Tuesday, 16 October 2001
U.S. May Use Military in Hemisphere
By Ken Guggenheim
WASHINGTON - The United States will use military force where appropriate to fight terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, the State Department's top anti-terrorism official said Monday.
``Our strategy in this hemisphere is similar to our strategy around the world, and it involves the use of all the elements of our national power as well as the elements of the national power of all the countries in our region,'' said Francis X. Taylor, head of State's Office of Counterterrorism.
Taylor spoke with reporters at the headquarters of the Organization of American States after addressing a closed-door meeting of the group's Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.
He said he discussed U.S. actions following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and offered U.S. support for improving counterterrorism cooperation among the 34 member nations.
Of the 28 terrorist groups identified by the State Department, only four are based in the Western Hemisphere: three in Colombia and one in Peru.
But U.S. officials have stressed the region's importance in fighting terrorism. The long borders with Canada and Mexico offer terrorists the opportunity to sneak into the United States. The ``Triple Border'' region where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet is a focal point for Islamic extremists, according to State.
The State Department has said it is developing a counterterrorist strategy for Colombia and other Andean nations. Taylor declined to provide details, but he said the regional strategy - like the global one - will be based on law enforcement cooperation, intelligence exchanges, blocks on terrorist financing and ``where appropriate - as we are doing in Afghanistan - the use of military power.''
Taylor told lawmakers last week that the Andean counterterrorist strategy would complement last year's .3 billion package to fight drugs in Colombia and an 2 million follow-up package that Congress is considering.
Much of that money is to help the Colombian government fight left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups who partially finance their forces by protecting drug fields and traffickers.
State's list of terrorist organizations includes the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and National Liberation Army, and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
In pushing for the earlier aid packages, U.S. officials stressed that Colombian military aid would be limited to fighting the drug war and the United States would not be drawn into Colombia's 37-year guerrilla war.
Asked if the same distinction would be made between fighting terrorists and fighting guerrillas, Taylor said the three Colombian groups ``get the same treatment as any other terrorist group in terms of our interest in going after them and ceasing their terrorist activities.''
The Peruvian group on State's terrorism list is the Maoist-inspired Shining Path.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press