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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona), May 23, 2002

Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. Let me begin by saying what the amendment does. It strikes 2 provisions, and the reason we agreed to the unanimous consent is because it strikes one section dealing with the Defense Department and one much later dealing with the State Department, so a point of order could have been made against this amendment. The McGovern amendment strikes the same language both in Defense and in the State Department chapters that permits the administration to allow U.S. assistance for Colombia to be used in a war against terrorism, not just simply against narco-trafficking.

Mr. Chairman, let me begin by observing that this amendment does undermine a bipartisan compromise that this committee worked very hard to obtain regarding broadened authority for U.S. assistance in Colombia. Similar language with a good deal more conditions is also contained in the Senate bill, so this amendment would negate not only a bipartisan, but a bicameral agreement that has been reached.

The amendment would preclude the U.S. from supporting Colombia's counterterrorism efforts. When the Clinton administration began to seek support for Plan Colombia from Congress about 3 years ago, 1 argument was that the revenues from the narcotics industry were increasing the ability of the FARC, the ELN and the AUC, the guerrilla groups and the terrorist groups that operate in Colombia, to destabilize Colombia.

Now, 3 years later, with Plan Colombia under way, the groups are, unfortunately, stronger than ever, eradication has not kept up with new plantings, and Colombia is facing a more unstable future than it was before. It is time for a change in American policy.

The existing authorities to spend U.S. assistance are narrowly written, too narrowly written, to allow U.S. assets and U.S. trained forces only to be used in counternarcotics activities. I have been to Colombia twice since Plan Colombia was approved, and to me it is patently obvious that we are operating with restrictions that are much too narrow.

[Time: 18:15]
The lines between counternarcotics and counterterrorism are not clear anymore; I do not think they ever were. They are certainly not clear today. In today's environment, with terrorists attacking the U.S. and U.S. citizens abroad, this imaginary line between counternarcotics and counterterrorism ought not to be maintained.

With many of my colleagues, I tried to convince the administration a few months ago that by not approaching Congress to clarify the authorities under which the U.S. would provide assistance, they would jeopardize congressional support for U.S. assistance to Colombia. This came after the Colombian Government, President Pastrana, had announced that they were abandoning their plans to try to achieve peace because the many attempts to negotiate with the guerillas

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had come to naught, and they were going to pursue a military response. And I urged this administration, that if they were going to change U.S. policy, they should come and seek that approval from Congress, and that is exactly what they have done. This is a counterterrorism supplemental, and I commend the administration for requesting in the supplemental the language that we have in it today to allow counternarcotics assets to be used to fight terrorism.
Starting with the President's request, the committee arrived at a bipartisan compromise. And let me tell my colleagues a couple of things it does not do. The bill language does not extend through 2003, which was requested by the President. We are going to get into a markup of the 2003 appropriations bills in not too many weeks, so we decided to address 2003 in the fiscal year 2003, as I think we ought to. We have included report language that states our intent to use this bipartisan approach in the fiscal year 2003 bill, so we are making clear we probably will do so; and we can have this debate again in a few months if we need to have it, and that debate will take place after the elections and perhaps even after the inauguration of the new President. We want to see what the new Colombian administration will do after it is inaugurated in August.

Further, the committee deletes the broad ``notwithstanding any other provision of law'' provision, which was requested by the President. It was the conclusion by the committee that the authority is simply not needed by the Department of State at this time, given the existing authorities within the international narcotics and law enforcement account. And all existing human rights provisions, the caps on U.S. personnel in Colombia and the prohibitions on visas to individuals with terrorist links, are maintained.

With these conditions in place, with no large increase in the resources requested or provided to the Colombian military, this change in policy is not a major expansion of the U.S. role in Colombia's civil strife. It is a realistic approach to the situation in Colombia to combat terrorists using existing assets.

The Subcommittee on Foreign Operations had a hearing on U.S. assistance for Colombia in March. At that hearing the Under Secretary of State said on the record that the broader use of authorities would primarily make available U.S.-owned helicopters for counterterrorism purposes.

Mr. Chairman, I urge this body to retain the compromise language that is in this bill that has been reached on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol building.

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