Pubdate: Fri, 26 Oct 2001
Source: Army Times (US)
Copyright: 2001 Army Times Publishing Company
Author: Jared Kotler, Associated Press


BOGOTA, Colombia - The United States is planning to go beyond helping 
Colombia battle drugs by providing counterterrorist aid as part of the new 
global war on terrorism, Ambassador Anne Patterson said Friday.

Washington plans to train and equip elite anti-kidnapping and bomb squads, 
assist civilian and military counter-terror investigators and help Colombia 
guard its oil pipelines from rebel bomb attacks, Patterson said in an 
interview with The Associated Press.

"Certainly, Sept. 11 has enabled us to do more of these kinds of things," 
the American ambassador said of the broadened assistance.

The aid comes on the heels of a controversial U.S. military aid plan aimed 
at helping Colombian security forces fight leftist rebels and right-wing 
paramilitaries engaged in drug trafficking.

The new, broader assistance could fuel accusations of U.S. "mission creep" 
in the South American country embroiled in a 37-year civil war.

Patterson stressed that fighting drugs remained the main U.S. focus, but 
said "there's no question we are now focusing more on terrorism in 
Colombia" in the wake of last month's attacks on New York and Washington.

"Colombia has 10 percent of the terrorist groups in the world, according to 
our list," she said, referring to the State Department list of foreign 
terrorist organizations. Two leftist Colombian rebel groups and a rival 
rightist paramilitary faction are on the list.

Patterson said the United Sates had already planned to aid and provide 
intelligence assistance to Colombian anti-kidnapping squads before the 
Sept. 11 attacks. That plan and other anti-terrorist efforts would now be 
"intensifying," she said.

Rebels are responsible for the majority of the more than 3,000 kidnappings 
reportedly annually in Colombia, and have been waging a sabotage campaign 
against oil pipelines. The nation's largest guerrilla group, the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has also kidnapped and 
killed U.S. citizens in Colombia.

Patterson did not put a price tag on the expanding counter-terror aid or 
give further details. She indicated that the additional aid would probably 
not require congressional approval.

Washington is also turning up its scrutiny of landowner-backed paramilitary 
groups that are waging a brutal massacre campaign against suspected leftists.

As part of the counter-terror fight, the U.S. government also is trying to 
trace foreign bank accounts managed by the guerrillas and paramilitaries or 
their civilian backers, Patterson said.

She said embassy investigators were looking over canceled checks from a 
Miami bank account allegedly used to finance the paramilitaries. The checks 
were discovered by Colombian troops in a raid this month near the city of Cali.

Washington's counter-drug aid includes training for Colombian 
counternarcotics troops and donations of helicopters and crop dusters for 
an aerial eradication offensive against drug plantations guarded by rebel 
and paramilitaries.

Earlier this week, Patterson said Washington would seek to extradite 
guerrilla and paramilitary members for trials in the United States on 
drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges.
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