Remember When Our Leaders Said They Wanted to Turn Afghanistan Into Colombia?

by Joshua Foust on 2/5/2010 · 4 comments

(A common theme on

Most recently, the Foreign Minister of Colombia said, on his way out the door to attend the London Conference on Afghanistan, that he hoped NATO officials would look to Colombia for an example of how to properly fight a narco-insurgency.

Ignoring the rather significant problem that FARC is not an Islamist resistance movement and has a dissimilar set of motivating beliefs and history, recent news still doesn’t exactly make the prospect of exporting Colombia to Afghanistan look like a good idea: there are growing reports of armed militia groups terrorizing the countryside, for example. And there are also increasing reports of government corruption leading to more support for the resistance.

There are armed resistance groups in 24 of Colombia’s 32 provinces. They are committing “egregious abuses and terrorizing the civilian population in ways all too reminiscent of the AUC,” according to a report by Human Rights Watch, referring to the federation of paramilitary groups called the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia that demobilized more than 30,000 men between 2003 and 2006.

So if Colombia cannot properly demobilize its militias, and it cannot ease government corruption to an extent that it doesn’t actively drive support for the resistance, and it cannot meaningfully affect the drug-derived income of those resistance groups except to drive up their profits… why do we keep looking here for answers?

Colombia is only an example of what not to do in Afghanistan. We should seek to avoid, not emulate, its recent history.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Colin Cookman February 5, 2010 at 11:06 am
Joshua Foust February 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Le hooray! I wonder if he’ll be able to comment on the data indicating everything we’ve done for his country has made it worse off!

Toryalay Shirzay February 6, 2010 at 12:34 am

This involvement of Colombia in matters relating to the war in Afstan is raising a red flag,a serious red flag!Whoever is scheming this nonsense should be aware they will not fool everyone all the time.New york times,Wash.Post or somebody with guts dig this.Hey you out there.

Chacha Barak February 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I do not understand why the foreign minister of Colombia would say he wants to teach NATO officials how to fight a narco insurgency. Colombia has been fighting the same problem for almost 50 years and it still the same. He should keep his mouth closed.

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