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Volume 2  Number  5                        March 10 - 16,  2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Special Operations Military Training Abroad and Its Dangers


by John Rudy and Ivan Eland

Foreign Policy Briefing

Cato Institute

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Executive Summary

In one of the most dramatic shifts in U.S. defense policy since the Cold War, the U.S. military has independently initiated and strengthened military-to-military relationships with a majority of the world’s nations. A prime tool in the construction of this new network is the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, which allows the Pentagon to deploy Special Operations Forces (SOF) anywhere without congressional oversight or public debate. The only requirement for such deployments is that the ostensible primary purpose be the training of U.S. SOF personnel. JCET, however, has clearly become a tool for another purpose: advancing sometimes dubious foreign policy goals.

Although the program has received justified criticism for the human rights violations of some of the foreign troops trained, the grave implications extend beyond human rights issues. Through JCET deployments, the Pentagon is provided the manpower to train and influence foreign militaries and governments, thus effectively carrying out its own mini foreign policy. This autonomous foreign policy risks entangling the United States in petty conflicts and militarizing U.S. relations with other nations. Because some overseas SOF training is necessary, the 1991 JCET law should be repealed and replaced by an explicitly limited program with the exclusive purpose of training SOF personnel.


With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military’s long-standing mission of containing the forces of communism in a highly structured and partitioned world vanished. The last nine years have been spent searching for a new justification for the existence of a worldwide military committed to the defense of far-flung interests and allies. The new post–Cold War national defense strategy reflects the ambiguous present mission of the armed services: “Shape the international environment, respond to the full spectrum of crises, and prepare now for an uncertain future.” 1

Although that rhetoric is characteristically vague, what the new operational philosophy means in practice is now becoming clear. Under the banner of “peacetime engagement,” the U.S. military has embarked on a program of building military-to-military relationships with nations of every description and in every corner of the world. The growing network of informal partnerships and alliances is quietly becoming one of the strongest tools of U.S. foreign and defense policy, yet it is doing so largely outside civilian governmental control and with almost no public or congressional debate.

Those strategically important military-to-military connections are being made through a convoluted mix of military training programs, counter-narcotics programs, anti-terrorism programs, equipment transfers, and education programs. Many of those programs are small and often-unnoticed efforts initiated within the military. The principal U.S. participants in those activities are the Special Operations Forces (SOF), which have come to new prominence in the post–Cold War military.

Enacted in 1986, the Special Operations Command Act established a unified command for all U.S. special operations, including the Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, and Air Force special operations airmen. A Theatre Special Operations Command exists as a subcommand of each Regional Unified Military Command in the world and provides each geographic commander in chief (CINC) with expertise on special forces and operational control of SOF. According to Brig. Gen. John Scales, former deputy commander of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Command, “Our CINCs are being told they have to shape the environment and [SOF are] well suited for that.” 2

The new value placed on SOF capabilities is reflected in an overall greater use of them. In fiscal year 1991 SOF were deployed to 92 countries; by FY97 SOF deployments had expanded to 143 countries. The personnel and budget of the SOF have also grown from 38,000 people and $2.4 billion in 1991 to 47,000 people and $3.4 billion today. 3

The Beginnings of the Joint Combined Exchange Training Program

The Pentagon was “unclear” about whether it was legal for the U.S.-based Special Operations Command, assigned the principal function of preparing and training such forces, to pay for the overseas deployment of SOF for training missions. 4

So, in 1991 Congress enacted sec. 2011 of title 10 of the U.S. Code—hereafter referred to as the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) law. The statute provided the commander of the Special Operations Command with broad authority to pay the deployment and training costs of SOF training abroad with foreign security forces. (The law also allowed the commander to pay “incremental expenses”—such as those of rations, fuel, ammunition, and transportation—of the host country if that nation was unable to pay them.) The authority to conduct such overseas training missions was limited only by the condition that the primary purpose of the missions be the training of U.S. SOF. There was also a requirement that the Defense Department submit an annual report on the previous year’s training operations.

With that broad mandate, Special Operations Command created the JCET program, which has become the format of choice for SOF exercises with foreign militaries. JCET involves small deployments of special operations personnel—sometimes fewer than a dozen troops—that conduct exercises jointly with foreign security forces to train the participants in a variety of areas that “sharpen critical SOF mission essential task list . . . skills and enhance host-nation skills.” 5

The training activities consist primarily of small-unit training but frequently include operations tailored specifically to the needs of the host nation. Consequently, JCET missions can include everything from small-boat handling to urban warfare. Both the Pentagon and the Special Operations Command value JCET highly.

They argue that because SOF require sophisticated skills—including knowledge of foreign cultures and languages as well as experience in foreign terrain and climates—such overseas training and exposure to foreign peoples is essential. Although they always maintain that the training of SOF is the primary purpose (as required by law), defense officials quickly identify all of the added “benefits” or “byproducts” of the program. JCET, according to the Pentagon, enhances the skills of the host nation’s forces, forges lasting relations with foreign officials, helps teach the proper role of the military in civil society, and increases the influence of the United States in the participating countries. 6

The JCET Program’s “Other” Purposes

In reality, the JCET program has changed from the pure military training program spelled out by the law to a program the primary purpose of which is now the advancement of those foreign policy “byproducts,” as well as various other U.S. interests and policies. Even the Pentagon’s “Report on Training of Special Operations Forces” for 1997—the required annual report submitted to Congress—admits, “SOF unit training is a significant, relatively low cost tool in the strategy of engagement.” 7

The sheer geographic scale of the program renders ridiculous any claim that the primary purpose of the program is to train U.S. soldiers. It is legitimate for the Pentagon to train its SOF in actual deserts or jungles and give them exposure to foreign cultures, but to have SOF missions in almost every developing nation in the world — when so many are geo-graphically and culturally similar — clearly demonstrates the priorities of the program. For example, in 1997 the special forces conducted JCET deployments in all six Central American countries and conducted multiple deployments in three of the six nations. In FY97 there were 231 deployments in 100 countries (see Appendix). 8

The Pentagon is quick to point to the small budget ($15.2 million) of the JCET program as proof of great value for tax dollars and the relative insignificance of the program. Both those claims are misleading. The allocated budget pays only the expenses of the military training operations themselves. Costs for transportation, personnel, and much of the equipment are not included in the $15.2 million. Furthermore, it is rather bold to call any program that annually deploys over 4,500 U.S. troops worldwide insignificant. 9

A somewhat more accurate, but relentlessly euphemistic, description of JCET’s purposes and importance comes from an article on the Pacific Command’s version of the program. Lt. Col. Ralph Saner and Sgt. First Class Dan Poulos write, [Special Operations Command, Pacific’s] Joint/Combined Exchange Training program is prepared to move into appropriate emerging mission areas to help fill new training needs in the Asia-Pacific region. The JCET program serves several purposes which are increasingly important in promoting cooperative operations with Asia-Pacific nations. JCETs act as a force multiplier in support of the host nation’s goal of training its forces. JCETs expand the host nation’s capabilities to react to situations requiring exceptional sensitivity, including non-combat missions such as humanitarian assistance, security assistance, and peace operations. JCETs are the stepping stones to the future, providing participating nations with capabilities that extend their vision beyond the battlefield, increasing their flexibility, enhancing their effectiveness for maintaining already existent high training standards, and gaining experience not available through other programs. 10

Nowhere does this description mention what is supposed to be the primary purpose of the program—the training of U.S. SOF. In other words, JCET is, at best, an easy source of funding for SOF deployments to advance the Pentagon’s version of U.S. interests and policy in a nation or a region. At worst, JCET provides the U.S. military a way around congressional and presidential restrictions on aid, training, and operations. In both cases, the effects of this one small program have broad policy implications that are rarely given full consideration by the Pentagon and are subject to executive and legislative branch review only once a year—months after any exercises have taken place.

A Military Training Program to Advance U.S. Foreign Policy Goals

There are clear instances of JCET being used to pursue broader U.S. foreign policy objectives. In Latin America, the United States has actively sought to strengthen its relations with the region’s militaries—most often in the name of stability but also with an eye to other goals, including securing access to natural resources and emerging markets and slowing the narcotics trade. In the fall of 1996, William Perry made the first trip to oil-rich Venezuela by an American secretary of defense. He advocated better military-to-military relationships as the key to a stable post–Cold War world and promised increased U.S. support for Venezuela’s military. 11

A large part of the support that followed was 16 JCET missions to train Venezuelan soldiers in airborne and small-unit tactics. 12

In Colombia and a number of Caribbean and Central American nations, JCET missions provided the U.S. military an easy way to fund assistance for counter-narcotics operations. Frequent JCET missions have also occurred in the politically fragile nations of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Ecuador in an attempt to maintain stability. 13

In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, JCET missions are being used as the first step in forging new relationships between the Pentagon and the formerly hostile militaries of those countries. 14

During FY97 alone JCET missions trained soldiers in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Another program, known as the Joint Contact Team Program (JCTP) — which adheres to the same philosophy of achieving influence and stability through direct military-to-military relationships and which also operates with little oversight—has been quietly placing U.S. military advisers in high-ranking positions in the militaries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Since its start in 1992, the JCTP has opened advising offices in and assigned U.S. personnel to 13 countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. U.S. military personnel have played a key role in much of the military reform and reconstruction currently underway in the region. 15

In Africa JCET personnel have conducted basic training for and evaluation of the armed forces of nations for the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), a multinational African peacekeeping force being organized jointly by the State and Defense Departments. JCET missions have frequented all of the nations participating in ACRI, including Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, and Mali. 16

Ignoring Human Rights

In many of the nations already mentioned, as well as others, the U.S. military avoided screening participating foreign personnel for abusers of human rights. In a number of cases, the U.S. armed forces avoided U.S. restrictions on military aid by using the JCET program. In those cases, the JCET program allowed the military to pursue an almost independent policy, free of congressional or presidential limitations that apply to every other military aid and training program. Despite their exclusion from almost all other U.S. international aid programs, nations with egregious human rights records, such as Suriname and Equatorial Guinea, have received training through the JCET program. 17

Although programs like the International Military Exchange and Training program (IMET)  require a formal vetting of participants, the JCET program does not. The Defense Department insists that informal vetting procedures involving the host government and the U.S. embassy did usually take place. 18

The training of possible abusers of human rights—primarily in Colombia and Indonesia—has brought the most congressional scrutiny of the JCET program. Colombia’s failure to cooperate with U.S. narcotics policy, as well as the country’s poor human rights record, brought consistently stronger restrictions on U.S. military aid beginning in 1995. By 1997 a virtual freeze existed on all U.S. military aid programs to Colombia. Yet JCET missions continued. In fact, six more JCET missions were planned for FY98. 19

Despite an almost total ban on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, JCET personnel trained with Indonesia’s special forces, Kopassus, to conduct helicopter and urban war-fare. Many of the same Indonesian units were later suspected of abuses during the political unrest surrounding the end of President Suharto’s rule. 20

The Pentagon argues that such military-to-military interaction, even with militaries that regularly abuse human rights, is beneficial. The Department of Defense claims that American ways will rub off on the foreign hosts. Col. Daniel Smith (Ret.) of the Center for Defense Information disagrees. He writes, “We fool ourselves if we believe that intermit-tent contact impresses American views about human rights and civilian control of the military on foreign soldiers whose traditions do not include such ideas.” 21

 “Diplomat-Warriors”: The New Foreign Service

Although the training of possible abusers of human rights has garnered the most attention and criticism, the broader implications of the Pentagon’s semiautonomous foreign policy are even more disturbing. In many regions the Pentagon is supplanting the State Department as the primary instrument of U.S. policy. Although the Defense Department has long played a critical role in the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy, the policy of “peacetime engagement” generally—and the JCET program specifically— places the Pentagon in a dominant position in matters far beyond military issues.

JCET turns SOF personnel into key representatives of the U.S. government—as self-appointed “diplomat-warriors.” SOF personnel often have more active contact with foreign officials than do people from any other U.S. agency, including the State Department. 22

Deployed abroad at an average of 4,800 in any given week, SOF personnel already outnumber the 4,000 Foreign Service officers of the State Department. According to Andrew Nichols Pratt, a former Marine colonel now at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, “The State Department has become a very small organization, mostly underfunded and undermanned. . . . Engagement is easier for the military. We have the infrastructure and the educational programs. The military has the ability to move around and we have resources.” 23

Militarizing U.S. Foreign Policy

The implications of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy—aided by the JCET pro-gram— are quite serious and should require earnest public and congressional consideration. The Army Times reported on the increased U.S. military involvement in Latin America, which is spearheaded by JCET missions: Officials at the Pentagon and the International Monetary Fund . . . predicted . . . that U.S. military relation-ships will continue to broaden in the coming years, no matter who is in the White House. One reason, they said, is that the political turmoil in the Persian Gulf and Middle East has underscored the economic importance of Latin America to the United States. Another is the mutual interest in curbing drug trafficking. 24

The prediction seems to disregard the national policymaking process and view the Pentagon’s expansive new role as inevitable. Coletta Youngers of the Washington Office on Latin America noted, “The United States runs the risk of having [Southern Command] set its own policy.” Military training “is undermining the Latin American trend toward demilitarization, democratization and respect for human rights.” 25

Echoing Youngers, the Army Times,in a story about JCET in Venezuela, wrote, [T]here is always the risk that the United States’ new emphasis on strengthening the military establishment here . . . could boomerang. . . . Militaries strengthened by the United States could end up toppling the very democratic governments that American policy makers want to keep in power. 26

In short, JCET missions could undermine overall U.S. foreign policy goals in Latin America and other regions of the world. Similar fears are heard regarding the previously mentioned JCTP in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Because U.S. advisers are placed at the highest levels in the foreign ministries or general staffs of the host nations and have helped to redesign the militaries of those newly independent states, this new U.S. influence has been called an “informal alliance.” Some analysts fear that such near-official partnerships imply U.S. defense commitments that may isolate Russia as much as would a fully expanded NATO. In addition, as is the case with all of the new military-to-military relationships, placing such a heavy emphasis on improving the armed forces in nations attempting to move toward democracy and civilian control is dangerous.

Daniel Plesch, director of the British American Security Information Council, noted that the JCTP “is a diversion from the important goal of stabilizing societies and economies in the region. And it really pro-vides an unnoticed and massive extended mandate for American security commit-ments.” 27

In Africa, concerns have also been raised about spreading military know-how and sophisticated tactics to some of the least stable countries in the world. Rwanda’s invasion of Zaire occurred after numerous U.S. military aid and education programs for the Rwandan military. Although the Pentagon is quick to point out that only 2 of the 30 U.S. military missions to Rwanda between 1994 and August 1997 were JCET missions, those were the only missions that taught combat skills (including small-unit-leader training and rifle marksmanship). 28

Engagement or Entanglement?

The pattern of U.S. involvement in the domestic and regional affairs of foreign countries through military-driven relationships should seem eerily familiar, resembling as it does the manner in which the United States slowly but inexorably entered the Vietnam War. Programs like JCET multiply greatly the potential to be dragged into conflicts that do not threaten America’s vital interests. Every new relationship between the U.S. military and that of a developing nation is one more possibility for the extension of perceived U.S. interests and commitments. And every new JCET deployment provides a reason for another nation to count on U.S. aid and support in time of crisis.

The essential similarities between the U.S. advisers of the Cold War period and the U.S. trainers of today are demonstrated by the specific skills taught during JCET missions. Although the Pentagon emphasizes the humanitarian aspects of its training, Lt. Col. Stephen Howard, the deputy political adviser to the U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote, “Training foreign militaries consistent with our democratic values (called Foreign Internal Defense or FID) is SOF’s most common mission today.” 29

While today’s FID is often described with such terms as “democracy building,” FID has meant and continues to mean counterinsurgency training. The “1998 Special Operations Forces Posture Statement” indicates that special forces, when carrying out FID, will “organize, train, advise, and assist host-nation military and paramilitary forces to enable these forces to free and protect their society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency.” 30

In every region, FID is the centerpiece of most JCET missions and is synonymous with counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism training. Regardless of the moniker, the training is essentially the same and can be used for a wide variety of purposes once U.S. personnel have departed the host country. 31

JCET missions are in effect teaching techniques that could be used for oppression in the name of spreading democracy—all the while risking U.S. entanglement in innumerable petty conflicts. For example, JCET missions taught skills that could be used for repression to militaries in nations with histories of human rights abuses—Cambodia, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Indonesia, Suriname, and Equatorial Guinea. The United States initially became involved in Vietnam by providing similar training in counterinsurgency warfare to the despotic South Vietnamese government.

Congressional Inquiry and the Pentagon’s Quick Fixes

Since the training of possible abusers of human rights in Indonesia and Colombia became known early in 1998, a great deal of congressional and media attention has been focused on the JCET program. Each time the pressure to justify and explain the program has risen, the Pentagon has made a concession.

The Department of Defense has instituted mostly procedural changes that, when combined with the newly passed Leahy law, make the program more bureaucratic but do nothing to solve its substantive problems.

After intense congressional scrutiny in the spring of 1998, the Pentagon agreed to add a third step to the approval process for JCET deployment. According to a Pentagon spokesman in May 1998, “Secretary Cohen felt that in light of the growing congressional interest in the program . . . particularly related to Indonesia and now Colombia, that it was appropriate that he have somebody in his immediate office . . . monitoring this pro-gram.” 32

That change required the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict to give some manner of approval to each deployment. By the end of July, however, when the Washington Postran a three-part series about the program, the assistant secretary still did not have a clear idea of his role.

The Leahy Law

In the summer of 1998 Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sponsored a successful amendment to his 1996 human rights bill. The amendment prohibited any weapon sale or “training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” 33

Although it was not immediately clear that the Leahy law would apply to the JCET program, the Pentagon later said that the program would be covered. Although the legislation was well-intentioned, it fails to solve the problems presented by the JCET program and even creates additional complications. The first application of the Leahy law demonstrates the bureaucratic chaos and potential problems posed by the new rules. The law was invoked during planning for a weapons sale to Turkey in November 1998. The armored vehicles in question could be sold to security forces in some Turkish provinces, but not in those in which human rights abuses were reported. It did not matter that the Turks already possessed many of the same armored vehicles, and that they could easily transfer those vehicles to any unit or province they chose once the planned sale was complete. That bizarre and arbitrary outcome came about after two months of haggling between the Defense Department and the State Department. That same procedure will be applied to the JCET program and require that the State Department approve each unit of the foreign military to be trained. Yet once a unit of the foreign military is trained, that unit could easily train units that have committed human rights violations. This legal requirement will add just one more layer of bureaucracy and increase the risks of arbitrary compromise decisions. 34

The International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act

Prodded by the series of articles in the Washington Post, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 1063), targeted specifically at the JCET program. Introduced too late for action during the 105th Congress, the bill was reintroduced in March 1999. 35

If it is passed, all military training programs, including JCET, will be prohibited in countries barred from receiving other military aid, such as IMET. This prohibition is designed to prevent continued SOF training in nations otherwise off limits—such as Indonesia and Colombia. Although this bill might have prevented the embarrassing incidents in Indonesia and Colombia, it still leaves the JCET program free to operate as before in every nation of the world from which U.S. military aid is not explicitly banned. Until congressional or presidential scrutiny, followed by legislative or executive action, is brought to bear on a nation—which typically occurs after human rights abuses or oppression has begun—JCET will be unimpeded. Smith’s bill is a small improvement, but it does not tackle the larger policy questions posed by the JCET program.

Finally, given the controversy surrounding the increasingly infamous JCET program, the Pentagon may shift to other means of deploying SOF to avoid the oversight and limelight that the JCET program would likely engender.

After all, it was the very flexibility and invisibility of the JCET program that attracted the military to it in the first place. The heightened attention currently being paid to the JCET program may well make a new program with a new acronym desirable. In any case, past reforms have done little but bog the program down in a giant interdepartmental procedural mess without eliminating or reducing the risks. Smith’s bill only limits the program in the most extreme cases.


Neither the slapdash reforms made by the Pentagon nor the recent well-intentioned but ineffective legislation addresses the real problems posed by the JCET program: the misuse of the 1991 law and the resulting dangerous policy implications. As long as the 1991 JCET law exists, the potential for unregulated SOF deployment exists. Therefore, the 1991 law should be repealed.

JCET is an inherently reckless program that has the potential for far more disastrous abuses than have thus far occurred. The program is an almost unregulated avenue for the building of cozy and often dubious relationships with the militaries and governments of developing nations—many of which are governed by corrupt authoritarian regimes. It provides the U.S. military with a powerful tool for the implementation of its own goals and policies, largely insulated from civilian oversight. Only by substantially revising the legal authority under which the JCET program currently operates can Congress avert those dangers. Such action would send a clear message to the Pentagon that U.S. military involvement overseas should not be taken lightly and must be closely monitored and controlled by Congress.

Despite the problems with the JCET pro-gram, opportunities for training U.S. SOF must be provided. The 1991 authorizing law—with its broad language—should be replaced with a more specific statute that authorizes a purely military training program devoid of questionable foreign policy objectives. To achieve that goal, the statutory language should be changed to indicate that the “exclusive”—rather than the “primary”— purpose of the program is to train U.S. SOF personnel. The statute should also stipulate that the geographic scope of the program should be as limited as possible while maintaining the objective of providing adequate military training for U.S. SOF. The requirement to report annually to Congress on JCET missions should be continued for the purposes of congressional oversight, even though a more specific law would allow little leeway for dubious military training missions that are really designed for other purposes.

Only such a comprehensive reform will ensure a program that has the exclusive purpose of training U.S. SOF personnel. Otherwise, the JCET program will continue to provide an opportunity for the U.S. military to conduct its own foreign policy, the potential for making often oppressive host-nation military forces more capable, and the possibility of embroiling the United States in wars in the developing world that are unnecessary to its security.

Appendix: JCET Deployments in FY97

If there was only a single deployment to a country, no number is given. Larger numbers of deployments are given in parentheses. 36

Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT)

Bahrain (2) Kenya (2)

Djibouti Kuwait (4)

Egypt Oman (2)

Eritrea (2) Qatar

Ethiopia UAE (4)


Total number of training exercises: 21

Total U.S. personnel: 855

Special Operations Command, Europe (SOVCEUR)

Benin Mali (4)

Botswana Mauritania

Bulgaria Morocco

Cameroon Mozambique

Congo Namibia (2)

Czech Republic Netherlands

Denmark (4) Norway (4)

Equatorial Guinea Poland

Estonia (2) Portugal (3)

France Romania

Germany (2) Rwanda

Ghana Senegal

Gibraltar Sierra Leone

Guinea Bissau Spain (5)

Greece (2) Switzerland

Italy Tunisia

Ivory Coast Turkey

Latvia (2) Uganda

Lithuania Ukraine (2)

Macedonia United Kingdom (2)

Malawi Zimbabwe (3)

Total number of training exercises: 66

Total U.S. personnel: 1,118

Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC)

Bangladesh Mauritius (2)

Cambodia (3) Nepal

Fiji Philippines (4)

Hong Kong Singapore (4)

India Solomon Islands

Indonesia (8) South Korea (12)

Japan Sri Lanka (3)

Kazakhstan Thailand (10)

Madagascar Tonga

Malaysia (7) Uzbekistan


Total number of training exercises: 65

Total U.S. personnel: 1,505

Special Operations Command, Atlantic (SOCACOM)



Dominican Republic

Total Number of training exercises: 3

Total U.S. personnel: 96

Special Operations Command, South


Antigua Haiti

Argentina (3) Honduras (5)

Belize Panama

Bolivia (10) Paraguay (6)

Brazil Peru (2)

Chile St. Kitts/Nevis

Colombia (3) St. Lucia

Costa Rica (5) Suriname

Dominican Republic Trinidad (2)

Ecuador (13) Uruguay

El Salvador (6) Venezuela (3)

Guatemala (2)

Total number of training exercises: 71

Total U.S. personnel: 933



1. U.S. Department of Defense,“Report on Training of Special Operations Forces,” April 1, 1998, p. 1.

2. Quoted in Dana Priest, “Free of Oversight, U.S. Military Trains Foreign Troops,” Washington Post,

July 12, 1998, p. A1.

3. U.S.Department of Defense, “1998 Special Operations Forces Posture Statement,” 1998,

pp. 21, 91.

4. Priest, “Free of Oversight,” p. A1.

5. U.S. Department of Defense, “Report on Training of Special Operations Forces,” p. 1.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. U.S. Department of Defense, “Report on Training of Special Operations Forces”; and H.

Allen Holmes, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Letter to Reps. Banjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.), Bob Livingston (R-La.), and Floyd Spence (R-S.C.) and Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), April 6, 1998.

9. Ibid.

10.Ralph E. Saner and Dan J. Poulos, “Special Operations Forces . . . JCETS in the Pacific,” para. 12, www.pacom.mil/forum/Jcets98.html.

11.George C. Wilson, “In Venezuela with the Green Berets,” Army Times,September 9, 1996, p. 12.

12.U.S. Department of State, “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997,” March 1998, p. 3.

13.Douglas Farah, “A Tutor to Every Army in Latin America,”Washington Post,July 13, 1998, p. A1.

14.Saner and Poulos, para. 5.

15.Dana Priest, “U.S. Military Builds Alliances across Europe,” Washington Post,December 14, 1998, p. A1.

16.U.S. Department of Defense, “Briefing on African Crisis Response Initiative,” July 29, 1997.

17.Priest, “Free of Oversight,” p. A1.

18.Gen. C. E. Wilhelm, commander in chief, U.S. Southern Command, Letter to Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), August 24, 1998.

19.U.S. Department of Defense, “DoD News Briefing,” May 26, 1998.

20.Priest, “Free of Oversight,” p. A1.

21.Daniel Smith, “U.S. Military Support for Indonesia: ‘Engagement’ Gone Awry?” Weekly Defense Monitor,March 26, 1998.

22.Jon Gundersen and Stephen Howard, “The Real ‘A’ Team,” Foreign Service Journal,September

1998, www.afsa.org/fsj/sep98/sep98focus3.html.

23.Quoted in Priest, “U.S. Military Builds Alliances,” p. A1.

24.Wilson, p. 12.

25.Quoted in Farah, p. A1.

26.Wilson, p. 12.

27.Quoted in Priest, “U.S. Military Builds Alliances,” p. A1.

28.U.S. Department of Defense, “Report to Congress on U.S. Military Activities in Rwanda, 1994—August 1997,” August 19, 1997, table, www.defenselink.mil.

29.Quoted in Gundersen and Howard.

30.U.S. Department of Defense, “1998 Special Operations Forces Posture Statement,” p. 3.

31.Priest, “Free of Oversight,” p. A1.

32.U.S. Department of Defense, News briefing, May 26, 1998.

33.Leahy Amendment, no. 3477, Congressional Record,Senate, July 30, 1998, http://thomas.loc.gov.

34.Dana Priest, “New Human Rights Law Triggers Policy Debate,” Washington Post,December 31, 1998, p. A34.

35.Two other pieces of legislation targeting the JCET program were introduced in the 105th Congress. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) sponsored the International Military Training and Accountability Act (H.R. 3802), and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) sponsored the Security Assistance Act of 1998 (S. 2463). Both bills proposed essentially the same measures as the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act; however, neither bill was acted on by the 105th Congress, and neither has been reintroduced in the 106th. See William C. Story Jr., “Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) and Human Rights: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, January 26, 1999, p. 20.

36.Information in the Appendix to this paper comes from U.S. Department of Defense, “Report on Training of Special Operations Forces,” Appendix.  



John Rudy was a research assistant at the Cato Institute in 1998. Ivan Eland is Cato’s director of defense policy studies.

Published by the Cato Institute, Cato Foreign Policy Briefing is a regular series evaluating government policies and offering proposals for reform.

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