of General Charles E. Wilhelm, commander-in-chief, U.S. Southern Command
OF GENERAL CHARLES E. WILHELM, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND
BEFORE THE SENATE CAUCUS ON INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL AND THE SENATE
FINANCE COMMITTEE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE
22 FEBRUARY 2000
Mr. Chairman and distinguished
members of the Caucus and Committee, thank you for the opportunity to
appear before you to discuss drug trafficking as a regional problem and
to identify required counternarcotics assistance for countries in the
Andean Ridge. Drug trafficking increasingly poses a significant threat
to regional stability, strong democracies, and free market economies throughout
our hemisphere. While Andean Ridge countries must lead the fight against
drug trafficking, they need our commitment of financial, operational,
and intelligence support. Today I will provide you an assessment of the
narcotics threat facing the nations of the Andean Ridge Region. I will
also discuss current and planned U.S. military assistance to these nations
in support of counterdrug activities.
The danger of drug trafficking
to Andean Ridge nations is real, immediate, and growing. The illicit drug
industry has become a corrosive force without precedent, relentlessly
eroding the foundations of democracy in the region, corrupting public
institutions, poisoning youth, ruining economies, and disrupting the social
Colombia is key to the region's
stability. Colombia's problems are not contained by her borders, but are
spilling over into neighboring countries. For example, Venezuela has deployed
approximately 10,000 troops along the Colombian border to prevent intrusions
by Colombian insurgent forces. Peru and Ecuador also deploy forces along
the Colombian border to deter the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), paramilitary forces, and drug traffickers from unwanted incursions.
Ecuador's current economic plight makes it nearly impossible for the government
to deploy adequate military forces to prevent illegal border crossings.
FARC and drug trafficker incursions recently prompted the Brazilian Army
to reinforce military garrisons along its border with Colombia and spurred
the government to continue development of the very expensive ($1.4 billion)
Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM).
Lacking an army and the resources
for an effective border police, Panama is unable to control all of its
border with Colombia. FARC and paramilitary forces routinely enter Panama
with impunity to terrorize and extort Panamanian locals, and to traffic
in drugs and arms.
To wage an effective, long-term
counterdrug (CD) campaign, countries of the region must cooperate to develop
a common strategy and coordinate their actions against narcotraffickers.
A collective regional response is required to provide effective border
security and to expand and sustain the impressive CD results realized
in Peru and Bolivia.
Assessment of the Andean Ridge
Heroin and Cocaine Industry
Peru and Bolivia have made
significant progress in reducing coca production, surpassing 1999 eradication
goals. For 1999, Peru reduced illicit coca production by 27 percent, while
Bolivia reduced production by 53 percent. Despite these significant reductions,
a dramatic increase in Colombian production offsets progress in other
nations and seriously impedes regional CD efforts.
Colombia is now the world's
largest producer of cocaine, due in large part to the Colombian Government's
only limited control of territory in its outlying provinces. Drug traffickers
took advantage of the minimal security force presence in these provinces
to increase coca production in 1998 by 24 percent over the previous year.
Production for 1999 increased by 20 percent over 1998. Despite aerial
spraying to eradicate more than 42,000 acres of coca in Colombia, cocaine
production for 1999 is estimated to have been 520 metric tons, with a
U.S. street value of $6.2 billion.
The Counternarcotics Center
(CNC) reported that drug traffickers in 1999 used air, sea, and land routes
to move an estimated 512 metric tons of mostly Colombian cocaine from
the Source Zone. Multi-national CD efforts interdicted approximately 131
metric tons, but an estimated 381 metric tons evaded interdiction efforts
and entered the Transit Zone, potentially destined for the U.S.
In addition to coca production,
Colombia is a major source of opium poppy cultivation and heroin production.
Colombia now ranks fourth among the world's heroin producers. Production
for 1998 was estimated at six metric tons, with a U.S. street value of
$390 million. To attack this problem, Colombia pursues an active aerial
eradication program and sprayed approximately 8,000 hectares of poppy
cultivation last year. Production estimates for 1999 are not yet available,
but we are confident that increased eradication spraying will be necessary
to cripple illegal poppy cultivation.
The difficulty of locating,
tracking, and intercepting drug traffickers throughout the Andean Ridge
is exacerbated by the proliferation of sophisticated Drug Trafficking
Organizations (DTOs). These DTOs are smaller, more adaptable, and more
mobile than traditional cartels, complicating intelligence collection
efforts and making them more difficult to target.
Many DTOs have symbiotic links
to the FARC, ELN, and paramilitary organizations. More than half of the
FARC fronts and roughly one-fourth of ELN fronts receive support from,
and provide protection to, DTOs. Drug money provides a major portion of
the FARC's war chest and is the FARC's primary source for sustaining forces,
conducting combat operations, and purchasing weapons. Several Colombian
paramilitary groups also protect and receive support from DTOs.
Required Intelligence Support
to Assist Regional CD Operations
The success of regional CD
operations is contingent upon timely, accurate, predictive, and actionable
intelligence. Significant deficiencies exist in Source Zone Intelligence,
Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). These shortfalls impede the gathering
of timely and actionable tactical intelligence to counter increasingly
diversified and mobile drug trafficking operations. ISR shortfalls inhibit
our ability to collect essential information on the capabilities, intentions,
and activities of drug traffickers, and complicate our force protection
We need to expand our current
collection capabilities and provide additional intelligence to Partner
Nations and U.S. military forces and to law enforcement agencies conducting
CD operations. The proposed supplemental funding for U.S. military airborne
intelligence resources will enable Southern Command to collect additional
critical intelligence on drug smuggling activities in the Source and Transit
Zones. Increased sharing of that intelligence, closer cooperation with
the Interagency, and better training of Partner Nation personnel will
significantly enhance the effectiveness of CD operations throughout the
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO COLOMBIA
AND NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
The proposed supplemental
will assist Colombia in implementing its strategic plan for counterdrug
operations. The supplemental is consistent with the overarching National
Drug Control Strategy (NDCS), supports goals 4 and 5 of the Strategy and
will enable United States Southern Command to more effectively execute
its Counterdrug Campaign Plan. Colombia and its Andean Ridge neighbors
fully appreciate the regional problems that are caused by the illegal
drug industry, and they have demonstrated the willingness to pursue solutions
at the regional level. Success in these efforts will require continued
commitment from the U.S.
The United States has provided
initial training, limited infrastructure support, technological support,
and equipment to foster commitment and to improve Partner Nation capabilities
to fight drug trafficking within their borders and throughout the region.
Ninety of our 119 CD training support deployments for Fiscal Year 2000
are scheduled for Andean Ridge countries. In addition, seven of our nineteen
Tactical Analysis Teams (TATs) are located in the five Andean Ridge countries,
and more than 100 Joint Planning and Assistance Teams (JPATs) transition
through the region annually, providing CD training and assessments for
host nation security forces. We are also providing support for the Andean
Ridge ground, air, and riverine programs. If approved, supplemental funding
will enable us to aggressively pursue existing programs that have already
demonstrated their merit, and initiate new ones, such as the Colombia
CD Brigade which can be decisive as we seek a comprehensive solution to
the drug challenge.
Support to Ground Programs
We have helped the Colombian
Army (COLAR) organize, train, and equip their first Counternarcotics Battalion
(CN BN), which became operational December 15, 1999. Manned by more than
900 COLAR soldiers and based at the Joint Task Force (JTF)-South headquarters
in Tres Esquinas, the CN Battalion is comprised of a headquarters company
and three maneuver companies. The Battalion completed an extensive three-phase
training program conducted by U.S. Special Forces at a cost of $3.9 million,
and received $3.5 million in individual field equipment, unit equipment,
and medical supplies to enable stand-alone operations. The CN Battalion
is designed to conduct ground and airmobile CD operations in coordination
with the Colombian National Police. Colombian armed forces and police
units will receive integrated intelligence support from the Colombia Joint
Intelligence Center (COJIC).
To provide urgently needed
tactical mobility, the Battalion has received 18 refurbished UH-1N helicopters
(and accompanying spare parts), which were provided by the Department
of State (DOS). Based at Tolemeida and Florencia, the helicopters are
manned by 25 contract pilots and 14 Colombian copilots trained in the
United States and assigned to the COLAF. The contract pilots will be phased
out as additional Colombian pilots complete their training. DOS is also
providing follow-on support equipment (armament and portable hangars),
and has budgeted $2.1 million of monthly Operations and Maintenance funds
to sustain this crucial capability.
The Colombian Joint Intelligence
Center became operational on December 22, 1999 and is currently supporting
national police, military, and JTF-South CD operations. It produces real-time
targeting information, terrain and weather analysis, force protection
vulnerability assessments, and intelligence estimates. The USG provided
$4.9 million for construction of the COJIC facility, installing networked
computers, supplying communications equipment and administrative material,
upgrading the base infrastructure, and to cover sustainment costs through
mid June 2000. Three U.S. subject matter experts are deployed to the COJIC
through June 2000 to observe and assist COLAR and Colombian National Police
intelligence specialists manning the facility. We also are making improvements
to Tres Esquinas, where Joint Task Force South, the COJIC and the CN Battalion
are collocated. Thus far, we have spent more than $600,000 on force protection
improvements alone. Other upgrades are underway which include extension
of the existing aircraft runway and construction of an aircraft parking
Planning is ongoing to establish,
train, and equip two additional CN Battalions and a COLAR CN Brigade headquarters
during 2000. Each of the two additional Battalions will have an individually
tailored training schedule. The second CN Battalion will begin training
in April followed several months later by the third Battalion which will
finish training in December 2000. These Battalions will be organized in
much the same way as the first CN Battalion. Organizational improvements
will include the inception of a reinstruction company which will provide
a reservoir of trained soldiers to replace administrative and combat losses,
and the consolidation of support elements (reconnaissance, medical, mortars),
into a Support Battalion. Soldiers assigned to the new Battalions will
be vetted for human rights violations.
Support to Air Programs
We continue to conduct cooperative
air interdiction efforts with Peru and Colombia and are using the security
assistance program to upgrade the capabilities of A-37, Tucano, and C-26
aircraft. We have teamed with the Interagency to develop a CD Air Interdiction
Plan to enhance current GOC capabilities. This plan will maximize Colombian
operational effectiveness focusing phased air interdiction operations
against drug smuggling aircraft in southern and eastern Colombia. Operations
will integrate Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR), U.S. tracker
and detection aircraft, and Colombian air force and national police aircraft.
Training will begin in February 2000, followed by several months of focused
air interdiction operations.
The proposed supplemental
funds air-to-air radar and an upgraded communications package for two
of the COLAF's C-26 Merlin aircraft. These modified aircraft will provide
COLAF the capability to track and intercept aircraft moving cocaine from
inland laboratories to the Colombian coasts for transshipment to the United
States. The supplemental also: (1) improves COLAF tactical surveillance
and intelligence capabilities by providing Forward-Looking Infrared Radar
(FLIR) for low-altitude, long-duration reconnaissance aircraft; (2) improves
collection from ground-based radars (GBR) by funding upgrades to current
GBR's and fielding an additional GBR at Tres Esquinas; and (3) corrects
operational and safety deficiencies at the Forward Operating Location
(FOL) in Manta, Ecuador to allow sustained operations by U.S. Navy, Air
Force, and Customs aircraft in the deep Source Zone and the Eastern Pacific.
Problems in transiting Venezuelan
air space in pursuit of suspected drug trafficking aircraft continue.
Since June of last year, Venezuelan authorities have routinely denied
U.S. requests for authorization to enter Venezuelan airspace in pursuit
of suspected drug trafficking aircraft. Since May 27, 1999, the Government
of Venezuela has denied 34 of 37 U.S. requests for overflight in pursuit
of suspect aircraft. However, we are encouraged by a very recent approval
of an overflight request and will persist in our efforts to reach agreement
with the Venezuelans on mutually acceptable overflight accords.
The proposed supplemental
will go a long way toward correcting one of Colombia's longest standing
and most crucial operational deficiencies ... inadequate tactical mobility.
As previously mentioned, 18 UH-1N helicopters have already been delivered
to Colombia to provide air mobility for the inaugural CN Battalion. These
aircraft were provided through a coordinated effort by the Department
of State and Department of Defense. If the supplemental is approved, 15
additional UH-1N's will be upgraded; brought to standardized configuration
and delivered to Colombia to support expanded mobility needs as the CN
Battalion grows to Brigade strength. Ultimately, these 33 UH-1N helicopters
will be replaced by 30 UH-60 Blackhawks and additional H-60's that will
be purchased by Colombia using its own funds. The selection of the UH-60
as the standard helicopter for Colombia's armed forces was based on its
range, payload, survivability, versatility, service ceiling and a variety
of other factors. Other options were considered to include non-U.S. aircraft.
We support the Colombian decision and believe that important requirements
such as training, maintenance, facilities, and contractor support will
be simplified by the Blackhawk selection.
Support to Riverine Programs
Southern Command supports
Partner Nation riverine programs with counterdrug training support teams,
operational seminars, operational planning support, equipment procurement,
infrastructure development, and training assessments. Equipment support
to Colombia and Peru includes boat maintenance spares, armored flotation
vests, and night vision devices. The Colombians have increased their Riverine
Combat Elements to 25 (of a projected 45), operating from seven advanced
riverine bases. As a result of last year's funding, during 2000 we will
be able to provide eight 25-foot patrol boats, additional spare parts,
night vision devices, and radio/navigation equipment. This, coupled with
Colombia's own provisioning efforts and thoughtful reorganization of its
riverine forces will pave the way for more assertive and effective control
of the river systems that have become drug trafficking highways in southern
and eastern Colombia.
Our assistance has enabled
Peru to establish the Joint Peru Riverine Training Center in Iquitos and
equip four operational Riverine Interdiction Units (of a projected 12).
With existing funding, we are providing Peru twelve 25-foot patrol boats,
six 40-foot patrol craft, spare parts, night vision devices, and armored
STRATEGY AND LONG RANGE PLAN
TO ASSIST THE ANDEAN RIDGE COUNTRIES WITH THEIR COUNTERDRUG EFFORTS
We must sustain and broaden
our CN initiatives with Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and
Bolivia. U.S. efforts are currently focused on training counterdrug forces
and conducting detection and monitoring operations against the production
and transportation of illicit drugs in these nations. Continued support
of these efforts is crucial to long-term success in the region. The first
step in achieving regional stability for the Andean Ridge requires the
development of an integrated Source Zone strategy. This strategy must
consider the economic and social impact of illicit drug trafficking and
effectively coordinate the counterdrug efforts of each Partner Nation.
Two national policy directives guide the way ahead: Presidential Decision
Directive-14 and goals four and five of the National Drug Control Strategy.
Current policy guidance clearly identifies the importance of effective
interdiction and the requirement to break the source of supply of drugs.
The NDCS establishes two measurable goals for Southern Command and the
Interagency: a 10 percent reduction in the shipment of illegal drugs through
the Transit Zone and a 15 percent reduction in flow from the Source Zone
by 2002; and a 20 percent reduction through the Transit Zone and 30 percent
reduction from the Source Zone by 2007. Achievement of these goals will
require strong commitment on the parts of the nations of the Andean Ridge,
but they will not succeed on their own. It will fall to the United States
to provide the leadership, technical assistance, training and materiel
support that is needed to fill the gaps in national capabilities.
CD Campaign Plan
Southern Command, as part
of the interagency team, has developed a three-phased regional CD Campaign
Plan that supports the goals, objectives, and intent of the NDCS and PDD-14.
We will conduct interdiction in the Transit Zone during all three phases.
The focus of Phase I is on assisting Partner Nations to improve their
CD capabilities and, where required, develop new ones. This approach requires
the U.S. to help organize, train, and where necessary, equip Partner Nations
to conduct effective air, riverine, and ground operations against drug
traffickers. Phase II will focus on decisive regional operations to neutralize
organizations involved in the illicit drug trade. During this Phase, Partner
Nations will isolate drug production areas from traditional markets and
transit points and extend security force presence into production areas.
Phase III will sustain successes achieved during the first two phases
by preparing Partner Nation forces to adapt counterdrug operations to
the narcotraffickers' constantly evolving tactics.
Forward Operating Locations
To achieve the objectives
of our CD Campaign Plan, we must better position our assets to conduct
sustained operations throughout the Source Zone. FOLs provide us the required
operational reach to conduct these operations. Intelligence, Surveillance,
and Reconnaissance missions conducted from the FOLs will enhance the effectiveness
of U.S. detection and monitoring operations and Partner Nation interdiction
The FOL in Manta, Ecuador
is my number one theater architecture priority. Manta is critical for
conducting deep Source Zone air coverage with Airborne Early Warning aircraft,
and it is the only FOL that enables us to achieve full air coverage of
Peru, Colombia, and the drug producing areas of Bolivia. On November 18th,
1999, we concluded a 10-year access agreement with the Government of Ecuador.
Currently, we can operate three medium-size aircraft (e.g., P-3 and C-130)
from Manta under visual flight rules during daylight hours. We will begin
all weather, 24-hour operations in April 2000, following completion of
necessary improvements to satisfy our own mandatory safety requirements.
The proposed supplemental will fund the necessary operational improvements
at Manta to allow unconstrained Detection, Monitoring, and Tracking operations
with all types of aircraft used in CD operations. The design plan for
airfield upgrades will be completed in March, 2000 with construction to
commence just as soon as funding becomes available.
The FOLs at Aruba and Curacao,
funded in the Fiscal Year 2001 budget request, are required for effective,
rapid response detection and monitoring operations in the northern Source
Zone, which includes the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia and Venezuelan
border region, as well as a large part of the Transit Zone. U.S. and Dutch
negotiating teams have finished their work, initialed a 10-year agreement,
and we anticipate that the formal signing ceremony will occur during the
first or second week of March.
We also require an FOL in
Central America. This FOL would provide air coverage in the Eastern Pacific
and Central America to keep pressure on the Transit Zone as we build CD
capabilities in the Source Zone. We are currently evaluating prospective
Future Efforts to Adapt to
the Changing Drug Threat
The success of Southern Command's
Counterdrug Strategy requires Partner Nation cooperation, "will to
succeed", and enhanced counterdrug capabilities. The nations of the
region have demonstrated commitment and resolve to attack illicit drug
trade in their respective countries. We must maintain and expand our cooperative
efforts within the interagency and with the Partner Nations to build,
nurture, and sustain effective regional CD capabilities. A focused, well-coordinated
Interagency effort will provide required levels of support to individual
Partner Nations and complement our regional effort to plan and execute
counterdrug operations. To this end, Southern Command continues to host
planning conferences and bilateral meetings that enhance regional cooperation.
A recently completed Aerospace Conference brought together the region's
Air Force Commanders to discuss initiatives for improving regional air
interdiction capabilities. Bilateral meetings between Ecuador and Colombia
have also improved counterdrug coordination along their shared borders.
I have now served at Southern
Command for 28 months. Shortly after assuming command and making my initial
assessment of security and stability conditions in the region, I stated
that I considered Colombia to be the most threatened nation in the AOR.
Today, almost two and half years later, I stand behind that assessment.
However, I am encouraged by what I see in Colombia. Served by a first
class civilian and military leadership team, Colombia demonstrates a level
of national organization and commitment that was not present two years
ago. To be sure, the recently reported upsurge in coca cultivation and
production provides cause for concern, but concern is partially offset
by improved performance by Colombia's security forces during tactical
engagements with the FARC, ELN, and others who are aiding and abetting
narcotraffickers. Cooperation between the armed forces and national police
have improved, new levels of competence in air-ground coordination have
been demonstrated, intelligence sharing is on the upswing, an aggressive
program is underway to restructure the armed forces, the armed forces
and national police are poised to reassert control over the southern and
eastern portions of the country, and Plan Colombia provides a comprehensive
national strategy designed to defeat the narcotraffickers and correct
the ills they have visited on Colombia's society. On average, I visit
Colombia once every six weeks. I am convinced that the second most populous
nation in South America with the longest and strongest democratic traditions
is turning the corner. With our help Colombia will succeed.
In recent months I have become
increasingly concerned about Colombia's neighbors. The adverse social,
economic and political conditions, spawned wholly or in part by drug trafficking
and the other transnational threats that it breeds, are weakening the
fabric of democracy in other nations in the region. For this reason, while
I endorse a "Colombia centric" approach to the drug problem
in the region, I caution against a "Colombia exclusive" approach.
While we assist Colombia in making important strides to reassert its sovereignty
over its territory and to curb growing cultivation, we should also take
appropriate steps to preserve the noteworthy successes achieved by Peru
and Bolivia, and be sensitive to emerging needs in the bordering countries
of Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Brazil. This is truly a regional problem
-- as such we must pursue a regional solution.
Thanks to the hard work of
this Caucus and Committee we are edging closer to the solution to a problem
that the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy recently
stated claims as many as 52,000 U.S. lives each year. If that grim calculation
is correct, the annual loss of lives to drugs approximates our total losses
in Vietnam -- our nation's longest war. I can assure you of the commitment
and conviction of every man and woman at United States Southern Command
to succeed in this struggle. We know what to do and how to do it; we simply
need the means to put our strategy and plans into motion. The supplemental
that you are now considering will do just that. I urge your support.
(Distributed by the Office
of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
As of March 13, 2000, this
document is also available at http://www.usia.gov/regional/ar/colombia/wilhelm22.htm