Monday, January 21, 2013



Note: The Columbian Model? Do we get Los Pepes also?

Pentagon bolsters US training in Mexico's drug fight
By Kimberly Dozier \ Associated Press
Posted: 01/18/2013 12:31:27 AM MST

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is stepping up aid for Mexico's bloody
drug war with a new U.S.-based special operations headquarters to
teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way
special operations teams hunt al-Qaida, according to documents and
interviews with multiple U.S. officials.
Such assistance could help newly elected Mexican President Enrique
Peña Nieto establish a military force to focus on drug criminal
networks that have terrorized Mexico's northern states and threatened
the Southwest U.S. border.
Mexican officials say warring drug gangs killed at least 70,000
people between 2006 and 2012.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, said he worries that the planned
aid to Mexico would continue a drug war he believes has been a
failure and might have unintended consequences.

Based at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, Special Operations
Command-North will build on a commando program that has brought
Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study
U.S. counterterrorist operations from the U.S. to war zones in Iraq
and Afghanistan, to show them how special forces troops built an
interagency network to target al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and
his followers.

The special operations team within Northcom will be turned into a new
headquarters, led by a general instead of a colonel, and was
established in a Dec. 31 memo signed by Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta. That move gives the group more
autonomy, and the number of people could eventually triple from 30 to
150, meaning the headquarters could expand its training missions with
Mexican personnel, even though no new money is being assigned to the

The special operations program has already helped Mexican officials
set up their own intelligence center in Mexico City to target
criminal networks, patterned after similar centers in war zones built
to target al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq, two current U.S.
officials said.

Mexican and U.S. military officials played down the change, and it's
unclear whether the Mexican government will agree to boost its training.
"We are merely placing a component commander in charge of things we
are already doing," said Northcom spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis in
a written statement.
Mexico's Foreign Affairs Department emailed a statement saying it had
been briefed on the changes and had no further comment

The creation of the new command is another expansion of Adm. Bill
McRaven's special operations empire. The San Antonio native seeks to
migrate special operators from their decade of service in war zones
in Iraq and Afghanistan to new missions, even as the rest of the
military fights post-war contraction and multi-billion-dollar budget

The new headquarters will also coordinate special operations troops
when needed for domestic roles such as rescuing survivors after a
natural disaster, or helping the U.S. Coast Guard strike ships
carrying suspect cargo just outside U.S. territorial waters,
according to multiple current and former U.S. officials briefed on
the mission. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the
Pentagon has not formally announced the new headquarters.

The initial document petitioning Panetta for the command stresses the
command's role in military-to-military cooperation with Mexico. The
document was signed in September 2012 by McRaven and Northcom
commander Gen. Charles Jacoby.
Northcom's current special operations training missions are an
outgrowth of the Mérida Initiative, which was formalized in 2008, to
provide extensive military assistance to Mexico. The extra special
operations staff, including both troops and civilians, will help
coordinate more missions as Mexico requests them, current and former
officials said.

Peña Nieto is likely to welcome the continued training to help him
build and coordinate the forces he needs to reduce drug violence,
according to Rand Corp.'s Agnes Gereben Schaefer.
"He has talked about setting up a paramilitary force É made up of
former military and police forces, which he has described as more
surgical" than the current campaign by the Mexican army and police,
Schaefer said. He would dispatch the force into towns that have been
overrun by drug violence, where police don't have the numbers to
fight it, she said.

O'Rourke, who has proposed legalizing marijuana as a way of de-
funding cartels, is a skeptic of the Mérida Initiative and of the
larger war on drugs.
"The war on drugs has been a failure, and I don't like the idea of
committing more resources to it," he said Thursday from his
Washington, D.C., office. "But I'd like to be briefed on (the new
plan to assist Mexican authorities) before I make a decision about it."
O'Rourke is also concerned that the U.S. might share secret
intelligence and techniques with the Mexican government, only to see
them end up in the hands of the cartels.
"That would not be without precedent," he said.

Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement chiefs have
already toured the Joint Special Operations Command headquarters at
Fort Bragg in North Carolina to see how U.S. officers coordinate
efforts by special operations aircraft, naval vessels and air- and
sea-based raiders, according to one current military official.
A small group of top Mexican military and intelligence officials also
visited the command's targeting center at the Balad air base in Iraq
before the U.S. troop withdrawal there in 2011, a former U.S.
official said.
U.S. officials stress that sharing this expertise does not mean U.S.
special operations teams will be conducting raids against targets in
Mexico, nor will they be entering the country with their own weapons.
Mexico forbids U.S. military or law enforcement officers to carry
guns inside their borders, with few exceptions, though American
commandos have conducted training missions in the past, two current
and one former U.S. military official said. They were speaking on the
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss
such sensitive missions.

El Paso Times reporter Marty Schladen contributed to this story.

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