In the February issue of DTI, I do a deep dive into the capabilities that the Mexican Army and Navy bring to the fight against multi-billion dollar drug and trafficking cartels, and I was able to speak with a couple smart Mexican military analysts to get their take on how the military is reinventing itself for the fight. (One of the issues I have with some of American-based reporting and analysis of the cartels and the Mexican military is that Mexicans themselves don’t get much of a say. Egghead analysis from D.C and New York can only get you so far….)
I’m happy with the piece, but I wish we had the space to delve a little deeper into what’s happening on the U.S. side of the border. While the DoD is hardly reinventing itself to fight the cartels, both DoD and the State Department are quietly putting the pieces in place to be more active in helping the Mexican government.
Case in point: last September, after spending about a year and a half as deputy ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Earl Anthony Wayne was named U.S. ambassador to Mexico, followed by the December announcement that a flag officer, Navy Capt. Colin J. Kilrain, would become the new senior defense official and defense attache to Mexico. Kilrain is coming off an assignment as the director of combating terrorism at the National Security Council, and is a former Navy SEAL. He’s also the highest-ranking attaché to be assigned to Mexico in twenty years. Just last month, Army Gen. William Caldwell was sworn in as head of Army North, which has responsibility for Army functions in the continental U.S. and takes point in many of the mil-to-mil contacts between the U.S. and Mexico.
For my money, it’s significant that Caldwell is coming off a two year stint overseeing the training of all Afghan security forces as head of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, as it’s a role the Army might be looking to fill advising Mexican forces. While it may be irresponsible to compare the security situations in Mexico and Afghanistan—Mexico actually has a functioning and healthy central government and is one of the world’s wealthier countries—it is equally impossible to ignore the fact that northern Mexico might just be the most violent place in the world, with 12,000 murders last year, bringing the total number of murders since 2006 up to about 50,000.
That’s a staggering amount of bloodhshed.
Given these high-profile moves from Kabul and the National Security Council, and reports of increased training of Mexican troops and police by the U.S. military, law enforcement, the DEA, the FBI, and private contractors, it’s clear that while the U.S. is making a loud “strategic shift” to the Asia-Pacific region, it continues to make a quieter, but significant, shift toward its troubled southern neighbor.
The story is here.
Pic: A Mexican Marine fastropes onto the deck of an American Nav ship during joint exercises. (Northcom picture)