Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Afghanistan's Colombia connection

The Afghan press has an interesting dispatch on burgeoning relations between Afghanistan and Colombia:

Jawad seeks Colombia's support on terror, narcotics
By Lalit K Jha

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Pajhwok) - Afghan Ambassador to the US Said T Jawad on Tuesday met the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez to expand security and development cooperation between the two countries.

Jawad, who also holds the charge of the Afghan Ambassador to Colombia, sought Colombia's help in fighting both terrorism and counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan.

We need Colombia's assistance with deployment of your special forces to help us fight terrorism, as well as training our counter-narcotics police and the Afghan National Army's counter-narcotics battalion, Jawad specifically requested President Uribe.

He also asked for establishment of a longer-term institutional relationship between Afghanistan's Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Colombia's Accion Social** program implemented by the Office of the President of Colombia.

A key feature of Accion Social is its Center for Coordination of Integrated Action, which delivers timely integrated assistance to the affected populations in remote regions of Colombia.

Jawad also requested Colombia's assistance with establishing a Counter-Narcotics Police Academy at Afghanistans Ministry of Interior, which he said would immensely help improve governance and the rule of law in the country.

President Uribe responded positively...

Colombian National Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva Lujan and Vice-Minister for Policy and International Affairs Sergio Jaramillo Caro invited Jawad to visit a region of Meta, which until a few years ago was under the firm control of narco-terrorists... (link)
Earlier speculation about this budding relationship was reported this past spring in the Washington Post:
[After numerous failed eradication programs] Colombia's government may have found a remedy palatable to a Democratic-led U.S. Congress not only interested in emphasizing social development over military aid for this country but also looking for solutions to consider in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is entrenched and drug crops are flourishing.

The plan underway here is an ambitious state-building effort designed to incorporate a once-forgotten region into the legitimate economy by bringing in police and courts, paving roads, improving schools and offering farm aid. The idea is to provide broad incentives for farmers in this town in the southern state of Meta to stay put and grow legal crops.

Colombian authorities are working to duplicate the plan in five other drug-infested regions, and U.S. officials say it could work in other conflict zones far from Colombia.

The results here are promising: From 2007 to 2008, coca production fell 75 percent in a quadrant of the southern state of Meta that is bigger than Rhode Island, Colombian authorities say. With most hamlets around Vista Hermosa pledging to cooperate in exchange for help, eradication efforts have accelerated this year and the amount of coca here is now negligible... (link)
One doesn't need to be a close follower of Colombian affairs to know that the offer of a US-backed "Colombian solution" to any problem is not likely to be a solution at all. While rates of violence were dropping throughout Latin America (from a US-tutored peak in the 80's), Colombia's were soaring in the 1990's as that country became the Americans' number one aid recipient in the hemisphere.

Mentioned in both articles above as a model for the new anti-drug approach, the Colombian department of Meta, where Calgary-based Petrobank has operations, is also soon to host an American air force base for at least a decade. (Similarly, the US is making itself at home in Afghanistan with a booming mega-base near Kabul.) The back story of Meta department's pacification includes the assassination of virtually all of the leftist Patriotic Union's city councilors in the 1980's after that party had successes at the ballot box. Assassinations of other subversives like human rights activists was next on the repressive agenda, led by government and military officials and carried out by right wing death squads. American training for Colombian military units in the area soon followed. The area was also considered the home of the FARC and still hosts that group's most feared units.

** On the Colombian government's Accion Social, here's Human Rights Watch:
The report [by the Colombian government's Monitoring Commission on Public Policy for IDPs] notes that the reports of displacement caused by paramilitaries in the official information system have been dropping "probably because, among other factors, of the difficulties that have arisen in the process of registration…due to the paramilitary demobilization process…[because] as has been reported by many organizations… some Territorial Units (TUs) of Acción Social began to systematically refuse to register persons and homes who reported that paramilitaries were responsible for their displacement. According to the reports about the situation, the TUs were operating on the assumption that since the paramilitaries [are] demobilized, [they] could not be accused of having caused the displacement." (link)
Narco News also reports that Accion Social does not record pesticide spraying as a reason for displacement.

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