U.S. law bars giving Colombians data
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The U.S. military has compiled reams of satellite
photographs and communication intercepts that could aid Colombia in its
revived war against left-wing rebel
terrorists, Bush administration official say.
But a leftover Clinton administration policy (Presidential Decision Directive 73), and an accompanying federal law, is keeping the Pentagon from sharing the vital
intelligence with Colombian President Andres Pastrana and his armed forces.
Pentagon officials, and commanders at U.S. Southern Command, which overseas American military aid in South America, are described as "frustrated" and
"fuming" over the statute that restricts aid to anti-drug efforts.
A senior official said the Bush administration is strictly abiding by the law that restricts intelligence sharing. "No one wants to go to jail," the source said.
The State Department announced last week it was increasing intelligence sharing, but privately officials say the increase has to do with limited "force protection" of
American interests and will do little to help Mr. Pastrana win the war.
"It doesn't address his full needs," said a senior policy-maker. "We have to go 10 miles. This gets them one mile down the road."
Mr. Pastrana last week broke off three years of failed peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. He ordered a wave of air and
ground strikes into what had been a FARC safe haven in southern Colombia after the group hijacked an airliner and kidnapped a senator.
FARC is a U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls much of the country's hugely lucrative cocaine production.
Yesterday, Mr. Pastrana condemned FARC's weekend abduction of a presidential candidate, as his military prepared for a major offensive against the leftist
"Kidnapping members of Congress, now kidnapping a presidential candidate, and kidnapping Colombians is kidnapping democracy," Mr. Pastrana said.
Colombian warplanes are to launch another wave of aerial bombardments "at any moment" in the vast Switzerland-sized region FARC formerly controlled, a
military source told Agence France Presse last night.
The French wire service also reported last night that the site where the rebels are holding Ingrid Betancourt, who was seized Saturday with her campaign manager
after trying to enter a former rebel enclave, has been located.
However, the army canceled a rescue operation so as not to endanger her life, a general said.
The rescue operation was suspended "at the request of Dr. Betancourt's family, who asked that her life not be endangered," said Gen. Roberto Pizarro, the
military commander of the southern Colombian region.
Mr. Pastrana's decision to go after FARC is spurring the Pentagon, State Department and White House to debate whether to significantly expand military aid to
Some Pentagon and military officials want FARC included in President Bush's war on terrorism. They want to scrap PDD 73 so Washington can directly aid the
Colombian military. The State Department is more cautious, but open to the expansion, senior officials said in interviews.
The president's national security advisers are scheduled to meet this week to discuss a change in Colombia policy.
There are no plans to insert U.S. personnel directly into combat. There are today about 250 American service members in Colombia advising the army on
Mr. Pastrana, who leaves office next fall, also has asked Washington for more spare parts for his helicopter fleet, which include U.S.-made Black Hawks.
Colombia is in dire need of more lift capability to get troops and weapons inside the safe haven to attack FARC units.
The Colombian president also has asked Bush officials for what sources termed as "moral and public support" as the country's 38-year civil war heats up again.
But at the top of the list is secret-intelligence sharing. The U.S. military possesses, and can generate daily, photos of FARC troop encampments and movements.
Passed along to Colombian pilots and ground commanders, the images would become invaluable in conducting precision strikes. The United States could also
provide photos of bomb damage to assess whether a strike was a success.
"Right now, we can't tell him how effective he has been," said the senior official.
In addition, intelligence reports based on communications monitoring could tell Colombian commanders FARC's strategy and where to strike next.
Before Bogota decided to strike the safe haven, the Bush administration already had to ask Congress to expand the military's role. It wants lawmakers to approve
$98 million to set up a new Colombian brigade that would protect a critical oil pipeline from persistent rebel attack. If Congress goes along, administration sources
said, the United States may be able to greatly increase intelligence sharing in the name of protecting the pipeline.
The FARC obtains most arms from the world weapons bazaars, and much of it comes from Middle Eastern wholesalers. But administration officials said there is
no evidence that a particular Middle East regime is supporting the leftist rebels.
The Washington Times reported earlier this month that at the same time FARC leaders were negotiating to extend peace talks, they convened a secret summit and
voted to seek the overthrow of the democratically elected government.
Many Bush aides considered the three-year peace process a failure. FARC, enjoying a safe zone guaranteed by Mr. Pastrana, launched strikes from the
sanctuary, increased its army from 10,00 to 17,000 fighters and grew richer from illegal drug production.
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