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Last Updated:3/20/00
Capt. Mike Doubleday, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, briefing, December 1, 1998

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, December 1, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)

Q: The aid to Colombia today to fight the drugs, do you have any idea of what kind of a training that would accompany such aid?

A: What kind of training would accompany the aid that is provided to Colombia?

Q: Yes.

A: Well, the Secretary, as you know, is in Colombia for the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, but that actually is coincidental to this article that was published today. The United States has provided to Colombia assistance in the counter-drug area. We do that by providing equipment in some cases, helicopters, that sort of thing, repair parts, spare parts, some training of individuals and units in counter-drug activity.

Q: How many American troops are in Colombia now?

A: There are 127 DoD personnel. These include -- that number includes 100 uniformed personnel, seven individuals who are civilians, and 20 contractors. The contractors are under contract to run our radar sites primarily, and to perform maintenance on those radar sites.

Q: The 100 uniformed are primarily Special Forces?

A: I don't have a breakdown. I would not be surprised since they have the language capability.

Q:...the U.S. is going to be massively increasing this. Does the Pentagon have any view on the advisability of getting more deeply involved in Colombia?

A: We certainly see Colombia as a country that provides a significant portion of the drugs that flow into the United States, and as such our effort is focused on controlling that to the extent that we can through this relationship we have with primarily the law enforcement portions of the Colombian government, but to some extent also with the military in Colombia. About 80 percent of our training is focused on law enforcement agencies in Colombia, which are assigned the responsibility of this counter-drug activity that goes on down there.

Our training and activities with regard to military units and personnel are for those units that are designated with a mission for this counter-drug activity.

Q: But leftist guerrillas and narco-traffickers are closely tied together and cooperating in Colombia. Does it bother the Pentagon at all that in the process of going after drugs your people might be getting involved in the civil war down there?

A: Charlie, you make a very good point there. The primary funding for the insurrectionist that is going on there in Colombia, and has been going on for more than two decades, is based on drug money, extortion and kidnapping. But our focus is on the counter-drug part of that situation. As I just mentioned, our focus is primarily with law enforcement agencies and with those military units that have been given the mission of counter-drug activities. We are not involved in counter-insurrection activities.

Q: Are the Special Forces armed down there? Do they carry loaded weapons?

A: I would imagine that any forces that we send into any kind of a situation like that certainly are armed to the extent necessary to protect themselves.

Q: This Administration and previous ones have made a very clear line between counter-drug and counter-guerrilla activity and we were funding the former and we were not funding the latter. Congress in adding the additional $100 million and also the Colombian government, they tend to very much blur that and in fact dump it all together. Are we in danger of...

A: We don't blur it over here because we have no intention of getting involved in any kind of counter-insurrection activities. Our focus is on the counter-drug activities. That's what we've done in the past, that's what we plan to do in the future, and we have no interest in any kind of other operations.

Q: Will any of the training include conventional military training?

A: The training is primarily designed to take down these laboratories -- to do eradication of the fields where these drugs are grown -- has to do with obtaining evidence. I am not aware of any kind of specific training that is involved in military operations except to the extent that any kind of activity like this where you're moving against a force which is very well armed, in fact in some cases armed better than the military, that is actually trying to deal with them -- that there has to be an element of self protection.

Q: Will the U.S. share intelligence with them on things like...

A: Yes.

Q:...locations of rebel forces, that kind of thing?

A: Our intelligence, of course, is designed to focus on the counter-drug activities. But as I said before and as Charlie pointed out, the rebels are very closely tied to the drug culture down there. Indeed much of our radar site, our air activity is designed to pointing out where this drug activity is taking place.

Q: Are the Special Forces supported by the Spectre gunships?

A: By?

Q: Gunships. Do they have Spectre gunships supporting them?

A: I am not aware of any Spectre gunships that are down there.

Q: (inaudible)

A: I am not aware of any down there. Maybe we can take the question and find out if indeed that is the case.

Q: There are a lot of helicopters in this package, this congressional package, like 40 or something. Who's going to be maintaining... That's a pretty large force.

A: Do you mean is it going to be U.S. military personnel?

Q: Yes.

A: My guess is no, it is not U.S. military personnel. I can't give you any specifics on that. I don't know whether it's going to be done by individuals who have been trained and who are Colombians, or whether it is going to be done by contractors that already have the technological expertise to maintain helicopters.

Q: If an increasingly strong rebel force threatens the Colombian military, do you envision the United States becoming more militarily involved?

A: I think, Pat, I've certainly been attempting to make it very clear that our focus down there is counter-drug. It is not counter-insurrectionist. The question you've asked is hypothetical. We have walked a very careful line in our approach to dealing with this very complex problem down there. We certainly do have a threat that comes to us in the form of drugs that we are very concerned about, and we're attempting to deal with that, but, at the same time, focus on what the issue is and not get involved in any kind of insurrection activities.

Q: What if the stability of the Colombian military police force reaches the point where the government is that shaky, do we have a military role there?

A: I would not care to speculate. Right now I think that that is not the case, and we will continue with this very careful approach that we have been working for the last several years.

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