These exchanges took place at a March 6 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, at which senators questioned Adm. James Stavridis of the U.S. Southern Command (video here).
SEN. JACK REED (D-Rhode Island): Admiral Stavridis, I think when [Stavridis's predecessor] General [Bantz] Craddock was here in April of ‘06 he indicated that we would be able to draw down some of our military forces in Colombia within, at that time, 18 months, so we’re bumping up against that proposed deadline. What’s your comment on the forces in Colombia?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I’m optimistic, sir. Colombia has made enormous progress. … I fully expect, over the next 24 months, we should be able to move toward a reduction in our very small forces that are there. As you know, Senator, we have a cap of 600 U.S. military. We’re — typically average well-below that, in the 500 range.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-Michigan, committee chairman): Admiral, I think that you have addressed this question. … I believe we were told originally that the military support for Colombia at the current level was going to be lasting about 18 months. This was extended after that first 18-month period elapsed. Were you asked when do you believe we can start to draw down U.S. forces?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, I was. And –
SEN. LEVIN: And was there a short answer to that?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: The sort answer is, let’s say, 24 months from now, I think, would be a good window.
In other words: Q: “Southcom told us two years ago that the U.S. military presence in Colombia would start decreasing in a year and a half. What happened?” A: “Just give us another 24 months.”