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Last Updated:4/6/01
Transcript: Hearing of House Armed Services Committee, April 4, 2001

House Armed Services Committee
Full committee hearing on the posture of U.S. military forces
April 4, 2001
Witness: Gen. Peter Pace (USMC), Commander in Chief, U.S. Southern Command

REP. STUMP: The committee will please come to order. Turning to the subject of today's hearing, our nation has many vital and enduring interests in the Southern Command. For example, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. trade is conducted within the hemisphere, and the United States imports more oil from Latin America and the Caribbean than the entire Middle East.

At present, many countries in the hemisphere are struggling to combat transitional threats such as drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal immigration, arms trafficking and terrorism. These threats undermine the political and economic stability of many countries in the region and place at risk democratic institutions.

Last year, the Congress greatly increased the amount of equipment and military training to the government of Colombia to assist that country in its counternarcotics efforts. Guerrilla and paramilitary forces funded by the production and sale of illegal narcotics number over 25,000 in strength and operate throughout Colombia, parts of Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Clearly the United States has an obligation to assist a neighbor in need, but how we assist is a more appropriate question. The U.S. military is a unique instrument of national will and one that must be employed with considerable caution and care. As the administration reviews its policy toward the region, it is timely that this committee focus on the current of events and understand the impact of ongoing operations upon our armed forces within the Southern Command.

And to help us explore these policies and the policy questions we have before us today, General Peter Pace, commander-in-chief of Central Command. General, before I recognize you, once again let me turn to the ranking member for any opening remarks he may make.

REP. SKELTON: The area of responsibility of the Southern Command is of great concern to our committee. And while we're pleased to note that every country in the AOR except one is a democracy, we must also take into account that several of those countries are at considerable risk. Poverty, failing economies, border disputes, violence, drug trafficking, all contribute to a varying degree of instability throughout your region, General.

The United States has made it clear in many ways that it cares about the region. Assistance from the State Department and the Department of Defense is aimed at stabilizing and building the democracies of Central and South America. And I think the Department of Defense and CINC South in particular take pride in the success of many of the efforts that the department has undertaken in the region. Missions such as the many civil assistance programs of the New Horizons and partner nations programs have not only shown the flag but have shown the compassion of our American people.

International military education and training programs are a source of particular pride for me, and I've been a great believer in the positive effects of such efforts and continue to be a strong advocate for IMET and expanded IMET training. Additionally, the humanitarian assistance that our uniformed personnel regularly perform after earthquakes and hurricanes and other natural disasters is unsurpassed.

But the AOR also presents many difficult policy changes for the Department of Defense and for our Congress. It's no secret that the ongoing violence in Colombia is not only of great concern but considerable controversy. There's no one in the Congress more concerned than I am about the effects that the drug epidemic is having on our society, and I'm willing to take the hardest line against drug abuse. But I continue to wonder whether or not the depth and nature of our involvement in Colombia is the most effective way to dramatically reduce drug use in America. I worry about the safety of our troops. Like many, I worry about the direction that our strategies may be taking in that area.

GEN. PACE: Sir, right now my major concern is that, in my responsibilities as commander-in-chief, that I find a proper way, both in my words and in my actions, to assist this Congress and the American people to understand the vital nature of this hemisphere to our long-term success and prosperity.

As the chairman said in his opening comments, right now about 39 to 40 percent of our total trade is within this hemisphere. That's projected to go to 50 percent by the year 2010. We have enormous support in the oil production area from the Caribbean and Latin America. About 38 percent of our oil comes from that region. When added to what we get from Canada, about 48 percent of our imported oil comes from this hemisphere. So my major concern, sir, is doing my job well enough to continue to add to democracy, prosperity and peace in the region.

REP. SKELTON: What geographical area gives you the greatest --

GEN. PACE: Sir, right now --

REP. SKELTON: -- gives you the greatest concern regarding instability?

GEN. PACE: Sir, right now, because of the narco-trafficking in the Andean ridge countries, the countries, in my estimation, that are at greatest risk to having damage done to their democracies are the Andean ridge countries where the coca is being produced.

REP. SPENCE: We're very familiar with your command. Many of us have been through on codels a couple of times in the last couple of years. And we visited many of the countries in your AOR, including Panama and Colombia, of course, and Manta Ecuador and Aruba and Curacao and those places where we have things going on now. And we are somewhat familiar with the drug situation in Colombia, having visited there and talked to all the players in the game. It continues to be the main problem, of course, that you face in your area. But you still have military threats to contend with otherwise, as most all of our -- well, all of our various commands have.

And in that respect, I'd like to ask you what are your concerns from the standpoint of the military threats that we face, and are we able to capably counter these threats.

GEN. PACE: Sir, thank you. From a military threat standpoint, sir, there is nothing in my AOR that concerns me. We have contingency plans for the operations that we think we are most likely to have to execute. I am very comfortable that the secretary of Defense will give to me the assets I need to execute those when called upon. We do have 31 of the 32 countries with some form of democracy and free trade. We spend most of my military effort in my area of responsibility helping to build on that democracy, helping to properly subordinate military authority to civilian authority, helping in the human rights arena and the kinds of things that by using small groups -- platoon size, squad size exchanges, and also to bring our counterparts to this country for military education, to assist them in strengthening the way that their militaries support their democracies.

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D-MS): General, thank you very much for being here. Two things of interest. I'm always amazed at the contrasts in Colombia. You go to cities like Bogota and Cali, and they appear to be extremely prosperous, clean, vibrant cities. And then you watch the evening news where they're having the head of the FARC via telecommunications satellite live on TV. The next morning they have the head of the ELN on TV. I'm always left with the impression that some Colombians have their lives on the line every day, but other Colombians, in particular the decision-makers, are almost in denial. I am amazed that a nation that has an active insurgency has cut its own defense budget; a nation that has an active insurgency has exempted everyone with a high school diploma from its draft, which in effect has all the decision-makers' kids who go onto college -- well, they don't have to get involved in all this.

And I have expressed my concerns to the Colombian Joint Chiefs of Staff, and they kind of say, yeah, you're right, and nothing ever seems to happen. Do you detect anything substantive on the part of the Colombians to show that they are tackling this more seriously?

Number two, and since we are apparently going to be called for a vote, I had recommended to your predecessor a number of what I thought were just common sense steps that any base commander would take to improve his relations with the citizens of two small towns on the island of Vieques, Isabela II and I'm sorry the other one escapes me at the moment. Just things like putting Navy Corpsmen in the clinic, in the understaffed clinic, having Marine who I understand Puerto Rico is a very productive recruiting depot with the Marine Corps -- have Marines go talk to the schoolkids, since the other side has done such a thorough job of convincing them that the Navy is out to hurt them; bringing Seabees out down there for construction projects, like we do all over the world. I was curious -- that was now 16 months ago. Has anything along those line occurred to try to improve our relations with the only place that I know of in the United States of America where we don't have good relations between the local folks and the base?

GEN. PACE: Sir, thank you. And I know your questions come from your vast amount of time that you have dedicated throughout the area that I am responsible for, and I thank you for that, sir.

REP. TAYLOR: Well, let me go down there. I guess you could veto it if you wanted to. (Laughter.)

GEN. PACE: No, sir. Sir, with regard to Colombia, it is certainly true that some are at more risk than others in that country. From my perspective, every single individual who steps up to a leadership position in Colombia puts not only his or her own life at risk, but also that of their families. And it is because of that one fact that I am honored to work with my counterpart, General Tapias

(ph) and his service commanders, Minister of Defense Ramirez, President Pastrana. Each of them who stands up not only takes on a personal risk, but puts their family at risk. For a person like me, I've been in combat for my country, but my family has never been put at risk. And it's a totally different level of involvement and commitment for those leaders to accept what they do accept, to stand up to leadership.

I believe it's also true, as you pointed out, that there was some of the population in Colombia that still do not understand that their country is in a life-and-death struggle. And I believe they are beginning to waken to that, given the Plan Colombia, President Pastrana's plan, his articulation of that to his countrymen.

One bit of evidence that they are becoming more committed is the fact that President Pastrana plans on adding 10,000 more soldiers per year to his army until the army and police are large enough to provide security for their entire country, so more and more Colombian families will in fact be committing to the security of their own country. There's still a long way to go on that, sir. That is very much a sovereignty issue for President Pastrana and his people to work through. But you are correct that some are at more risk than others in that country.

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, I was very impressed when I visited the Southern Command in December. I think you've got a great team there. And I then went over to Ecuador and visited Quito and Manta, and went into Colombia. I agree that I think you have done a very good job on force protection in -- (inaudible) -- I think that -- I was certainly impressed with the amount of cement and barbed wire that was there, and I know that you've spent a long time making sure that our American instructors, who have been targeted by the way as military targets by the FARC and the paramilitaries are protected. And I know that you are diligent about that.

I want to thank Mrs. Pace for ably and elegantly representing her country around the world. I know that it is a thankless job, but I think we should thank you for all of your hard work and all the time that you spend talking to our servicemen and women and making sure that they know there's a friendly face there for us. So thank you for all you've done.

GEN. PACE: Thank you, ma'am.

REP. TAUSCHER I was very impressed when I was in your AOR in December. Virtually every person that you talked to -- whether it's General Tapias (ph) to a new recruit, they so emphasize human rights that the 50th time you hear it that day you're kind of like, Okay, okay, I get it. The truth of the matter is though you've done a lot to buck up their military through the training exercises that you are doing in the military-to-military relationship. And there has been a great amount of movement to cashier the worst abuses of human rights and other indiscretions. The bad news is that they immediately go across the street and join the paramilitaries or the FARC. What are we doing to mitigate that situation? Jail time perhaps? Finding a way to get these people locked down after we get rid of them seems to me a better solution than having them roaming free so that they can go to the bad guys? What is your plan on that?

GEN. PACE: Ma'am, thank you for recognizing what I do believe is a successful story of the Colombian military. Is there more work to be done? Yes, ma'am. Should we take a lot of credit for that? No, I think we should take credit for being their partners.

But the fact of the matter is, as you know, about two years ago approximately 60 percent of all the accusations of human rights abuse were against the Colombian military. Last year that amount was down to below 2 percent of all the accusations against the Colombian military. That, in my opinion, is a direct result of the leadership caring. If the leaders are not on board, nobody else is going to follow.

I've been to Colombia seven times. I'm going my eighth time this afternoon. In every time I've been there, each of the leaders with whom I've met -- and President Pastrana has been gracious to meet me almost every time; Minister of Defense Ramirez almost every time; General Tapias and all his leaders, every time -- they bring up human rights to me. They show me their training programs. And they've asked for our assistance. And as you know, we have embedded human rights training in the training that we're doing for the Colombian counternarcotics battalions. So as far as that part is concerned, we're in good shape.

You are correct also in your analysis of what we call paramilitary, what they would prefer to call illegal self-defense forces. The illegal self-defense forces are, in fact, in the Colombian leadership's own words, the major threat to long-term survival of the democracy in Colombia, because they are equally, if not as bad in the human rights abuse massacre mode as are, and have been, the FARC and the ELN.

As you pointed out, about 388 officers of the Colombian military were cashiered last year by Minister Ramirez. I do not understand all the nuances of their law, but I do know that for him to be able to remove them from the military without specific charges against them that might take them to court, he had to proceed the way he did; and by doing so, was not able to get them into a courtroom to face charges, but on the other hand, was able to move them out of the military two, three, five years sooner than he might otherwise have been able to.

So the punishment imposed obviously is an issue of sovereignty for the government of Colombia. But they have clearly gotten the message on human rights. They are upholding human rights as best they can. They know they have a long way to go, and they also know that the paramilitaries/illegal self-defense forces are the next target that they must concentrate on to reduce that.

REP. ROSCOE BARTLETT (R-MD): Thank you very much, General. I believe that marijuana is the largest agricultural cash crop grown in California. That apparently is a reflection of what I think most of us believe, and that is we're in a market-driven economy. And if there is a demand, there will be a supply. We have not been able to stop them from growing marijuana in California, and so I'm skeptical that we'll be able to stop them from growing coca in the Andes.

We spend about a billion dollars a year on eradication. I think it's about a billion-three that we spend on interdiction. And today drugs are more readily available on the street. Their price is down and stable, and the purity is up. As a matter of fact, in Baltimore we have increased incidences of overdosing because they're presuming that the drugs are cut the way they used to be cut.

I notice here that there was (about?) 645 metric tons of coca, and we interdicted 128 metric tons of that. Clearly the kind of economy that we think works is working. It's a market-driven economy. If there is a demand, there will be a supply. My question is, since I doubt that we're going to be able to make any dent on the growing of drugs in the Andes, because we can't stop them growing marijuana in California -- and no matter how hard we try, we have not been able to interdict enough drugs to make any difference -- I'm having some trouble understanding why this is a profitable way to use our military and our dollars, at least $2.3 billion spent. And if you're looking at the effect on drug use in this country, it has been zero, nil. Help me understand why this is an appropriate way to use our military and to use our dollars.

GEN. PACE: Sir, thank you. Three ways to attack the drug problem. The most significant, long-lasting, best thing that the United States of America could do to fight drugs is reduce demand. If you do not consume it, they will not make it. So I'm absolute lock- step with you in that, sir. The next best thing to do is to reduce production.

REP. BARTLETT: But we can't do that. We haven't.

GEN. PACE: Correct, sir. And then the third best way is to chase the drugs between the production source and the consumer. So from my viewpoint, sir, this is not about stamping out drugs. There are about 146,000 hectares of area under cultivation right now that produce enough cocaine for the world. There are about 6 million hectares of available land that would support growing cocaine. So the supply of land versus the required amount of land still has enormous potential to produce this drug.

This is, in my mind, about supporting democracy. Every nation has some crime and a level of crime, including our own. But the crime in this country does not prevent our democracy from functioning. The crime in Colombia, which is narco traffic-driven, has strangled that country's democracy. When citizens are told, "Grow coca or we will kill your family," when judges are told, "Look the other way or we will kill your family," when the basic fabric of democracy is eaten away, sir, that's when I think it is very, very valuable for friends to help friends.

I do not expect to be able to reduce -- correction -- to wipe out coca production in Colombia. But I do expect that, through the help of their friends, that the Colombian government can get back up on its feet and it can be a vibrant democracy again, and not just because of U.S. military help.

Ours is an important but very small part of what they are doing. President Pastrana's Plan Colombia, 10 points, one of which is military; the other is revamping his judiciary, revamping his fiscal system, alternative crop developments, building roads, fixing his schools, et cetera; all the basic foundations of democracy.

To get there, he needs a secure environment. The combination of his military and his police is not strong enough to provide security throughout his country. So we are assisting them in becoming strong enough to take care of themselves. But my answer to you, sir, would be that this is a fight for democracy and that the drug part of it is significant, but it's not the end state.

REP. STUMP: Mr. Skelton.

REP. SKELTON: Excuse me for interposing a question, but a moment ago you asked about the -- or you mentioned the paramilitary folks. And the last two months, both the State Department and the United Nations have released reports strongly condemning a continuing pattern of collaboration between the Colombian military, on the one hand, and the paramilitary, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. And this includes part of the area where the United States-aided units operate. What is your command doing in relation to this?

GEN. PACE: Sir, thank you. It is, in fact, true that there has been collaboration at some levels between some members of the Colombian military and the illegal self-defense forces. President Pastrana, Minister Ramirez, General Tapias, General Mora, the head of his army, Admiral Soto, they all agree that they have had units and individuals who have collaborated with the illegal self-defense forces.

Without making excuses, I can understand where someone could think that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But the leadership of the country understands and has specifically stated that they will not tolerate, within their armed forces, collaboration, collusion with the illegal self-defense forces. They have now devised a strategy to attack this with the same vigor that they attacked human rights violations. They have publicly stated that, in fact, the illegal self-defense forces are a greater threat long-term to the democracy than are either the FARC or the ELN.

Internal to our own training, sir -- and as you know, we do not go on operations; we train inside of secure bases -- inside of our training, we have embedded the human rights training and also training about not cooperating with the illegal self-defense forces.

This afternoon, the reason I am going to Colombia for the eighth time this afternoon is that General Tapias, the chairman down there, has invited me to speak to his staff, to his army, navy and air force commanders and their staff, to explain to them this process that I am undergoing today and to explain to them the issues that are most important to my Congress so that they can understand how their actions in their country impact world opinion. And obviously, sir, part of my message will be that we applaud the progress they've made in human rights. We understand that there's more to do, and we certainly are watching on the collaboration with the illegal self-defense forces.

REP. MARK STEVEN KIRK (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And General, I'm very happy to have you here. I used to serve in the SOUTHCOM J-2. I worked for both General Joulwan and General McCaffrey. And I understand your headquarters for the J-2 is a little bit nicer than the tunnel we had in Quarry Heights, which I think, Mr. Chairman, we kept at an average 98 degrees back there.

I very much appreciated your statement on the drug war, because I've always looked for senior policy leaders, of which you are one, to describe two missions for the drug war, not one. Certainly the most important is to reduce the net flow of narcotics into the United States. And as an economic conservative, you are up against the private sector, and you're the government. And the private sector will always be more nimble and innovate faster than you can. And so our grade and ability to hit the Mission 1 target, which is eliminate the flow of drugs to the United States, is not good and I don't think ever can be superior.

But there is a second mission which we always have to articulate, and you hit it right on the head: Supporting democracy. When our armed forces entered Panama City, we saw the Noriega government had turned their ministry of immigration into an enormous drug lab. And when we lose that democracy battle, the narcos then will be able to do what any private-sector industry does, which is get economies of scale and innovate.

Crack is an innovation that allows them to get drugs at a much lower price breakpoint, hitting lower and lower segments of the market, that they were able to do from secure research facilities. And if we lose this war, they will be able to innovate and develop their activities on a much larger scale.

Colombia is the case in point. We almost lost that war when we had three candidates for president, who all wanted to take on at that time the Medellin cartel, assassinated. And the last candidate for president, who still wanted to take on the Medellin cartel, won. And we then took that cartel apart; the Cali cartel, less violence, but also not very successful. And now we have this new threat, narcoterrorism. And to put a name on a face, Carlos Castana and the United Right wing.

Can you provide for this committee how SOUTHCOM is supporting both the Colombian military, and more importantly the Colombian national police, with information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the paramilitaries as well as the FARC? Is that possible for you to do for this committee?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I can do a better job for you in a closed session, but I can tell you that we in fact share a great deal of information with the Colombian government that we derive from our own intelligence sources to assist them in all facets of what they are doing. But if I may, sir, I need to back away from that line a little bit as far as the openness of this hearing.

REP. KIRK: Right. I would like you, in classified and unclassified forums, to be able to provide to us how you are helping both the Colombian military and the CNP in pursuing them, because we do have some unique -- I very much appreciated your intelligence comments, because I know how difficult the targets were. I worked the 33 organization on the Magdalena River in Venezuela, and it's difficult. But I think the United States has some unique capabilities.

Can you describe Castana for us and the difficulty that we have in dealing with him?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I cannot. I do know him, and that is not in my --

REP. KIRK: Oh, okay. He would be the leading paramilitary --

GEN. PACE: Yes, sir.

REP. KIRK: And my sense is that almost 40 percent of the country is now under the control of his organization or organizations related to him, becoming an international figure.

Also, in the previous administration we had an administration- wide, I would say bias, against the Colombian national police. It's an organization Speaker Hastert is very much in favor of -- worked with their great general, General Serrano. I'm wondering if you could describe how you feel the Colombian national police is doing, and to -- how we can help them out?

GEN. PACE: Sure. General Jouvier (ph) you know has replaced General Serrano. General Jouvier (ph) as best I can tell is a very, very dedicated police officer.

In my mind, sir, this is not a question of whether we support the military or we support the police. My responsibility is to support the military. But the fact of the matter is the combination of the military and the police is not enough to provide security throughout the entire country. So my opinion is that we should be supporting both. The police are providing probably the police functions. The military support of the police is what we are training our counternarcotics battalions to do, and I can explain that more if you would like me to, sir. But clearly the Colombian military goes into an area, provide a secure cordon inside of which the Colombian police do their job. Is there need for better and more robust cooperation? Yes, sir. Are they beginning to go down that road? Yes, sir. Do both organizations need help from external sources? Yes, sir.

REP. KIRK: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman. And would just say that unlike the Colombian military, Human Rights Watch has basically issued a clean bill of health to the CNP. They've lost over 300 officers, and don't have a significant hit on them from the human rights community. So you are keenly able to foster that cooperation. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

GEN. PACE: Thank you, sir.

REP. STUMP: The gentleman from Guam, Mr. Underwood, is recognized.

REP. ROBERT UNDERWOOD (D-GUAM): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your testimony, General Pace. I certainly appreciate your characterization of our efforts there vis-a-vis the issue of drugs and the drug problem in this country that in effect you are finding an effort to ensure the strength of democratic institutions. And secondarily I suppose -- I am assuming that secondarily it has to do with the drug problem.

At the same time I am a little concerned about the treatment of the paramilitary organizations in this. And I would just like again to ask you -- it's a similar question as was asked by Mr. Skelton -- to what extent does working with the paramilitary organizations or not doing anything about the paramilitary organizations erode the very democratic institutions we are seeking to sustain in Colombia?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I think that's a fair question, and I think your premise is exactly right; that is, if you in fact have institutions in your government that work with illegal institutions, that does not serve democracy. President Pastrana, Minister Ramirez and General Tapias recognize that. They have taken this leadership responsibility on. They have said that they will have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to any collusion or collaboration with the illegal self-defense forces.

As I believe one of the other members pointed out, about 40 percent of the massacres last year were conducted by the paramilitaries. This is not a good organization for any democracy to have embedded in its citizenry.

REP. UNDERWOOD: In the briefing paper I have here, it says the Colombian Commission of Jurists blames the paramilitary organizations for 85 percent of the killings associated with Colombia's conflicts. Is that an accurate statement?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I don't know the figures. But the fact of the matter is that the --

REP. UNDERWOOD: It's pretty high.

GEN. PACE: -- that the illegal self-defense groups are responsible for a large number of massacres and killing.

REP. JAMES LANGEVIN (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, thank you for your testimony here this morning.

If we go back to part of your testimony just a moment ago, we were talking about the drug war, and in Colombia -- we were talking about the fact that democracy, I believe you said, is our number one goal. The question though is that are we fighting a drug war, or is this a counterinsurgency war? Have we shifted our focus from being one of going after the drug trade to bolster our government's, the government's efforts down there against the insurgents?

GEN. PACE: Sir, first of all my mission is to train a counternarcotics brigade of about 3,000 soldiers consisting of three counternarcotics battalions of about 1,000 per battalion, and to assist them in integrating the Department of State's purchased helicopters so that they can work together in support of the Colombian police.

Having said that, if you asked me to make a distinction between narcotraffickers and the insurgents, I can draw that line for you. But it is a very, very clouded line. And in fact in my mind it is a distinction that probably has lost its value. The bottom line from my perspective is that if you are trafficking in drugs, regardless of what else you do, if you are trafficking in drugs you are a narcotrafficker. And the symbiotic relationship between the insurgents and the narcotraffickers has so confused that distinction that it's very difficult to do.

When we go on -- when we have missions that the counternarcotics brigade goes on, the intelligence that is developed, develops it as a narcotics operation. And when they go on that operation what they find at that site may be pure narcotraffickers, may be a combination. But the mission itself is counternarcotics.

REP. LANGEVIN: Could you clarify this for me -- of the drug dealers we are going after, are we putting more efforts on going after the insurgents first who are involved in drug trafficking versus all drug traffickers?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I need to answer that again in context of my mission, because it is not -- we are not doing any of those. The Colombian government is doing that. The U.S. military is focused on training up their counternarcotics brigade to do counternarcotics work. While we are doing that the Colombian military is doing Colombian military work against the insurgents. But the U.S. military's piece of this is purely in the counternarcotics mode.

REP. LANGEVIN: General, in your opinion do you feel that we are getting dangerously close to crossing the line and getting involved in a civil war in bolstering the government against the insurgents?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I do not. My mission of training that brigade will be completed on the 24th of May. We will have a graduation exercise in Lorambi (ph) on the 24th of May, and that will complete my mission for training at brigade headquarters and the three battalions. What remains then is the delivery of the Department of State-purchased Blackhawk helicopters, 14, which will begin arriving in July of this year, and will be completed December of this year. And then the Huey II, Super Huey helicopters -- about 25 will be bought, depending upon a configuration, which will begin arriving this November and be complete by next July. And what we will do with that is to assist the Colombian military in integrating those helicopters with the training that we have already given to the counternarcotics battalions. But that is the end of my military mission, sir. The Colombian government on its own is -- has their plan to increase the size of their military, to increase the size of their police, to be able to provide security inside their own country.

REP. LANGEVIN: Thank you, general.

REP. SKELTON: I'd like to revisit the subject of the paramilitaries. I'd like to revisit the subject in relation to this being following Mr. Langevin's question as to whether this is an anti- drug effort or whether it is an insurgency effort.

And your answer, general, was the effect that the line between the two was rather clouded and that it appears that one slops over into the other. As a matter of fact, aren't we just a little bit pregnant, getting involved directly or indirectly with insurgency?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I don't think we are a little bit pregnant; I think the AUC is a lot pregnant. They are the ones who are involved in drugs. And therefore when we execute the mission you have given me, which was to assist in the counter-drug war -- when we assist the Colombian military and when they go out to do their counternarcotics mission they are finding the narcotraffickers who are in fact one in the same in many cases with the insurgents.

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D-MS): General Pace, thank you for sticking around. General, I'm a big believer in the law of unintended consequences. With that in mind, I and a number of my colleagues voted last year for a troop cap on Colombia so that things don't spiral out of control and that we exercise our constitutional duty to decide where and when young Americans go to war and not let the previous administration or this administration or the next administration just stumble into it before the American people have really given serious thought to this.

I had asked your predecessor, General Wilhelm, if he would support a troop cap, and his answer was that, within reason, he would. I'm going to ask the same question to you.

GEN. PACE: Sir, I support the troop cap. You give me a cap right now of 500 military, 300 civilian. On the military side, sir, we averaged just over 200. We've spiked close to 400 when we've delivered particular systems and had the 93 to 100 special operations forces training a battalion at the same time. But that troop cap, sir, is well within the limits that I need to do the job that I've been given, and I support it.

REP. TAYLOR: Okay. A second question is, again, I hope something we don't have to pursue, but should we be unable to turn the political problem in Vieques around, and should the Puerto Rican government succeed in letting the developers have that land, which is really my theory of what's driving most of this, and with the understanding that with the loss of Panama, Colombia maintained a large number of islands substantially north of the mainland of Colombia itself, has there been any talk of discussing with the Colombians the lease of any of those islands, I guess along the lines of what we did with the British in World War II with the lend-lease program? Since we are spending a large amount of money helping the Colombian government now, I don't think it would be out of the question to ask them if they would consider leasing one of those islands, should it come to this.

GEN. PACE: Sir, to my knowledge, there has not been that kind of discussion to date.

REP. TAYLOR: At what point do you expect some sort of a stop-go decision with regard to Vieques?

GEN. PACE: Six November, sir; election.

REP. TAYLOR: Okay. But not before that?

GEN. PACE: That's correct, sir.

REP. JAMES LANGEVIN (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, just going back to (my?) line of questioning and that of Mr. Skelton, you talked about the blurred line. When a drug raid is going to occur, who basically, in a sense, calls the shots in terms of where, which raid is going to take place? Is it the Colombian government? Is it the United States? Or is it a collaborative effort in terms of who sets the priorities and where we're going to go?

GEN. PACE: Sir, the brigade that we have trained operates subordinate to what the Colombians call Joint Task Force South under Colombian Brigadier General Montoya. General Montoya has that brigade and he has several other Colombian military brigades under his command. The intelligence that develops the targets to be attacked is a collaborative effort between the U.S. and Colombia. Based on that intelligence, General Montoya decides what targets to attack or what not to attack.

REP. LANGEVIN: Okay, so --

GEN. PACE: The Colombian military leader on the scene is making that call, sir.

REP. LANGEVIN: So if they were to make the decision that -- if the Colombian government were to make the decision that we're only going to focus our efforts on going after insurgents involved in the drug trade, then that's what would happen. Is that correct?

GEN. PACE: Sir, I don't think they could make that decision because I could not assist them with the kind of intelligence that would help them to make that distinction.

REP. LANGEVIN: I understand. Thank you.

GEN. PACE: What I can assure you is that every time that the brigade that we have trained is used in counternarcotics operations, that the target that they are going to attack has been developed collaboratively between U.S. intelligence personnel and Colombian intelligence personnel, and that when they go on that mission, the mission that they are going on is a validated intelligence product that says, "This is a valid counternarcotics mission." If, for some reason, for some whatever reason, that were to get out of the box, then the helicopters that our Department of State has provided could be recalled.

REP. LANGEVIN: Thank you, General.

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