Pentagon: Colombia “good model” for Afghan drug war

The Western Hemisphere’s worst human rights abuser by a mile (and, not coincidentally, closest US ally) is a “good model” for what Washington hopes to build in Afghanistan. The Afghans must be very comforted. From Reuters, Jan. 19 (emphasis added):

BOGOTA – Colombia’s U.S.-backed fight against drug traffickers and armed groups could be a good model for Afghanistan to follow in its effort to battle illegal narcotics, a top U.S. general said on Friday.

Financed by millions of dollars in U.S. aid, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has pushed back left-wing rebels, demobilized thousands of rightist militia and sought to tackle the huge cocaine trade that helps fuel the Andean country’s conflict.

Afghanistan, where Washington is helping President Hamid Karzai battle insurgents and the drug trade since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, has already sought security advice and training from Bogota.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Afghanistan could learn from how Colombia has taken back parts of the country once under control of armed groups, invested in social projects and disarmed illegal paramilitaries.

I think those kinds of outreach programs by the Colombian government are good models for President Karzai to consider as he looks at how to reduce the amount of drug trafficking in his country and promote instability,” he told reporters in Bogota.

The White House this week appointed current U.S. ambassador to Bogota, William Wood, as its new envoy to Afghanistan.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told reporters Bogota has trained more than 100 Afghan security officials and sent missions from its National Police force to Kabul.

Afghanistan’s allies fear the country’s poppy crop — used to make opium and heroin — helps finance the hard-line Islamist Taliban.

Opium production and trafficking make up a third of the Afghan economy and security problems and corruption hamper their eradication, the U.S. State Department said last year.

See our last posts on Colombia, Afghanistan and the new Afghan opium war.