AT GEORGE W. BUSH'S Crawford, Texas, ranch last Thursday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told President Bush he needs more U.S. aircraft to replace losses in his country's war against narco-terrorism. According to sources, Bush turned to State Department officials and said every effort should be made to give Colombia whatever it needs. Implicitly, he was asking: Why aren't the Colombians getting all they need?
The pressing need is additional aircraft to pursue drug eradication. Over 10 years, some 40 planes with U.S. titles have been lost. Aircraft significantly damaged or destroyed in recent battles with Colombia's FARC guerrillas include at least one Black Hawk helicopter, several Huey II helicopters and some fixed-wing spray planes.
Uribe's requests to visiting members of Congress are specific. To equip an additional aerial drug eradication base will require four Air Tractor fumigation planes, six Huey II helicopters and two Black Hawk helicopters — costing $120 million. The wish list also calls for two patrol and intercept aircraft, with associated radar equipment, for the Colombian Navy, at a cost of $22 million. Finally, an extra $5 million is needed to extend the Colombian National Police's (CNP) intelligence intercept program.