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Cablegate: Nas Monthly Report April 2005: Aerial Eradication

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BOGOTA 004806

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR INL/RM, INL/LP
DEPT FOR WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR SENV KCRM PTER CO
SUBJECT: NAS Monthly Report April 2005: Aerial Eradication
at Record Levels

REF: (A) Bogota 3914

1. (SBU) Summary: In April, the Colombian National Police
(CNP) spray program eradicated 16,153 hectares of coca. The
CNP destroyed 10 cocaine HCL labs and seized 10.5 metric
tons of cocaine and coca base, and 94 kilos of heroin. U.S.
and Plan Colombia assets assisted the police in heavy
fighting against FARC forces in Toribio, Cauca Department.

Eradication and Interdiction
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Eradication: During the month of April, OV-10s
operating from San Jose del Guaviare, and later Apiay, Meta
Department, sprayed approximately 3,334 hectares; AT-802s
operating from Tumaco, Narino Department, sprayed
approximately 9,884 hectares of coca. T-65s operating from
Neiva, Huila Department, and Mariquita, Tolima Department,
sprayed 115 hectares of poppy and 2,935 hectares of coca.
In total, CNP aircraft sprayed approximately 16,153 hectares
of coca during the month of April. In 2005, the CNP
eradication program has sprayed more than 74,361 hectares of
coca and 936 hectares of poppy. This is well ahead of last
year's record setting pace.

3. (SBU) Armed narco-terrorists fired on eradication and
COLAR aircraft 13 times in April, striking the aircraft 26
times. The insurgents struck the fixed wing AT-802's one
time, T-65's three times, and OV-10's five times. They also
hit rotary wing Huey UH-1N aircraft twice, Plan Colombia
Program UH-1N helicopters seven times, and the UH-1H-II and
UH-60 helicopters four times each.

4. (SBU) During April, COLAR Plan Colombia helicopters
continued to support CD Brigade troops and eradication
operations in Larandia, Caqueta Department, Tumaco, Narino
Department, Apiay, Meta Department, and Neiva, Huila
Department, as well as training operations in Tolemaida.
Plan Colombia helicopters transported 2,589 passengers and
160,545 pounds of cargo during 1,880 flight hours. Twenty-
six patients required 60 hours of flight time for medical
evacuations.

5. (SBU) On April 15, the Colombian Army received two UH-60
and four UH-1H-II helicopters to protect the 174 kilometers
of petroleum pipeline in Arauca Department under the
Infrastructure Security Strategy Program. NAS recently
completed a construction project in Saravena, Arauca
Department, to support both aerial eradication operations
and the Infrastructure Security Strategy Program. NAS is
expecting delivery of four additional UH-1H-II helicopters
in the near future.

6. (SBU) On April 29, Plan Colombia helicopters supported a
joint Colombian Army/National Police medical evacuation 60
miles from Tumaco, Narino Department. After an attack by
armed insurgents on a small National Police outpost in the
area, five wounded police officers required evacuation.
Unfortunately, a sixth police officer died prior to the
evacuation.

7. (SBU) NAS Aviation Unit (NAU) began a 10-day maintenance
stand-down during the last week of April to improve the
availability of the OV-10 fleet. During this stand-down
period, all personnel attended refresher safety classes and
aircrews and search and rescue personnel received additional
survival and evasion training.

8. (SBU) During April, the NAS Aviation Unit met with
personnel from U.S. Southern Command to discuss deploying
U.S. Air Force tactical weather sensors to forward operating
locations. These sensors are expected to provide real-time
weather reports to aircrews and improve SOUTHCOM's weather
forecasting capabilities.

9. (SBU) Interdiction: In April, the CNP destroyed 10
cocaine HCl labs and seized almost 10.5 Metric Tons of
cocaine HCl, coca base, and 94 kilos of heroin. In 2005,
the CNP has seized more than 26 metric tons of Cocaine HCl
and destroyed 63 Cocaine HCl laboratories.

10. (SBU) On April 1, the DIRAN Northern Zone Task Force
assaulted an AUC camp near Aguachica, Cesar Department.
DIRAN captured three armed AUC members, but the AUC leader
reportedly hiding there escaped. DIRAN destroyed a cocaine
HCL laboratory and equipment cache only a mile from this
armed terrorist camp. The next day DIRAN discovered and
destroyed another nearby AUC cocaine HCL lab and three
precursor storage sites.

11. (SBU) On April 5, DIRAN conducted an air assault on
another AUC camp, 30 miles west of Bogota. The DIRAN
assault force captured 12 armed and uniformed AUC members
and various automatic weapons. The next day DIRAN destroyed
two more AUC cocaine HCL labs near Mariquita, Tolima
Department.

12. (SBU) On April 14, the FARC attacked the 82-man Police
Station in Toribio, Cauca Department, killing two policemen
and wounding six others. (see reftel) Toribio is one of 158
municipalities supported by the "Police Reestablishment in
Conflictive Zones" project in which the police are equipped
with U.S. provided M16's, M60 Machine Guns, sandbags,
radios, frequency scanners, and ammunition. The FARC killed
one civilian, wounded 27 others, destroyed 18 houses, and
partially damaged 120 more. The Colombian National Police,
Air Force, and Army forces re-established control of the
town in joint operations lasting several days. U.S.-trained
and equipped units played a key role in the GOC reaction to
armed assaults against civilians.

DIRAN Base Defense
------------------

13. (SBU) DIRAN base defense upgrades continued in
Villagarzon and San Miguel, both in Putumayo Department, and
Toribio, Cauca Department. The CNP school in Espinal
trained 31 DIRAN policemen and presidential security
personnel in a nine-week explosives disposal and
implementation course. DIRAN HQ at El Dorado established a
temporary night vision goggle (NVG) repair facility. This
facility allows the CNP to conduct depot level repairs on
NVGs. In addition, 48 CNP police officers departed for
various training courses in the United States.

Law Enforcement
---------------

14. (SBU) The Carabinero squadrons (EMCAR) continue to
provide security for the major lines of transportation and
communication across areas of conflict throughout Colombia.
The Cauca squadron was one of the first units to react,
along with DIRAN Junglas, to the attack on Toribio, and
played a significant role in clearing the FARC from inside
the town. The Narino Squadron had one police officer killed
in action and five others wounded in fighting at El Palmar,
Narino Department. Helicopters from a joint eradication and
COLAR operation evacuated the casualties and provided
gunship support to the carabinero unit.

15. (SBU) In the first quarter of CY05 EMCAR squadrons
captured 1,551 people: 92 narco-traffickers, 181 FARC/ELN,
98 AUC, and 1,180 common criminals, plus 718 weapons, 13,052
gallons of liquid cocaine chemical precursors, 16,596
kilograms of solid precursors, and 691 kilograms cocaine
base. The squadrons had 5 police officers killed in action
and 32 wounded during the first quarter and killed 8
terrorists (1 ELN, 3 FARC and 4 AUC). Additionally, the
EMCAR manually eradicated 57 hectares of poppy and 879
hectares of coca plants.

Joint Exercises
---------------

16. (SBU) U.S. organizations supported the joint Firewall
Exercise II in Santa Marta. Colombian participants included
personnel and equipment from the Colombian Navy, Coast
Guard, DIRAN, and Colombian Air Force. All exercises
focused on the disruption of cocaine fast boat shipments and
testing USG provided communications systems.

CNP Aviation (ARAVI)
--------------------

17. (SBU) In April, the three largest components of ARAVI's
fleet clocked 1,364 mission hours: The UH-1H helicopters
flew 702 mission hours with an operational readiness (O.R.)
rate of 48 percent. Twenty eight percent of the helicopters
required depot level major structural repairs. Bell 212
helicopters flew 341 mission hours with an operational
readiness rate of 71 percent, and UH-60 helicopters flew 321
mission hours with an operational readiness rate of 59
percent. A combination of fuel leaks and battle damage
contributed to this unusually low O.R. rate. ARAVI aircraft
also provided gun-ship and intelligence support for attacks
on cocaine-processing labs and the joint reaction to the
armed terrorist attacks on the village of Toribio, Cauca
Department.

Public Security
---------------
18. (SBU) The GOC is planning 11 new medium and maximum-
security prisons. The prison design group traveled to the
U.S. to speak with U.S. BOP design experts and looked at a
variety of different designs of US prisons that could be
suitable for Colombia. The Bureau of Prisons representative
attended meetings with senior Ministry of Justice officials
to discuss design and management changes in the Colombian
prison system that may be necessary when using modern prison
facilities.

Air Bridge Denial
------------------------------
19. (SBU) No Air Bridge Denial events occurred during April.
CNP followed 4003 aircraft tracks over Colombia; 32 were
declared Unidentified, Assumed Suspect (UAS). The GOC
reacted to 15 UAS contacts. One was subsequently identified
as friendly, another reached international waters before
phase I could be started, and the other 13 could not be
intercepted. The GOC did not react to 17 UAS: Due to bad
weather, the suspect reached international borders, old
information, the contact was later identified as friendly,
or the contact was out of range.


Environment
-----------
20. (SBU) In April the spray complaints group received 44
new complaints, completed 30 complaint investigations, and
paid no complaints. The GOC reached an accord with
indigenous tribal leaders and gained permission to conduct
eradication on indigenous reservations in the southern
department of Guaviare and in the northern part of Colombia,
though no operations are currently planned. The GOC needs
more consultations between tribal leaders and the GOC to
gain nationwide access to coca fields currently in protected
reservations. The Colombian Congress is conducting debates
on aerial eradication in the national parks.

WOOD

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