During a Monday White House press briefing national security adviser John Bolton was photographed carrying a notepad — presumably as he was fresh out of a national security meeting — and one of the things which appears to be handwritten on the pad is “5,000 troops to Colombia”.
The contents of the notepad were spotted almost immediately by multiple journalists online after an NBC news release featuring the AP photo was published. More precisely the full contents appear to read:
“Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia.”
Here’s the image of Bolton with his notepad from NBC News:
And a closer look, per one of the first journalists to examine the photograph and writing, who noted that “if confirmed this would be a pretty terrible OPSEC [operations security] breach”:
So this notepad that National Security Advisor John Bolton was holding today at the White House briefing on Venezuela says:
"Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia."
— Rao Komar (@RaoKomar747) January 28, 2019
Bolton during the White House presser revealed that President Trump is “leaving open the possibility of a U.S. military intervention to protect opposition leader Juan Guaidó, members of the nation’s assembly and American diplomatic personnel,” according to NBC.
“The president has made it clear that all options are on the table,” Bolton told reporters while holding the yellow notepad. “We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power,” Bolton said.
But could, as the notepad suggests, this involve plans to send 5,000 American troops to neighboring Colombia, a close US ally in Latin America?
That fucking notepad says 5000 troops to Colombia pic.twitter.com/KkNecUV5gw
— Tony Stark (@NatSecElitist) January 28, 2019
No doubt the administration is already spitballing military contingency operations especially after the latest spat over Maduro’s ultimatum for all US diplomatic personnel to leave the country “within 72 hours” — which he has since walked back after the Trump administration threatened severe consequences.
There remains the possibility, however, that having clearly written words on a mostly blank pad indicating that disengagement from Afghanistan equals ramping up engagement and intervention in South America is actually intentional signalling to both enemies and allies alike.
White House spokesman's explanation for Bolton's "5,000 troops to Colombia" memo on his legal pad: "As the President has said, all options are on the table." pic.twitter.com/3ZOtMGwjxB
— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) January 28, 2019
When asked following the briefing by eagle-eyed reporters who caught a glimpse of the notepad’s contents about the “5,000 troops to Colombia” memo, the White House spokesperson responded, “As the President has said, all options are on the table.”