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  • ISR, Training, and Fastboats For Our Southern Neighbors
    Posted by Paul McLeary 11:58 AM on Apr 01, 2011

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    One of the quiet jobs that the U.S. military performs—or pays contractors like DynCorp to perform—is training, equipping, and partnering with local security forces across the globe. (DynCorp trainers are currently partnering with Afghan police officers in the field, along with U.S. forces, for example.)

    The AFRICOM command, in the news these days for coordinating the military strikes in Libya, makes partnering and training missions its bread and butter. Likewise, SOUTHCOM, the U.S. Southern Command which oversees American security interests in Central and South America, also does a lot of this kind of work, though we don’t see too much of what they do in the daily papers.
    General Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command
    was in town earlier this week to testify at a budgetary hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, and outlined a bit of this in a briefing with reporters after his testimony.

    Two State Dept.-run advising and equipping programs—the Central America Regional Security Initiative and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative—are “helping provide interceptor boats as well as communications equipment and training” to regional navies to help them track and intercept drug smugglers in the Pacific and the Caribbean, he said. And the U.S. is also providing ISR assets as well—SOUTHCOM is “working with each nation to address the information requirements there,” Fraser hinted, without going into specifics. The only tidbit he would offer is the example of Belize, who recently captured a “Beech King Air-like aircraft” from a drug organization and is working with the Americans “to see how we can equip that to now help them provide their own ISR capability.”

    But a big concern in the waters under SOUTHCOM’s responsibility are the manned submarines being used by drug cartels to ship tons of cocaine from Columbia up the coast to Central America and through Mexico to the United States.

    For years, the problem has been with semisubmersibles — hundred-foot long boats that skim just above the surface that can carry up to 10 tons of cocaine and travel 1,000 to 2,000 miles, but “we have seen a downturn in the number of those vessels since 2007,” Fraser said, adding that “we're starting to see now an increase in what we're calling those fully submersibles.”  Two subs have been captured in Columbia and Ecuador so far, but the ones that put out to sea, the general said, usually start from the western part of Colombia or Ecuador and then head “up through the Pacific, in some cases we've seen and have indications that they go around the Galapagos in transit and then up through the Eastern Pacific to somewhere off of Central America or the southern part of Mexico.”

    This is the second time this week we’ve heard a U.S. government official talk about the increasing threat of cartels shipping drugs and whatever else they want to smuggle into the United States by sea. Something to keep an eye on.

    Pic: A Mexican helicopter practices firing on a decommissioned US naval vessell. Courtesy: Southcom

    Tags: Southcom, navy, police, wellington, ar99

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