Colombia To Aid U.S. In Taliban Fight

lara logan colombia colombian elite taliban

U.S. forces are about to get some much-needed help as they fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan in an exclusive report. The Colombian commandos are U.S. trained and battle-tested from having defeated terrorists in their own country.

Ten years ago, they didn't even exist. Today, elite Colombian Special Operations troops are preparing to fight alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

For Colombia, it's a way to give something back to the U.S., and the American Green Berets who've spent the last decade training them.

General Freddy Padilla de Leon, Colombia's top military man, chose an interview with Logan to make the surprise announcement his men would join the fight in Afghanistan.

"Very soon ... Maybe in August or September. This will be our first opportunity in our history," Padilla said.

Colombia's recent history is written in blood. An insurgency waged by leftist guerillas known as the FARC. And funded with drug money brought Colombia to its knees.

Colombia today is a different world. The economy is thriving and order has been restored.

U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield told Logan that kidnappings and terrorist attacks are down dramatically.

So what changed? Over $6 billion in U.S. aid, a committed Colombian government and a small team of Green Berets from 7th Group Special Forces.

"We don't have secrets - we are a very open book," General Padilla said of the relationship between Colombia and U.S. Special Forces.

The relationship took years to build with the Green Berets working to turn Colombia's best soldiers into an organized special operations force.

They helped train a police Special Operations unit known as the "Jungle Commandos." The Commandos hit targets deep in the jungle, destroying drug labs and taking out the top drug lords.

With the help of America's best warriors, the Colombian Special Forces have become some of the finest soldiers in the world. And they've used their skills to devastating effect against their enemy in the jungle, breaking the back of a 45-year-old insurgency.

Colombia's military has cut the area where the F.A.R.C. Can operate from almost half the country ten years ago down to just five percent today.

They've had less success in the drug war. Cocaine production was down 28 percent last year, according to the U.N.

But Colombia remains the world's top cocaine producer. Its rivers are a super highway for drug and arms trafficking - and the next target in the Special Operations war.

Colombia's army enjoys soaring popularity among the people. Still critics point out the military has been implicated in the killing and disappearance of civilians.

Colonel Greg Wilson knows from experience how advanced Colombia's top units now are. He was the senior U.S. Special Operations commander there when three U.S. hostages were rescued by the Colombian Special Operations Forces last summer.

"I would rank it as one of the top special operations in modern day history," Wilson said.

Ambassador Brownfield says Colombia is the best investment of U.S. taxpayer money this century.

"It has been the most successful nation building exercise that the U.S.A. has associated itself with perhaps over the last 25-30 years," Brownfield said.

The U.S. is looking to Colombia as it struggles to make headway in Afghanistan.

As one top U.S. official said: "The more Afghanistan can look like Colombia, the better."