The US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) plans to provide Colombia with new
levels of intelligence to assist its operations against insurgent groups and
to instruct their armed forces in applying that information to operations,
the director of operations for USSOUTHCOM Brig Gen Galen Jackman has
disclosed to Jane´s Defence Weekly.
As part of an expansion of its involvement in the region, the US government
no longer limits its aid to counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia. It now
permits the helicopters, intelligence and training provided to Bogota under
that programme to be used to fight terrorism.
The USA has cited as terrorist organisations the right-wing paramilitary
United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, the leftist Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia and the Colombian National Liberation Army.
"Our main objective is to help transform the Colombian military to a force
that is capable of defeating the terrorist organisations, establishing
presence and defence, in order to provide a safe and secure environment and
governance throughout Colombia," Gen Jackman, told JDW on 18 December 2002.
He added that Colombia has recently crafted a "well thought out, systematic
way" for re-establishing governmental authority throughout the country.
The extension of aid to combat terrorism is consistent with the USA´s
efforts to reward countries that pledge support for its `war on terrorism´.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in December 2002 that the US
government intends to forward $573 million in aid to Colombia in Fiscal Year
2003 (FY03), bringing the total since 2000 to nearly $2 billion. US
officials plan to include funding for drug eradication and air bridge denial
in FY04, he added.
US military assistance includes greater intelligence sharing, now that
restrictions are lifted on the USA seeking out or providing information to
Colombia on matters outside the scope of counter-narcotics activities. Gen
Jackman would not identify what US assets are deployed in the region, but
said USSOUTHCOM can support Colombia through the provision of signals
intelligence, imagery and human intelligence (HUMINT). US troops will
provide the Colombian armed forces with planning assistance for fusing and
analysing that information, as well as its own intelligence collection. The
aim will be to help forces create a common picture for operations, Gen
Further, the USA will instruct a Colombian commando unit in tactical
intelligence techniques and procedures, and provide equipment such as small
arms, communications, optics, night operations and soldier systems. Much of
the focus for this unit is on HUMINT, as is President Alvaro Uribe´s new
informant programme, Gen Jackman noted. "HUMINT is absolutely critical, as
opposed to the focus on a lot of technology", he added.
Military training is a major part of the USA´s expanded co-operation, with
much of it aimed at the Colombians being more proactive than defensive,
officials said. The commando unit, to be modelled on a US Army Ranger
battalion, will learn long-range tactical level reconnaissance and
surveillance, and direct action focused on terrorist leaders, Gen Jackman
said. Troops have already been selected for the commando battalion and have
begun preliminary training. The unit is set to be operational by the end of
US instructors in January 2003 will begin training up to two brigades in
infrastructure protection, primarily to confront groups targeting the Cano
Limon pipeline in Arauca province. The brigades will also be capable of
protecting electric pylons and communications relay stations.
US forces have also helped Colombia reorganise a counter-narcotics brigade
into smaller, more agile battalions comprised of more experienced soldiers.
Training that began previously with a Colombian counter-terrorism unit will
Further USSOUTHCOM plans include blocking weapons and ammunition headed into
Colombia, much of it flowing through the drug trade. The Joint Interagency
Task Force East, which is involved in monitoring narcotics transit to assist
law enforcement, has taken on the arms interdiction mission. Gen Jackman
added that the task force will also monitor illegal aliens coming into the
USA from South America.
Senior Associate, Demilitarization Program
Center for International Policy
1755 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 312
Washington DC 20036
+202-232-3317 fax 232-3440