Colombia Ready To Send Troops To Afghanistan

By Dialogo
February 15, 2010



Colombia is ready to contribute troops to the NATO-led security force in
Afghanistan, the Andean nation's defense minister said here.

"We have negotiations underway with the Afghanistan government to guarantee
the immunity of our soldiers, an immunity equivalent to that enjoyed by soldiers
from other countries participating in the anti-terrorist effort in Afghanistan,"
Gabriel Silva told reporters in the U.S. capital.

"That is the only obstacle still pending," Silva said as he was leaving a
meeting with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) during his week-long state visit to
Washington.

The minister offered no details about how many Colombian soldiers would be
sent to Afghanistan or when they would go, though he did say they would take part in
tasks related "clearing minefields, humanitarian aid, training special forces and
fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan."

Silva said that Colombia has in force more than 150 collaboration pacts in
the fields of security and defense, and is also taking part in a number of
international forums to do with humanitarian aid and development, as is the case
with earthquake-stricken Haiti.

He said that "the responsibility of collaborating with other countries is
inherent to being part of the international community," and if Colombia "wants to
receive support, solidarity and cooperation, it has to give them as
well."

The deployment of Colombian troops, he said, will be done at "the first
window of opportunity that comes up" after the international judicial and logistical
matters are settled.

The Colombian soldiers will join the more than 80,000 military personnel
serving with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the defense
minister said.

Silva began a visit to Washington on Monday to lobby Congress and the U.S.
government for the continuity of U.S. aid in the counter-narcotics initiative known
as Plan Colombia and the approval of a bilateral trade pact negotiated during the
Bush administration.

Under Plan Colombia, Washington has provided nearly $7 billion in mainly
military aid to Bogota since 2000. Chris Dodd is one of several prominent senators
who have called for a re-evaluation of the program, citing human rights abuses and
the lack of impact on the street price of cocaine.
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