cannabisnews.com: U.S. Officials Cite Trend in Colombia 





U.S. Officials Cite Trend in Colombia 
Posted by FoM on March 13, 2000 at 07:01:12 PT
By Roberto Suro, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
A key element of the drug war in Colombia is faltering because U.S. surveillance flights over major cocaine-producing regions have declined by two-thirds over the past year, according to administration officials.The near disappearance of U.S. radar planes from Andean skies severely erodes the ability of U.S. forces to spot smugglers flying low over the jungle and direct intercept missions by South American warplanes.
In Peru those intercepts proved highly successful, helping drive down Peruvian coca production by two-thirds between 1995 and 1999, according to Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.For want of such simple equipment as fire trucks and navigational beacons, the interdiction effort has barely gotten underway over an area of southwestern Colombia, which took up the slack from Peru. Colombia doubled its coca production during the same 1995-99 period to an estimated 520 tons last year (twice U.S. annual consumption). That burgeoning cocaine trade finances an anti-government insurgency.Moreover, in Peru drug traffickers are resurgent because of the decline in surveillance and interdiction, U.S. and Latin American officials said.That decline is the result of diplomatic setbacks, friction between Congress and the Clinton administration, Pentagon infighting and the competing demands of other military operations, the officials said.Restoring aerial surveillance is "absolutely critical" to U.S. anti-drug initiatives in South America, Marine Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom), recently told Congress. "I am in urgent need of help on the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance side," Wilhelm said.Wilhelm said he had reduced SouthCom to the lowest readiness status for those functions, meaning that it could not be expected to carry out its assigned missions.The $1.6 billion package of counter-narcotics aid for Colombia working its way though Congress includes only minor provisions to boost surveillance flights and does nothing to deliver what Wilhelm says he needs most: E-3 AWACS, the Air Force's largest and most sophisticated radar plane. "Those are the long-reach, long-look airplanes that we need to do the job in the deep source zone," Wilhelm said.The nation's 30 AWACS are in such heavy demand elsewhere that none are permanently assigned to SouthCom and temporary tours have become increasingly rare since the air campaign in Kosovo last spring."We are just way too stretched out between the Balkans, Iraq and North Korea to commit these assets to drug interdiction in South America," said a senior Air Force official.Concerned that the Pentagon underestimates the importance of the drug war, McCaffrey wrote Defense Secretary William S. Cohen last month warning that weakened capabilities in Latin America could jeopardize the Colombia effort. The retired army general asked for a commitment to rebuild surveillance capacities, according to senior officials.While declining to discuss the letter, McCaffrey said in an interview that "our ability to get into the Andean ridge has dwindled to about zero." The White House drug official said he had made it known throughout the administration that "I think we have to get going on this, and if we don't, we face a potential disaster within three or four years."Surveillance flights are essential "because we can't go in there and fight this ourselves. The best thing we can give these countries is good intelligence about the source zones so they can get in there and do it themselves, but since last May, that has not been possible," a senior administration official said.Last May, U.S. military forces and law enforcement agencies abandoned Howard Air Base in Panama and lost the use of the long runways and first-class maintenance and supply facilities that for decades had supported U.S. air operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Recognizing its importance to counter-narcotic efforts, the Panamanian government initially indicated a willingness to let Howard continue operating after other U.S. installations were closed when the United States ceded control of the Panama Canal. But early last year, the Panamanians unexpectedly insisted that U.S. forces leave Howard.More than 2,000 flights a year had been taking off from Howard on drug-related missions, including surveillance flights that allowed Peruvian authorities to target coca fields for eradication and to intercept airplanes carrying cocaine from production labs to embarkation points for shipment to the United States.Just as the United States planned to shift the surveillance strategy from Peru to Colombia, it found itself obliged to seek a replacement for Howard. Concluding that no single facility could do the job, Southern Command and the State Department tried to fill the gap by borrowing space at several airfields.In recent months, Customs Service radar planes and Air National Guard F-16s have flown out of airports on Curacao and Aruba, two islands in the southern Antilles, to track smugglers crossing the Caribbean in boats or airplanes.Surveillance of the cocaine-producing regions in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia was to be based out of a military airfield in Manta, Ecuador--a Pacific port roughly midway between the coca-growing regions in Colombia and Peru."From Manta and only from Manta can we reach down and cover the deep southern portion of the source zone," said Wilhelm, promoting the Colombia aid package on Capitol Hill.But the airfield, which had been a training base for Ecuadorian military helicopter pilots, lacked even basic maintenance, storage, safety and navigational facilities and the runway was in disrepair and too short for big jets such as AWACS.Republican leaders in Congress last year refused to authorize funding for initial improvements at Manta, arguing that the Clinton administration had mishandled the negotiations for Howard and failed to secure a long-term agreement with Ecuador for use of Manta.SouthCom found funds to make patchwork repairs on the Manta runway after a short-term pact was reached last April and it opened last summer. But only one airplane at a time has been able to use Manta because it lacked a fire truck and other safety equipment. The surveillance aircraft, all small, short-range models, operate only in daylight because Manta lacks basic navigational aids."The narcos are smart enough to fly at night and so we have not been able to accomplish much on that front," said an administration official.A long-term agreement was reached with Ecuador at the end of last year, and the Air Force is due to have the safety and navigation equipment in place by the middle of next month, nearly a year after they were first requested.Addressing the reluctance to make even a minor investment in Manta, a senior Air Force official said, "Look, we get asked to do everything, and when this one came through the door and we had to do it with our own money, there was a feeling of 'Hey, why shouldn't the Navy or somebody else take care of it?' "The Colombian counter-narcotics package before Congress includes a request to spend $38 million in fiscal 2001 on reinforcing and lengthening the runways at Manta so they can handle AWACS and the tankers that allow them to fly long missions. Even if the work is completed, the aircraft may not be available."At this point the entire fleet of AWACS is committed to missions where Americans are in harm's way or where there is a high threat of conflict, and so if any planes go to Manta on a regular basis, someone is going to have to decide whether it is Iraq or Korea or someplace else that has to give them up," the senior Air Force official said.In the meantime, McCaffrey, Wilhelm and others are worried about new threats in Colombia and the erosion of gains in Peru. For more than a year, the Peruvian government has been complaining that the lack of U.S. surveillance has crippled its air interdiction program, according to senior officials. As a result, the Peruvians say, the powerful deterrent effect of the "you fly, you die" campaign has worn off and cocaine traffickers are back in the air. By Roberto SuroWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, March 13, 2000; Page A01  2000 The Washington Post Company Related Articles:CannabisNews Articles On Barry McCaffrey:http://www.google.com/search?q=cannabisnews+McCaffreyCannabisNews Articles On Colombia:http://www.google.com/search?q=cannabisnews+Colombia
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Comment #6 posted by dddd on March 13, 2000 at 22:02:28 PT
he's an expert
McCaffreys not "bad",at his job,he's the best.If I was looking for someone to be the "CZAR",in a false war,that was designed to justify draining millions/BILLIONS of dollars out of the national budget,,,..Then I think I would pick McCaffrey.He's perfect...An obedient seasoned insider,,,Doubtlessly well acquainted with all the big military contractors,,,tuned in with all the political,and financial bigwigs,,,willing to publicly lie to acheive the "objective",(in the name of war),,,and on and on..........He's expiditing his job with natzi-like efficiency...I mean what are the qualifications or requirements to be a CZAR? know what I mean...dddd
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Comment #5 posted by James Markes on March 13, 2000 at 19:58:44 PT
Another Fraudulant Excuse to Get More Money
 The US currently can track every aircraft in the entire western hemisphere without using a single AWAC or ground radar facility. Those are only need for ground control at airports. Our satellites already watch every aircraft in that area. This is just an excuse to gain access to another country's airspace and make our presence known. As any military strategist can tell you, in any conflict, one bases strategy on the principle of gaining the maximum possible gain with the least possible cost. But the DEA, FBI and CIA have admitted to congress already that the tactict they use are the most expensive and the least effective. The logical conclusion is they have no interest in stopping drug flow or drug use. They are only in it for the money. Otherwise, strategy would have changed long ago. I guess that makes "General" McCaffrey pretty bad at his job.
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on March 13, 2000 at 12:45:14 PT
Paid for?
Yet another finely spun article to justify this scam.One wonders if The Washinton Post recieves money from the DEA media campaign for printing such propaganda.I'll bet they do.....dddd
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 13, 2000 at 08:51:02 PT:
Lack of U.S. Air Support Hindering Drug War- Post 
Lack of U.S. Air Support Hindering Drug War- Post Updated 12:38 AM ET March 13, 2000http://news.excite.com/news/reuters/http://www.cannabisnews.com/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key element of the drug war in Colombia is faltering because U.S. surveillance flights over major cocaine-producing regions have declined by two-thirds over the past year, the Washington Post reported Monday, quoting U.S. officials.The near disappearance of U.S. radar planes from Andean skies severely erodes the ability of U.S. forces to spot smugglers flying low over the jungle and direct intercept missions by South American warplanes, the Post said.Click the link to read the complete article.http://www.cannabinoid.com/wwwboard/politics/messages23/23144.shtml
Lack of U.S. Air Support Hindering Drug War- Post 
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on March 13, 2000 at 08:42:43 PT:
Step by step, inch by inch, into the swamp
While declining to discuss the letter, McCaffrey said in an interview that "our ability to get into the Andean ridge has dwindled to about zero." The White House drug official said he had made it known throughout the administration that "I think we have to get going on this, and if we don't, we face a potential disaster within three or four years."Surveillance flights are essential "*because we can't go in there and fight this ourselves*. The best thing we can give these countries is good intellig (Emphasis mine)ence about the source zones so they can get in there and do it themselves, but since last May, that has not been possible," a senior administration official said.But we are already there. We are already fighting (with DEA agents and Army Special Forces leading patrols in the fields) and we have already taken casualties (remember the Army/NSA spook plane that 'crashed' in the Colombian mountains last Fall?). We are *already* militariy engaged.How long does it generally take for the average person to realize that they've stepped into quicksand and are in real deep doo-doo? About half a second. Not much time. But if there are signs on the trail that say you can expect quicksand is ahead of you, you have an advantage. You can even avoid it. Unless you are irrational and suicidal. Which is exactly what most of our pols and generals seem to be. They see the signs, but think the 'success' of the Gulf War (Saddam is still in power, still threatening his neighbors, still making even more chemical and biowarfare weapons, and our *good friends* the Quwaitis are behind the rise in the gas prices; thanks a lot, guys) has banished the spectre of the Vietnam Debacle, and so they think they can fight a guerilla war with Gulf War tactics. They're going to barge right into the swamp, signs and all.All over stuff that's dirt cheap when it's legal because it's an effing *agricultural* product.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 13, 2000 at 07:12:32 PT
Another Test Page
http://www.cannabinoid.com/wwwboard/politics/messages23/23142.shtml
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