Gates Arrives in Colombia to Expand on Security Successes
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BOGOTA, April 14, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here this evening to offer congratulations and support for Colombia’s progress in the fight against its insurgency and the lessons it is sharing with its neighbors in the region.Video
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, right, is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William R. Brownfield after the secretary’s arrival in Bogota, April 14, 2010. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gates, who traveled here from Peru, is slated to meet with President Alvaro Uribe and Defense Minister Gabriel Silva Luján to discuss progress in the offensive against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia and other paramilitary groups.
The secretary also plans to praise Colombia for the training it already provides the Peruvians and Mexicans, and seek ways to expand it in the region.
“They face similar types of problems with insurgents and narcotics and crime, so figuring out how we can further help them in their own efforts and also in their cooperation with one another is an important opportunity,” Gates told reporters traveling with him.
“[The Colombians] clearly have learned some very important lessons in terms of counterinsurgency,” Gates said, as well as the benefit of both military and civil approaches to address not just the threat, but also its root causes. “This is really about more than just military-to-military relationships in these countries.”
The Colombian military also has learned valuable lessons in the human rights arena that could be helpful to Peru and other neighbors, Gates said.
This broad expertise could have big payoff beyond the region, including Afghanistan. Colombia has provided training for Afghan police forces, and Gates noted that it plans to send a contingent to Afghanistan to support of the International Security Assistance Force there.
While highlighting successes of the U.S.-funded Plan Colombia, Gates’ talks here are expected to forge new ground in advancing a new defense cooperation agreement. The U.S.-Colombian Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed in October, formalized the military-to-military relationship between the two countries to better address narcotics production and trafficking, terrorism, illicit smuggling and humanitarian and natural disasters.
The meeting is expected to be Gates’ last with Uribe before the Colombian president leaves office in August. Gates said he’ll take the opportunity to acknowledge Uribe’s leadership in confronting his country’s challenges.
“Uribe, in my view, is a great hero and has been an enormously successful president of Colombia,” Gates told reporters. “The key … will be to consolidate the achievements, and particularly our partnership, on an enduring basis so that this relationship continues to thrive and grow after President Uribe leaves office.”