Colombia: October 10, 2002


Things are not going well in the US program to support the Colombian government in fighting "narco-terrorists". This plan was launched by President Clinton in 1999 as a way to fight a Vietnam-style counter-guerrilla campaign and stop the production of cocaine without US casualties or the messy defeat of the supported government. Problems abound. About $2 million is missing from the US embassy accounts which support counter-narcotics. The US has sent helicopters to support the counter-narcotics battalions, but the Colombians haven't been able to maintain them and their availability rate hovers under 50 percent and there is a critical shortage of pilots and mechanics. Aircraft have been sent to the government to spray herbicide on drug crops, but six of them have been shot down, the pilots don't like flying over defended fields, and the US State Department has held up further delivery of aircraft for reasons never explained to the public. Promised shipments of US ammunition and spare parts have not reached frontline units. The US promised to send DEA and ATF trainers to help train Colombian counter-narcotics troops, but the training deployments have been scheduled haphazardly (often when troops aren't available) and lack of supervision has led the trainers and troops to lose focus on just what they are supposed to be training.--Stephen V Cole




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