Despite restrictions, U.S. forces training Colombian troops
In this story:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It's "no secret" that U.S. special forces troops have been
conducting training exercises with Colombian soldiers fighting drug traffickers,
the Pentagon said Monday.
Responding to a Washington Post report that the training program avoids
restrictions on general military aid, the spokesman, Col. Dick Bridges, said the
exercises are "completely legal and reported to Congress each year, as required by
The restrictions were imposed by the Clinton administration in response to
Colombia's human rights and drug-fighting record.
While not forbidden, the training involving hundreds of American troops each year
has allowed the U.S. military to play a more direct and autonomous role in
Colombia than officials publicly have indicated, the paper said.
Bridges said the training was authorized under a 1991 law known as JCET (Joint
Combined Exchange Training) that permits U.S. Special Forces to train in other
countries if the training is designed primarily to benefit the U.S. troops.
JCET does not come under State Department restrictions on military aid to
countries with record of human rights abuses.
While not secret, the training in Colombia has been sensitive enough that few in
Congress are aware of it and the exercises have been suspended this month as
Colombia holds presidential elections, the Post said.
The same program was invoked for U.S. troops to conduct 41 training exercises with
Indonesia over the past seven years even though many members of Congress believed
they had cut military ties with that country, the newspaper said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen suspended the Indonesia program two weeks ago
because of turmoil there.
On Saturday, the Post reported that the Pentagon has suspended indefinitely
contacts with Indonesia's military because of suspicions some of its special
forces may have been involved in the disappearances of Indonesian political
The Pentagon has had "no comment" on that report.
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.