Foreign Policy: A Brief History of Plan Colombia Foreign Policy's Uri Friedman wonders, is the U.S.-backed anti-drug war in Colombia really a success worth replicating in Afghanistan?
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Foreign Policy: A Brief History of Plan Colombia

Colombian police personnel from an anti-narcotics unit custody packages containing some five tons of cocaine on Oct. 13, 2011, in the municipality of Puerto Gaitan, Colombia.

Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images

Colombian police personnel from an anti-narcotics unit custody packages containing some five tons of cocaine on Oct. 13, 2011, in the municipality of Puerto Gaitan, Colombia.

Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images

Uri Friedman is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

On Foreign Policy, Paul Wolfowitz and Michael O'Hanlon suggest a novel model by which the United States might actually measure "success" in the 10 year-old war in Afghanistan: look at Colombia. Rather than trying to foist the Iraq post-surge model on Afghanistan, they argue, America should focus on empowering the Afghan government so that it can contain the insurgency within its borders, just as Colombia has done over the past 10 years through the U.S.-backed counter-narcotics campaign known as Plan Colombia.

But a look back at the history of the program reveals that the success achieved in Colombia has been mixed, modest, and controversial. That might not be the grand outcome that the George W. Bush administration had in mind when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. But, as Wolfowitz and O'Hanlon argue, applying the "Colombia standard" to Afghanistan may just be the most realistic goal that the United States can set at this point.

A plan takes shape.

In 1998 and 1999, Andrés Pastrana, Colombia's newly elected president, hatched a strategy to tackle a bloody left-wing, anti-government insurgency that had plagued the country for decades. Pastrana would attack the roots of the problem: the lucrative cocaine and heroin trade funding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), and the lack of social and institutional development in the country. He called it a "Marshall Plan" for Colombia and appealed to the international community to help foot the bill for what he initially envisioned as a six-year, $7.5 billion program.

Read more at Foreign Policy.