U.S., Colombia Will Continue Pressure on Narcoterrorists
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BOGOTA, Colombia, April 12, 2005 The United States will continue to stand by Colombia as it battles the forces of terrorism and extremism, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here April 11.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and his wife, Mary Jo, make their way from the plane as they are greeted with full military honors upon their arrival in Bogota, Colombia, on April 10. Myers and his staff met with Colombian military and civilian leaders to further military-to-military relations. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We're winning," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said during a press conference. "We've got to keep the pressure on until the fight is finally won."
Earlier the chairman received the Military Order of Merit from Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe and the Counternarcotics Award from his counterpart Gen. Carlos Ospina. "I am humbled by this award," Myers said. He said the awards reflect the relationship between the United States and Colombia and the importance the United States attaches to this relationship.
The cooperation between the United States and Colombia must be mirrored around the world, Myers said. The future rests on the ability of nations to cooperate and concentrate against extremists.
Narcoterrorist organizations such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, use drugs to finance anti-government attacks. FARC, however, has been significantly degraded, said U.S. officials in Colombia, to the point where "there is no portion of the country where Colombian forces cannot go now."
This was not the case a few short years ago. There were huge swathes of land that FARC dominated. The government could not exercise sovereignty in those places, and the FARC was free to plan further operations and train recruits in these areas.
But now the Marxist group cannot use these areas as havens, recruiting grounds or launch points for operations, officials said.
It is important for the region's nations to cooperate. "We need to be partners in this fight (against terror)," Myers said, responding to a reporter's question on Venezuela, which has considered buying 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles from Russia. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a March visit to South America had said such a deal would not bode well for the Western Hemisphere.
"In this region that all countries need to be fighting the same threat," Myers said. "You can't have various countries disturbing the stability in ways that are not helpful.
"It's like Iraq. You can't have neighbors in Iraq - in this case Syria and Iran - that are not helping stability."
U.S. trainers have helped in part through Plan Colombia - the long-term Colombian plan to combat narcoterrorists, ensure stability and provide a safe and prosperous climate for its citizens. Under Plan Colombia, the United States financed around $700 million worth of programs. The plan ends later this year, but President Bush has already promised to continue U.S. support to Colombia.
It has made a difference, the chairman said. "Having been here now three times ... it's been fascinating to watch how the Colombian military has matured and improved its ability to take on the fight it takes on today," he said.
There was never a doubt about the "courage enthusiasm or the loyalty" of the Colombian military, Myers noted. "The help that we've been able to provide in terms of training and equipment has enabled them to be even better."
He said that it is important to remember that many miles from Bogota, "Colombian soldiers are fighting in challenging environments to try and provide a secure country.