[sixties-l] Deja Vu? U.S. Green Berets in Colombia

From: Jay Moore (research@neravt.com)
Date: 10/03/00

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    U.S. Troops in Colombia Threatened
    By Andrew Selsky
    Associated Press Writer
    Sunday, Oct. 1, 2000; 4:13 p.m. EDT
    LARANDIA ARMY BASE, Colombia -- U.S. special forces stationed in this
    sprawling army base near large concentrations of leftist guerrillas on
    Sunday faced renewed threats from the insurgents.
    But a general in Colombia said he has sufficient forces to repel any threat
    to the U.S. forces who are training troops in a U.S.-aided drug war.
    Concerns about the safety of the approximately 85 elite American soldiers at
    Larandia were highlighted after Andres Paris, a commander of the
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was quoted as saying that
    "all Colombian or foreign military personnel who are in the combat zones
    will be military targets."
    A general commanding a brigade of 4,800 Colombian troops in this mountainous
    region of jungle and pasture land where troops and rebels frequently clash
    said his force was sufficient to protect the Americans from the FARC. The
    rebels have infiltrated combatants toward the exterior of the base to look
    for weak points, said Col. Julian Villate, the base commander.
    An Associated Press team, the first journalists to visit Larandia since the
    American soldiers arrived two months ago, saw the special forces compound on
    the base but was denied permission by the U.S. Embassy to interview or
    photograph the troops.
    The U.S. Army Green Berets and members of the 720th Special Tactics Group
    from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., are training two counter-narcotics army
    battalions under a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package to this South American
    Paris' comments, posted Thursday in New Colombia News Agency, a web site run
    by FARC supporters and considered a reliable source, echoed previous
    statements by FARC commanders. They did not come as a surprise, said Raul
    Duany, spokesman for the Southern Command, which is in charge of U.S.
    military operations in Latin America.
    "It's nothing we didn't expect or didn't know. It's a very difficult
    situation down there," Duany said over the phone Sunday from the Southern
    Command's headquarters in Miami.
    Duany said under the U.S. troops' rules of engagement, they are authorized
    to fire back if attacked or caught in a cross fire.
    He refused to give specifics on how the military is reacting to Paris'
    statement, but said U.S. forces' security is being constantly evaluated and
    that "drastic protection methods" would be taken if necessary.
    Gen. Javier Arias, commander of the Colombian army's 12th Brigade that
    includes Larandia, insisted that the FARC's 3,000 combatants in the region
    pose no direct threat to the base.
    "We're not worried about security in Larandia," Arias said in an interview
    Friday. "We have troops constantly on the move between the base and where
    the rebels are."
    Larandia is a two-hour drive west of a Switzerland-sized zone ceded by the
    government to the rebels last year in an attempt to push moribund peace
    talks forward. The rebels also have units to the north, west and south of
    the base - the closest 9 miles away, according to Arias.
    The U.S. troops toted loaded weapons whenever they left their compound:
    either an assault rifle or even a pistol tucked into their shorts. They did
    not leave the base itself.
    The special forces, many of them Hispanics, train the Colombian soldiers in
    advanced combat techniques. Except for their insignia, many of the Americans
    are barely distinguishable from their Colombian counterparts.
    When they returned to their compound - a cement building and a cluster of
    large tents dotted with satellite dishes - through an opening in a roll of
    concertina wire, the U.S. troops ejected the loaded clips from their rifles.
    Under President Clinton's aid initiative, the Americans can only train the
    Colombians and are barred from accompanying Colombian troops into combat.
    There have been no reports of fighting in the immediate vicinity since the
    Americans arrived at the base, located below mist-shrouded mountains a
    40-minute drive from the provincial capital of Florencia.
    But in July last year, there was a two-day battle between FARC rebels and
    Colombian soldiers just 3 miles away in which 20 rebels were reportedly
    killed and one government soldier wounded, Villate said.
    There have been other firefights since then, 12 or more miles away, the base
    commander said.
     Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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