- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

The Bush administration formally asked Congress yesterday to allow Colombia to use U.S. military aid in its war against a large left-wing rebel group that is wreaking havoc throughout the country.
Current aid in the form of training, equipment and intelligence sharing is limited by law to anti-narcotics.
But new language in an emergency budget bill sent to Congress would permit the assistance to be used for anti-terrorism operations in Colombia, the No. 1 supplier of cocaine to the United States.
The policy shift, in effect, would permit America to help Colombia battle the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a 17,000-man guerrilla army that is a U.S.-designated terror group.
The administration is asking for an extra $35 million to fund the new emphasis this year.
The budget language states: "This provision would allow broader authority to provide assistance to Colombia to counter the unified 'cross-cutting' threat posed by groups that use narcotics trafficking to fund their terrorist and other activities that threaten the national security of Colombia."
The policy will "explicitly recognize the link between narcotics trafficking and terrorist assistance."
Administration officials say this language will allow a U.S.-financed and -trained anti-drug brigade to attack the FARC itself.
Earlier this year, the White House asked Congress for $98 million to set up a new Colombian brigade to protect oil pipelines and other infrastructure that are prime targets for FARC and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, another, smaller rebel group.
But overall, the administration planned to stick by an appropriations law that restricted assistance to training Colombian armed forces and police for counternarcotics work.
That position shifted last month, when Colombian President Andres Pastrana ended three years of fruitless peace talks and ordered strikes inside a Switzerland-size safe haven he had granted the FARC. Since then, FARC fighters have gone on a rampage, attacking power lines and generating plants, hijacking planes and kidnapping and killing civilians.
The supplemental budget also contains money to train the Colombians in counterkidnapping techniques
There are now 250 American military personnel and 100 private contractors aiding Colombia in the drug war. An administration officials said another 100 troops would likely be needed under the new plan.
Some lawmakers want the FARC included in President Bush's war on terrorism. But the White House said this week it does not view FARC as a terror group with "global reach" a Bush criteria.
Congressional aides say FARC has control over much of the heroin and cocaine that reaches U.S. shores. Add the fact that guerrillas have kidnapped 50 Americans and killed 10 in the past 10 years to the aides adds up to "global reach."


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