The U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said that his nation’s use of seven Colombian military bases does not affect other countries in the region, and that the U.S.’s military presence is crucial in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.
Mullen, speaking during a visit to Cartagena on Thursday to celebrate the 75th anniversay of the coastal city’s naval academy, stressed the importance of Washington-Bogota military cooperation and said that U.S. forces’ use of the Colombian military bases – a sensitive issue that has caused controversy in the region – is “an important point” in relations between “the United States, [outgoing Colombian President] Uribe and [President-elect] Santos.”
The U.S. admiral also stressed that the “bases are Colombian” and the U.S. has been given access “to use them with the permission of the leaders of Colombia.” He added that there were no U.S. bases on Colombia soil and that the agreement granting the U.S. increased access to Colombian bases was merely an extension of a pre-existing military pact.
Mullen reiterated that military cooperation between Colombia and the U.S. does not affect any other countries, adding that “without this collaboration Colombia, alone, would find it very difficult to combat drug trafficking.”
The U.S. official recognized the positive changes that Colombian has undergone in the last few years and reiterated U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration’s commitment to “military cooperation” with Bogota.
Mullen said that the U.S.’s military presence in Colombia “is decreasing” but sited the seizure of a one ton haul of cocaine Wednesday, as an example of the efficacy of U.S.-Colombian collaboration.
Neighboring countries Ecuador and Venezuela have both criticized Colombia’s agreement to grant the U.S. increased military access to bases, saying that the North American military presence undermines regional sovereignty.