U.S. Could Send Military Advisers to Peru, Bolivia, Drug Czar Says

From a Times Staff Writer

The Bush Administration is prepared to dispatch U.S. military advisers and trainers to Peru and Bolivia to join their war against drugs, William J. Bennett, national drug control policy director, said Sunday.

“You see now in Colombia the presence of American trainers working with Colombians giving advice, training them on equipment. This is the kind of thing we’d anticipate if Peru and Bolivia take the same steps,” Bennett said on ABC’s “This Week with David Brinkley.”

He added: “There is no plan for any Special Forces to accompany troops in Peru or Bolivia into combat missions.”

A White House spokesman later added that sending U.S. troops into potentially volatile situations alongside South American anti-narcotics forces is not an issue since none of the nations concerned have requested American combat troops.

Bennett said that a small unit of U.S. Special Forces that has been training Colombian troops for the last two years is currently deployed in “safe areas.” But he conceded: “It’s a dangerous environment. They’re not going to seek out combat or conflict, and we just all hope that nothing befalls them.”