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Last Updated:7/11/02
Implementing U.S. Aid to Colombia: A Likely Timeline

This page is always a rough draft! It presents the Center for International Policy's ever-changing estimates of the timing of U.S. military assistance to Colombia, beginning with the signing of the aid package into law on July 13, 2000. Many entries on this calendar are merely educated guesses based on available information (cited where necessary). This document will be updated and expanded as new information emerges.

The Past
The Future

July 2002

Plan Colombia Blackhawk pilot and crew training expected to be completed. (15)

June 2002

Construction for living quarters and maintenance facilities at the Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador completed. (15)

Summer 2002

Twenty students from the Armed Forces, National Police, Ministry of Defense, and Commanding General's office will receive specialty degrees in International Humanitarian Law. (15)

April 2002

Training of Colombian Army pilots  and crews for the 25 Huey IIs started this month, with a projected completion by mid 2004. (15)

March 2002

Delivery of the first 6 of the 25 Huey II aircraft for the Colombian Army completed.  The remaining 19 helicopters should be delivered by the end of September 2002. (15)

February 2002

The remaining balance of the Ayres Turbo-Thrush Spray Planes initially delivered August 2001 should be made. (12)

Initial Judge Advocate General (JAG) school courses, sponsored by the Defense Department, began for 60 judge advocates and clerks in temporary facilities. (15)

January 8, 2002

Colombian president, Andres Pastrana, receives the remaining 14 Black Hawk helicopters as promised by the U.S. government under Plan Colombia. (13)

U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Anne Patterson promised the delivery of 25 Huey-II helicopters would begin at the end of the month. (13)

January 2002

According to June 28, 2000 testimony of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, James Mack, it is that the Colombian Army will receive " twenty-five Huey-IIs modified to this standard, along with individual crew equipment" (12)

December 2001

Delivery of all  fourteen UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters procured under Plan Colombia for the Colombian Army completed. (15)

August/September 2001

INL and the Colombian National Police agreed to upgrade aircraft using money from the Supplemental "to modify nine additional Huey II aircraft to desired specifications and retrofit twenty-two of the earlier produced Huey-IIs to include additional options." (12)

August 2001

Additional OV-10D Spray Planes: Three aircraft are currently undergoing refurbishment/modification at Patrick Air Force Base and are expected to be completed in August of this year. (12)

Additional Ayres Turbo-Thrush Spray Planes: A contract is in place for nine additional agricultural spray planes. The first aircraft should be delivered in August, with the balance phased in through February 2002 (12)

July 2001

According to June 28, 2000 testimony of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, James Mack:

"Arrangements are being made for next month's delivery of the two CNP aircraft and the first COLAR Blackhawk aircraft. Remaining deliveries will be made in increments through December of this year."

June 11, 2001

According to June 28, 2000 testimony from the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development, Michael Deal, as of June 11 "26 of the 31 coca elimination pacts have been signed."

June 1, 2001

The President must submit a report to Congress detailing and itemizing the costs incurred by all government agencies for their support of Plan Colombia during the previous six months. (Section 3204(e) of P.L. 106-246) (This report was released on July 27, 2001 and is available on this site)

June 2001

At the request of Congress, the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, with assistance from the regional EPA representative in Embassy Lima, is sponsoring two studies on the effects of fumigation in Putumayo.

The first dealt with the individuals who reported reactions to the spraying. As of the date the report is yet to be completed, "but the physicians who reviewed the cases found them to be inconsistent with glyphosate exposure. (12)"

The second study is underway and will compare populations before and after their areas are sprayed to determine if any differences could be attributable to spraying.

April 2001

The third counternarcotics battalion will complete its training, and the three battalions will make up a "counternarcotics brigade." With this, United States trainers complete staff and light infantry training for almost 2,300 troops. (15)

The battalions will be positioned at bases in Tres Esquinas, Putumayo, and Larandia, Caquetá. Sustained training will continue throughout 2001.

March 11, 2001

The Secretary of State must submit a report to Congress describing progress made toward several key human rights and peace goals in Colombia, and accounting for people forcibly displaced by U.S.-funded military operations in southern Colombia. (Conference report 106-710 [.pdf only])

Second quarter 2001

According to a timetable revised in October 2000, the first Blackhawk helicopters for the "push into southern Colombia" will arrive in Colombia. The last is expected by the end of 2001.(10)

The Defense Department will begin providing "organic intelligence capability" assistance to the counternarcotics battalions. (11)

February 8, 2001

The President must submit a report to Congress detailing the number, locations, activities, and lengths of assignment for all temporary and permanent U.S. military personnel present in Colombia, and for all U.S. civilian contractors present in Colombia. (Section 3204(f) of P.L. 106-246)

February 2001

The headquarters of the Colombian Army's counternarcotics brigade (to be made up of the three new battalions) will be operational.

According to the Defense Department's Brian Sheridan, U.S. funding for the brigade will include "training, communications equipment, computer needs, facility modification, and similar requirements." (11)

January 19, 2001

Due to a lack of clarity in the law, the White House decided a second human rights certification/waiver was not necessary. Though certification decisions were not made, the White House issued a report on progress toward the certification goals.

January 2001

Eradication operations have begun in Putumayo department. (This was originally scheduled for December; a one-month postponement was announced on November 16.)

In parts of Putumayo dominated by small-scale coca cultivation (three hectares or less per farm), the Colombian government, with U.S. support, will establish "Community Pacts." Growers are to voluntarily eradicate their coca plants in exchange for alternative development assistance.

"Eight communities have been identified in this alternative development area, including Villa Garzón, Puerto Guzmán, Puerto Asís, and Orito," according to the State Department's director for narcotics affairs, Rand Beers. According to a July 27 State Department document, "Initially, the effort will be focused on the municipalities of Puerto Guzman, Villa Garzón, and Puerto Caicedo." U.S. officials say this area is dominated by coca plots of three hectares or less. The program is to expand rapidly into three more municipalities.

In more remote areas of Putumayo, where larger coca plantations are reportedly dominant, aerial fumigation operations will begin as soon as targeting decisions are made by a coordination committee including representatives of PLANTE (Colombia's alternative development agency) and the Colombian National Police. (5, 10)

"While eradication is getting underway," according to the State Department's Rand Beers, "a Putumayo-focused interdiction effort will also be launched, to disrupt the supply of important precursors entering the region and the shipment of cocaine base and processed cocaine out of the region." (10)

First quarter 2001

Fifteen refurbished UH-1N ("Huey 1") helicopters from the aid package are arriving in Colombia. The "Huey 1s" are to be considered "interim" aircraft while the Colombian military awaits arrival of upgraded "Huey IIs" and Blackhawk helicopters. (5, 10)

The third Colombian Army counternarcotics battalion is expected to begin training in early 2001. (11)

December 15, 2000

Contract signed with Sikorksy, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, for fourteen Black Hawks for the Colombian Army and two for the Colombian National Police. (14)

December 8, 2000

The second Colombian Army counternarcotics battalion completed its training.

November 2000

The first counternarcotics battalion will be able to use 18 UH-1N ("Huey 1") helicopters given to Colombia through a "no cost lease" in late 1999. The "Huey 1s" are to be considered "interim" aircraft while the Colombian military awaits arrival of upgraded "Huey IIs" and Blackhawk helicopters. (5)

October 26, 2000

The President submitted a report to Congress, originally due on September 11, about the United States' current policy and strategy for its counternarcotics assistance for Colombia and its neighbors. (Section 3202 of P.L. 106-246) (This report is available on this site).

October 12, 2000

Rand Beers, assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics Affairs, told a House subcommittee that "We have signed a contract with Bell Helicopter for the first 12 Huey II [helicopter upgrade] kits and have taken delivery of them." (10)

October 11, 2000

The President must submit a report to Congress detailing the number, locations, activities, and lengths of assignment for all temporary and permanent U.S. military personnel present in Colombia, and for all U.S. civilian contractors present in Colombia. (Section 3204(f) of P.L. 106-246) [We're still trying to obtain a copy of this report.]

October 1, 2000

With the beginning of the government's 2001 fiscal year, new funds cannot be obligated until one of the following happens:

1) The Secretary of State certifies that the Colombian government and military have met several strict human rights and anti-drug standards; or

2) The President waives the Secretary of State's certification, notifying the relevant congressional committees that to do so is "in the national security interest." (Section 3201 of P.L. 106-246)

It appears that this confirmation/waiver may not in fact occur until well after October 1. In fact, the State Department's Randy Beers told a congressional committee in September that the next certification process is "expected in December or early January." (10)

October 2000

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was to begin expanding its administration of justice, alternative development and human rights assistance, largely through pilot projects. (9)

USAID was to hold a "bidders conference" early in the month in Bogotá for contractors seeking to carry out U.S.-funded alternative development in coca-growing areas. (7)

Last quarter 2000

The Defense Department will begin awarding contracts for "aviation infrastructure support" assistance for the U.S.-donated helicopters: "electrical utilities and road infrastructure, aviation fuel storage and fueling systems, security improvements, parking aprons and helicopter pads, a maintenance hanger, an operations facility, and a taxiway," according to Assistant Secretary of Defense Brian Sheridan. Contracts will continue to be awarded through 2002. (11)

According to Sheridan, the Defense Department "will provide for the modification of two Colombia Air Force C-26 Merlin aircraft by installing APG-66 air-to-air radars, Forward Looking Infrared Radars (FLIRs), and communications equipment." The aircraft are to "track and intercept illegal smuggling aircraft that move the cocaine from the HCl labs in southeastern Colombia to the Colombian coasts for transshipment to the United States."

In addition, a Colombian Air Force AC-47 aircraft will have a FLIR added, and a Colombian Air Force DC-3 will be converted into another AC-47 with FLIR. (Sheridan told a House subcommittee that "these planes have been used repeatedly by the Colombian military to strafe drug trafficking aircraft.") This assistance should be complete by summer 2001. (11)

The Defense Department will award a contract for installation of a ground-based radar at the Tres Esquinas base on the border of Caquetá and Putumayo. The radar should be operational by October 2001. (11)

The Defense Department will award a contract to provide Colombia with a radar command and control system, a project to be completed by late 2001. (11)

Late September, 2000

"We are prepared to move forward immediately on assistance to displaced persons," Carl Leonard, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, tells the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. (7)

September 11, 2000

The Secretary of State submitted a report to Congress describing progress made toward several key human rights and peace goals in Colombia, and accounting for people forcibly displaced by U.S.-funded military operations in southern Colombia. (Conference report 106-710 [.pdf only]) (This report is available on this site)

The Secretary of State must submit a report to Congress detailing the effects on human health and the safety of herbicides used on illegal crops with funds from the aid package. (Conference report 106-710 [.pdf only]) (This report was released on January 23, 2001 and is available on this site)

August 23, 2000

President Clinton issued a determination waiving all but one of the human rights conditions in the aid package. This step allowed most military assistance to begin flowing. (See also the White House's "Memorandum of Justification.")

Many initiatives may begin, including training of the second and third counternarcotics battalions and the ordering of helicopters. While awaiting delivery of helicopters, the first battalion -- and later the second and third battalions -- will join the Colombian National Police on anti-drug operations at the edge of the Putumayo and Caquetá coca-growing areas, chiefly near existing bases. These missions are meant to give the battalions operational experience. (2)

August 12, 2000

The Secretary of Defense must issue a report to Congress on the proposed uses of all Defense Department funds to support Plan Colombia. (Conference report 106-710 [.pdf only]) [We're still trying to obtain a copy of this report.]

July-September, 2000

A U.S. planning team, including representatives of the State and Defense Departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), carried out two months of daily consultations with Colombian counterparts. The consultations developed an "Interagency Action Plan" for the implementation of U.S. aid to Colombia. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Affairs Rand Beers said in October 2000 that "U.S. agencies are now refining their draft implementation plans." (10)

July 27, 2000

The US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group began training the second Colombian counternarcotics battalion. (11)

The Secretary of State submitted a required report to Congress "on the proposed uses of all funds ... on a country-by-country basis for each proposed program, project or activity." (Conference report 106-710 [.pdf only])
(This report is available on this site)

July 13, 2000

President Clinton signs the aid package into law.

Administration officials have already spent most of their 2000 anti-drug aid funds for Colombia, as they had expected that the aid package would be approved in March or April. The first of three army counternarcotics battalions is trained and ready in the department of Putumayo, but lacks U.S. funding to fuel the eighteen Huey helicopters it was granted through a no-cost lease in November 1999. Defense Minister Luis Fernando Ramírez says the battalion is doing "gymnastics" and operating on foot. A second battalion, whose members have been chosen and vetted, has not begun training because funds have not been approved.(1)

September 2002

Delivery of the remaining 19 of 25 Huey II helicopters for the Colombian Army is expected by the end of this month. (15)

Late 2002

First helicopter projects in Larandia, Caquetá should be completed. The following support projects will also be ready at this time: additional barracks for both counter narcotics and aviation brigade personnel, a counter narcotics brigade headquarters facility, and a supply warehouse. (15)

Completion of runway extension and Schweizer hanger expected at Tres Esquinas, Caquetá. (15

2003

According to Major General Gary D. Speer, Acting Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command, "the U.S. government is supporting Colombia’s request to train and equip a second CN Brigade in FY 2003 for employment elsewhere within the country."  The existing CN Brigade operates in the Putumayo and Caquetá departments.  The State Department’s FY 2003 request also includes funding to continue training of the existing CN Brigade.

" The second CN Brigade will be made up of approximately 1,700 troops.  If approved, using U.S. Special Operations Forces, we could train one battalion per quarter, commencing with the second CN Brigade Staff."

In addition to counterdrug assistance, the Administration wants $98 million for FY2003 to help Colombia to enhance the training and equipping of units to protect the Caño Limón-Coveñas oil pipeline.  

"The Administration has included $6 million in the FY 2002 Supplemental to begin the training.  The first unit to be trained for this program will be the recently human rights vetted, Arauca-based Colombian Army 18th Brigade.  Subsequent units to be trained for infrastructure security include the 5th Mobile Brigade, designated Colombian National Police units, and Colombian Marines." (15)

July 2003

Completion of construction of a permanent Judge Advocate General facility, with funds from the Department of State, expected by this month. (15)

Mid 2004

Projected completion of training of Colombian Army pilots and crews for the 25 Huey IIs. (15)

The Distant Future

According to March 2000 testimony of U.S. Southern Command Chief Gen. Charles Wilhelm, the United States has a six-year plan for its counter-drug effort in Colombia.

While the first two years will focus on the southern departments of Caquetá and Putumayo, during the second two years (roughly 2002-2003) the focus will shift eastward to Meta and Guaviare departments. During the last two years (roughly 2004-2005), the program will focus northward, particularly on Norte de Santander department.(6)


*Conversations with congressional staff indicate that, according to the letter of the law, the relatively small amount of military aid funded through the defense budget is not subject to these restrictions, and could theoretically begin flowing immediately. The defense-budget items are listed in the table on the first page of this excerpt from the Conference Committee's report [.pdf version only].

(1) See the following:
Tim Johnson, "Colombia anti-drug effort falters," The Miami Herald, April 29, 2000.
Karen DeYoung, "Funding Delay Stalls Anti-Drug Effort in Colombia," The Washington Post, May 30, 2000.
Tod Robberson, "Colombia's drug battle grounded," The Dallas Morning News, June 19, 2000.

(2) "Initial operations by the CNP and CNBNs will focus on the fringe of the coca growing areas of Putumayo and Caquetá and in the areas closest to existing operational bases. This will allow the counter-narcotics forces to gain operational experience in the field before they become fully air-mobile. It will also allow time for improvements to forward operating sites, and will ease the integration of the helicopters into their operations." The White House, Proposal for U.S. Assistance to Plan Colombia, February 3, 2000.

(3) "Assuming funding is provided this summer, anticipated delivery of the final 15 Huey helicopters will be complete in late CY 2000." The White House, Proposal for U.S. Assistance to Plan Colombia, February 3, 2000. The administration's aid proposal called for only fifteen Hueys; it is likely to take several months more to deliver the forty-two approved by Congress.

(4) "The training of the two battalions will go on nearly simultaneously and should be completed about seven months after it begins." The White House, Proposal for U.S. Assistance to Plan Colombia, February 3, 2000.

(5) R. Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, testimony before the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, September 21, 2000.

(6) Transcript of hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, March 23, 2000.

(7) Carl H. Leonard, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. Agency for International Development, testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, September 21, 2000.

(8) U.S. Department of State, Report to Congress, July 27, 2000.

(9) Jess T. Ford, director, International Affairs and Trade, U.S. General Accounting Office, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives: 10.[Web (.html) format | Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format]

(10) R. Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, testimony before the House Drug Policy Subcommittee, October 12, 2000.

(11) Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, testimony before the House Drug Policy Subcommittee, October 12, 2000.

(12) James Mack, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, testimony before the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, June 28, 2001.

(13) Reuters, "Colombia Toasts US-Donated Black Hawks, Drug Fight," January 8, 2002.

(14) Randy Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, testimony before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, July 11, 2001.

(15) Major General Gary D. Speer, United States Army, Acting Commander in Chief, United States Southern Command, testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, April 11, 2002.

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