradication program, which is carried out by
the Colombian National Police with assistance from the State Department.
"President Uribe's steadfast efforts against the drug trade are chipping
away at the largest single funding source for regional narco-terrorists and
disrupting the international market for cocaine," ONDCP Director John
Walters said March 22. "This is good news for both the citizens of Colombia
and the United States. We look forward to continuing to work with the
government of Colombia in a common effort aimed at disrupting the drug
market and eliminating the threat of narco-terrorists."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information
Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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