The Clinton administration is deadlocked over how much military aid to give Colombia in its losing war against 25,000 narco-guerrillas. The State Department is pushing for $1 billion to, among other things, train and equip some 10,000 Colombian troops for counter narcotics operations.
The Pentagon suspects that $1 billion is a political number intended to deflect Republican criticisms that the administration is not doing enough in the war against drugs. The Pentagon wants to spend only $200 million.
The only thing everybody can agree on is that Colombia is facing what drug czar Barry McCaffrey calls a disaster. "The situation is changing rapidly for the worse. There have been three nationwide offenses against the police and the armed forces in the last year," he said.
The guerrillas control 40 percent of the countryside, much of it remote jungle where new fields for growing coca are being cleared every day. The U.S. military is currently training a single battalion of about 900 troops along with a handful of Marines who patrol the rivers. But they are powerless to stop the flow of cocaine. The Pentagon is offering to train two additional counter narcotics battalions, but argues the Colombian military is simply too corrupt to be trusted with large amounts of aid.
The Pentagon is also reluctant to increase the number of U.S. military trainers in Colombia for fear they too will be corrupted by the huge amounts of money to be made in the drug trade.