11 September 2001>News Stories>US expands support for Colombia

US expands support for Colombia
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota . BBCNews . 27 October

US help will focus on armed groups as well as drugs

The United States has confirmed it is going to broaden its war on terrorism and provide Colombia with further aid to fight its three warring factions that are on the American terrorism list.

Up until now, aid has been wholly restricted to the war against drugs. But according to analysts, the gloves have come off.

The US ambassador to Bogota, Anne Patterson, has recently hardened her stance on Colombia's warring factions, likening them to Osama Bin Laden and stating that the US would want to extradite certain guerrilla and paramilitary leaders.

The Colombian Government's chief peace negotiator, Camilo Gomez, met Marxist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebel leaders on Friday, but the guerrillas insisted they would not return to stalled peace talks.

Oil interest
Analysts speculated that the US decision was going to herald a deepening of American involvement in Colombia, up until now restricted to the war against drugs, and they were right.

Colombia is about to become a front line in America's global war against terrorism.

Ambassador Patterson has announced that Washington will train and equip elite anti-kidnapping and bomb squads, assist civilian and military terrorism investigators and help Colombia guard its oil pipelines.

US help will focus on armed groups as well as drugs

Most of the pipelines are run by US companies, which have been hard hit by repeated attacks by Marxist guerrillas.

New Vietnam?
Former US President Bill Clinton granted Colombia $1.3bn of mainly military aid, but with strict conditions that it be used only for fighting against drugs.

It seems those conditions will be lifted and the US will provide intelligence and resources to help the beleaguered government of President Andres Pastrana fight the 37-year civil conflict against Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries.

Critics see the announcement as one that will lead to "mission creep", as in Vietnam, and drag the United States deeper into Colombia's bloody civil conflict.

Within Colombia, there is suspicion of US intentions, with the shadow of American involvement in Central America still fresh in people's minds.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana will meet US President George W Bush in Washington on 11 November to review the situation.