Pace Points to Colombia’s Counter-drug Efforts as Possible Model for Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BOGOTA, Colombia, Jan. 20, 2007 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked Colombia’s leaders here yesterday for using their country’s long experience in its counter-drug effort to help the Afghan government fight a similar battle.
“I should thank President (Alvaro) Uribe and the entire government here in Colombia for the way that he and his leaders have reached out to (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai and his government to provide experience, to provide teams of experts, to go sit and talk with President Karzai and the folks he has working the counter-drug (issue),” Marine Gen. Peter Pace said. “It’s been a very helpful contribution by the Colombian government.”
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manual Santos, who joined Pace and Gen. Freddy Padilla, commander of the Colombian armed forces, at a joint news conference, pledged continued support for Afghanistan. The Colombians have sent National Police members to train Afghan army and police forces in both counter-drug and counter-insurgency operations.
Pace said Colombia has set a model for countering drug trafficking and narcoterrorism that could work for Afghanistan, too.
Under that model, Colombia’s armed forces have cleared specific areas of terrorists, and the government has followed in those areas with projects that have brought electricity, water and jobs to the people, Pace said.
But another important part of the model is an amnesty program for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, to leave terrorist activity behind, the general said. Under that program, FARC members can come forward, lay down their weapons and, with the help of a government-supported education process, become productive members of society.
“I think those kinds of outreach programs by the Colombian government are a good model for President Karzai to consider as he looks at how to reduce the amount of drug trafficking in his country and to provide stability and jobs for his citizens,” Pace said.
The chairman expressed optimism that U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Wood, who was nominated Dec. 18 to become the ambassador to Afghanistan, will lend his experience to helping further the two countries’ cooperation. “I know you will bring the same strength and determination to that position that you have here in Colombia,” he said in congratulating Wood.