5 years ago
From The New York Times:
The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.
In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.
Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.
“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling: we will together succeed or together fail.”
Robert Haddick writing for Foreign Policy observes:
Policymakers responsible for the U.S. assistance effort in Mexico seem to be applying some lessons learned during America’s decade of war. The intelligence analysis centers the U.S. contractors are now setting up in Mexico are innovations developed by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and elsewhere. As described by General Stanley McChrystal in an essay he wrote for Foreign Policy, the centers are deliberately located down at the tactical level and gather collectors and analysts across intelligence agencies together in one room. The goal is to improve collaboration and more rapidly respond to incoming information and adversary activity. A decade of practical experience across the globe has refined this concept, which the United States is now exporting to Mexico.
We’ve heard this before – this notion of shared organic intelligence assets, different perspectives from different agencies working in concert and in real time, the employment of electronic assets and signals intelligence combined with on the spot analysis, all being used by real operators on the ground who know more about their enemies than they know about themselves – and it has become folklore that General McChrystal and his special operators hitting high value targets put an end to the insurgency in Iraq. It’s a narrative that I reject, and it isn’t born out of good historiography. It’s just myth that high value target hits won the campaign in Iraq.
Forecast: We shouldn’t oppose high value target hits in the war on the cartels, since they seem to operate with a more centralized focus than classical insurgencies (which tend more towards swarm theory). But this will not itself end the cartels, or even hold their growth and the increase in terror in abatement. This will prove to be a failed effort if it is the only point of impact in the campaign.
The tools exist to seal the border (Marines deployed to combat outposts on the border, with loosened rules for the use of force, conducting daily patrols and combining their efforts with force multipliers such as drones, increased numbers of border agents and comprehensive searches of all vehicles crossing the border, etc.). The question is will they ever be put to use, and this is a direct function of the will to win the campaign against the cartels?