National Security Archive Update, May 3, 2002
DOCUMENTS SHOW DEPTH OF US INVOLVEMENT IN ANTI-GUERRILLA CONFLICT
Over the past 15 years, Congress has insisted that U.S. security assistance for Colombia be restricted to combating the drug trade rather than fighting the long-standing civil war, in large part because of human rights concerns. Now, the Bush administration is pressing to lift those restrictions and allow all past, present and future aid to be used in operations against guerrilla forces.
But recently declassified U.S. documents show that despite the legal limits and repeated public assurances by government officials, U.S. aid has blurred the lines between counterdrug and counterinsurgency to the point where the U.S. is already in direct confrontation with the guerrillas and on the brink of ever deeper involvement in Colombia’s seemingly intractable civil conflict.
Obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the new documents, published on the web by the National Security Archive’s Colombia documentation project, cover the period from 1988 to the present, with particular focus on issues stemming from the provision of U.S. security assistance.
Key points include the following:
– As early as the first Bush administration, the U.S. Andean Strategy was developed as a deal struck with Andean governments to provide them with counterdrug aid that could also be used against their principal adversary: the guerrillas.
– Contrary to repeated official statements about narco-guerrillas, U.S. intelligence analyses of guerrilla involvement in the drug trade have been decidedly mixed. One skeptical CIA report concluded that, officials in Lima and Bogota, if given antidrug aid for counterinsurgency purposes, would turn it to pure antiguerrilla operations with little payoff against trafficking.
– Two Colombian brigades that lost U.S. aid in September 2000 for human rights violations work as part of a joint strike force with antidrug battalions specifically created to qualify for U.S. funds. The new units, according to one document, were bedding down with a counterguerrilla battalion kown for its collaboration with illegal paramilitary groups.
– The U.S.-Colombia end-use agreement intended to guarantee that counterdrug aid be used only in drug producing areas and only for counternarcotics operations came to be interpreted so broadly as to render its provisions virtually meaningless. Documents indicate that the U.S. eventually redefined the area in which the aid could be used as the entire national territory of Colombia.
– As the end-use agreement was being negotiated with the Colombian defense ministry, a congressional delegation led by Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) currently Speaker of the House of Representatives who was then chairman of the House subcommittee on national security secretly encouraged Colombian military officials to ignore human rights conditions on U.S. aid.
– CIA and other intelligence reports from the late 1990s on the notorious Colombian paramilitaries suggested that the Colombian government lacked the will to go after these groups. A 1998 CIA report found that, informational links and instances of active co-ordination between the military and the paramilitaries are likely to continue and perhaps even increase.
The documents are available at the following URL: http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB69