Wednesday, November 4, 2009

U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement

In July, Colombia's defense, interior and foreign relations ministers gave a press conference confirming that the United States was negotiating an agreement to establish U.S. military presence at seven military bases in Colombia. Immediately following the announcement, backlash erupted throughout the region and South American leaders voiced their concern to both the Uribe Administration in Colombia and the Obama Administration in the United States. In response to much of the criticism and concern, Colombian President Uribe said he would make the final text of the agreement public as soon as it was available.

After the agreement was signed last Friday, the Colombian State Council "found that the agreement gives the US the power to decide what operations will occur, gives immunity to US troops, allows access to bases beyond the 7 bases named in the agreement, and defers the most important questions about military operations to future 'operational agreements.'"

Yesterday, the Uribe government finally published the full text of the agreement. Below are excerpts from the text covering many of the Colombian State Council's concerns. The entire agreement can be read in English here and in Spanish here (PDF).

Article III: Goal of Cooperation and Technical Assistance in Defense and Security

1. ... the Parties agree to deepen their cooperation in areas such as interoperability, joint procedures, logistics and equipment, training and instruction, intelligence exchanges, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, combined exercises, and other mutually agreed activities, in order to address common threats to peace, stability, freedom, and democracy.
....

Article IV: Access, Use, and Ownership of Agreed Facilities and Locations

1. The Government of Colombia, consistent with its domestic law, shall cooperate with the United States to carry out mutually agreed activities within the framework of this Agreement by continuing to allow access to and use of its facilities at: ... (lists 7 bases); and by allowing access to and use of other facilities and locations as may be agreed by the Parties or their Executive Agents. To that end, the Executive Agents shall establish a coordinating mechanism that authorizes the number and category of the persons (United States personnel, United States contractors, United States contractor employees, and aircraft riders), and the type and quantity of equipment, so as not to exceed the capacity of the agreed facilities and locations.

2. The authorities of Colombia shall, without rental or similar costs to the United States, allow access to and use of the agreed facilities and locations, and easements and rights of way, owned by Colombia that are necessary to support activities carried out within the framework of this Agreement, including agreed construction. The United States shall cover all necessary operations and maintenance expenses associated with its use of agreed facilities and locations.
....

Article VII: Respect for Domestic Law

United States personnel and their dependents shall respect Colombian laws and shall abstain from any activity incompatible with such laws and this Agreement....

Article VIII: Status of Personnel

1. ... Colombia shall grant United States personnel and their dependents the privileges, exemptions, and immunities accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention.

2. With regard to Colombian military personnel present in the United States to carry out activities related to bilateral cooperation within the framework of this Agreement ... The United States shall extend to the aforementioned Colombian military personnel courtesies ordinarily available to United States military personnel of similar rank, to the maximum extent permitted by United States law.
...

5. The appropriate authorities of the United States shall give sympathetic consideration to a request for a waiver of immunity in cases that the authorities of Colombia consider to be of particular importance.

The description of the activities allowed within the terms of the agreement is broad - covering just about any threat or mission necessary during the ten-year span of the agreement. However, a Pentagon document released by the Colombian news magazine Semana gives more details on the motives behind the United States' desire to have a forward operating location at the Palanquero air base in Colombia, one of the seven bases included in the Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Below are some excerpts from the document, which is the budget justification for the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction Program submitted to Congress by the U.S. Air Force in May 2009. The entire document can be found here.

Mission of Major Functions: This Cooperative Security Location (CSL) enhances the U.S. Global Defense Posture (GDP) Strategy which directs development of a comprehensive and integrated presence and basing strategy aligned with the principles of developing nations....

...Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters....

Current Situation: Access to Columbia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the Counternarcotics capability. Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Columbia. its central location is within reach of Andean Ridge counter narco-terrorist operations areas; the superb runway and existing airfield facilities will reduce construction costs; its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the U.S. military profile. The intent to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the U.S. ability to respond rapidly to crisis and assure regional access and presence at a minimum cost....

Impact if not provided: ...Not funding this project will limit USSOUTHCOM to four other CSLs which are restricted to supporting aerial counter narcotics missions only and two other locations that, while not mission restricted, are too distant to accommodate mission requirements in the AOR.

...A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand expeditionary warfare capability.