Despite the emphasis that the United States has placed on fighting Al Qaeda and Middle Eastern-based terrorist networks over the past decade, “the big fight is what’s happening in Mexico and Central America,” says Robert J. Bunker, who studies crime and terrorism as CEO of the Counter-Opfor Corp. With over 30,000 drug-related murders in Mexico since 2006, and Guatemala and Honduras losing control of swaths of their territory to drug cartels, at some point the United States is going to have to make the move toward taking development and diplomacy more seriously south of its border.
But it’s not only the U.S. that is concerned about the region. I’ve got a piece (now online) in the January issue of DTI that reports:
The mass disclosure of U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks in November shed light on how far the problem of the drug cartels has spread. A cable from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia—a major cocaine source—dated November 2009 notes that given the fact that Mexican cartels have been flying cocaine shipments to Africa, then smuggling them into Europe, the European Union “fear[s] the introduction of third-country criminal organizations” into the continent, and is considering increasing law enforcement and counternarcotics assistance to Bolivia and its neighbors. European officials expressed interest in reopening the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in La Paz.
While the U.S. isn’t about to get involved in major operations to fight the drug trade at its source, U.S. Army Col. (ret.) Robert Killebrew sees a role in a training and advisory capacity in the region, noting that Colombian forces have been successfully trained by U.S. Special Forces and Drug Enforcement Agency personnel. Another role the U.S. can play is that of a third-party jailer, which has the effect of removing drug bosses from their home countries and severing communication between them and their henchmen. Killebrew says the U.S. involvement in Colombia is having an added effect: Colombians are now providing advice to the Mexicans. “Colombia had special forces down there,” he says, adding that a Colombian special forces general told him he gives “great credit [to the U.S.] for re-professionalizing the Colombian military.”
Click on through to DTI to read the whole thing. Pic: Gang members in Southern California. (Pic: DEA)