The Bush administration appears to be using anti-drug aid in South America as a cover to help fight rebel forces, a House panel charged.
The House Government Operations Committee concluded in a study released Thursday that the administration's overall anti-drug strategy in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru is ineffective, misguided and dangerous and should be redirected.The White House had no immediate comment.
In a scathing 102-page report, the panel said effective controls must be implemented to ensure that counter-narcotics assistance is not used to help host nations battle insurgents.
It also recommended that the focus of the strategy be shifted from law enforcement to placing a greater emphasis on developing an alternative crop program for thousands of peasant farmers who now grow coca that is turned into cocaine.
The House committee oversees federal anti-drug efforts, including the administration's 2-year-old $261 million Andean Initiative.
The strategy seeks to disrupt cocaine production and trafficking in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru through crop eradication, interdiction and law enforcement.
Members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are being used to help coordinate strikes against clandestine cocaine laboratories and coca fields.
"One of the committee's most significant and alarming findings is that our government might be giving drug aid as a smokescreen to block insurgencies," said committee chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
"If the State Department wants to fight guerrillas, it knows how to come and ask for counter-insurgency funds. It is not our job to use our military might disguised as anti-drug assistance," Conyers said.