Archive for the 'Mexico' Category



Stability Operations In Mexico

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

The Mexican military has retooled, adapted and retrained to conduct stability operations within its own borders.

Woe is the diplomat who uses the wrong word, no matter its veracity. Over the past year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal separately have used the word “insurgency” to describe the Mexican government’s fight against indigenous criminal cartels.

Maybe it comes too easily after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Mexico the word stirs cultural memories of heroic freedom fighters-not exactly the message that the government wants to convey-and drew cries of outrage from Mexico City, resulting in diplomatic retractions from U.S. officials.

I have called the cartel and gang violence both warlord-ism and an insurgency.  But of course, I have no romantic notion of insurgents as freedom fighters.  The insurgents in South America throughout the last quarter of the last century were mainly communists.  They weren’t fighting for anyone’s freedom from anything.  But since South and Central America is steeped in Marxist thinking, and thus conflates freedom with revolution, Mexico City became outraged.  Mexico City might prefer to think of them only as criminals, but at least they seem to be reacting to the problem with the correct tools.

Still, insurgency or no, one thing is for certain: The cartels present a serious, multifaceted, and increasingly well-trained and well-armed challenge to the state, but Mexico is reconfiguring its armed forces to meet the challenge.

Frequently outgunned and sometimes corrupted, entire police forces have been sacked and their duties assumed by the Mexican military in recent years. In December 2011, the entire Veracruz police force was fired, with the 800 officers replaced by 2,400 marines. The military has taken over policing in other places, such as Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Leon and the border state of Tamaulipas.

At the same time, according to analysts, there also has been a real shift in the training and equipping of the military to meet the cartel threat. The army’s training doctrine has been realigned to address stability operations, doing things like setting up checkpoints and working to implement law and order in towns that have been overrun by violence. “They’re conducting stability operations in areas the size of Belgium,” says Inigo Guevara, a consultant on Mexican security and defense issues based in Washington. In one effort to rebuild its presence in the north, the armed service recently spent about $100 million to buy battalion- and company-sized “mobile headquarters” that can be easily constructed and taken down, in preparation for longer-term domestic stability operations, he adds.

Yet, these operations occur against an increasingly sophisticated enemy, with heavily armored “infantry” carriers dubbed “Los Monstruos” (the Monsters) by the Mexican media, as well as more professional infantry tactics refined at training camps in the barren spaces of northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. Cartel gangs are armed with everything from assault rifles and crew-served weapons, to military-grade explosives, .50 caliber rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as using insurgent weapons like car bombs.

As a result, the army and marines have started to look for alternatives to the older, thin-skinned Humvees-Mexico has produced several thousand in local plants in a deal with AM General-and toward a variety of new armored vehicles like Oshkosh’s SandCat, of which 250 have been delivered so far. The navy also has conducted operational testing of Renault’s Sherpa light scout vehicle, most notably in operations in Veracruz late last year, but has not made a final decision on whether to buy it.

This is reminiscent of the need for MRAPs due to the IED threat in Iraq.  Note that Mexico isn’t relying on the police to curb the violence.  Mexico City has enlisted the assistance of the military in a big way, and the military is purchasing weapons and equipment needed for fighting large scale, violent, and highly effective insurgencies.

Aviation Week continues into the weeds concerning equipment, organization of the Mexican military, and various problems they sustain due to inefficiency in structure.  But continuing with this theme of warlord-ism, and insurgents, if we’ve learned nothing else from the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, we understand the need to control the borders, even if we didn’t effect that control.

The Arizona legislature might just act in lieu of the federal government to control their own section of the border.

The Republican-led Arizona Legislature is considering a bill to fund an armed, volunteer state militia to respond to emergencies and patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gov. Jan Brewer could deploy the volunteers using $1.9 million included in the bill making its way through the state Senate. The militia itself was created by a law signed by Brewer last year.

The Arizona Republic reports the bill has a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senate Bill 1083 has already passed one committee along mostly party lines. It would provide $500,000 in one-time funding and $1.4 million a year from a gang task force fund.

The state is expecting a budget surplus this year, but lawmakers must deal with long-term debt and the May 2013 expiration of the 1-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase, so it is unclear how much support this bill will receive.

“Something has to be done about the situation at the border — people are being terrorized,” Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake who is sponsoring the bill, told The Republic. “There are plenty of ex-law-enforcement officers who could do this. I don’t have any illusion that we can solve our border problem, but this would help.”

Former LEOs or not, they would be operating under rules that apply to everyone, i.e., deadly force can only be used in the case of imminent danger to life or sexual assault.  It isn’t clear that they would even have arrest authority.

What I have recommended is that the rules for the use of force be amended to move away from the Supreme Court decision in Tennessee versus Garner.  This has also been termed “exempting the Border Patrol from the rule of law,” but I have recommended that the U.S. Marines be used to patrol the Southern border.

The rules of warfare are clear.

The law pertaining to the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello), which has developed since antiquity and includes certain provisions of the modern Geneva and Hague conventions, permits the sanctioned killing of an opponent in an armed conflict, regardless of whether he is armed at the moment he is engaged. So long as the opponent meets the minimum criteria to be regarded as a combatant (even an unlawful combatant), he may be engaged with deadly force, even if he is separated from his weapon. He may be killed while sleeping, eating, taking a shower, cleaning his weapon, meditating, or standing on his head. It is his status as an enemy combatant, not his activity at the moment of engagement, which is dispositive.

So the following situation is posed to help the reader understand how serious he or she is concerning security on the border.  You are a border patrol officer, or a U.S. Marine, and you have charge of border security in your area of operations.  A string of what appears to be several dozen illegal immigrants is heading across the border (and is now on the U.S. side of the border), as you have ascertained using night vision.

In the front and bringing up the rear are two individuals, each toting what appears to be an AK-47, but what is most surely a weapon.  No one has fired any shots towards you at this point.  Is it morally justified to shoot and kill the individuals holding the weapons?  This is a different question that is it currently legal.

Hell To Pay: Hezbollah On The Mexican Border

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

We have known for some time about the fact that Hezbollah has networks in Central and South America, and that they are present in more than 40 countries.  Now, Michael Braun, former chief of operations at the drug enforcement agency, weighs in concerning the emerging threat on the Southern border.

The Iranian-supported Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah has spread its influence all the way to the U.S. border with Mexico, a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere heard on Thursday.

Michael Braun, a former chief of operations at the Drug Enforcement Agency, said Hezbollah had developed relationships with the powerful Mexican drug cartels to “move their agenda forward.” He cited a plot, recently uncovered by the DEA, involving an Iranian operative in Mexico allegedly planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.

“Hezbollah are absolute masters at forming close relationships with existing organized crime groups around the world that helps them facilitate what they need to do to move their agendas forward,” Braun told CNSNews.com following the hearing. “And if anyone thinks for a moment that they don’t have their eye on the southwest border and all of our country, then they couldn’t be more wrong.”

In his prepared remarks Braun, who also served as interim director of the Department of Justice’s Drug Intelligence Fusion Center, said Hezbollah and other terrorist groups understand that the Mexican cartels are already operating successfully inside the United States.

“If anyone thinks for one moment that these terrorist organizations do not understand that the Mexican drug trafficking cartels now dominate drug trafficking in our country – reportedly in more than 250 cities – than they are very stupid or very naive,” he said.

“And these groups most assuredly recognize the strategic value of exploiting that activity, and all that has been built to support it, for moving their vision forward in this part of the world.”

[ ... ]

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), committee member and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee of oversight and investigations, asked about Hezbollah’s relationship to criminal organizations in the Western Hemisphere and what it means for U.S. security.

Braun warned that those relationships allow “these groups to operate freely in our neighborhood” and said the U.S. would regret it if the threats were not taken seriously.

“I don’t want to sound too crude, but I think there’s going to be hell to pay in the not too distant future,” he said.

Braun discussed the Quds forces, which is controlled  by Iranian general Suleimani.  Recall that I have called for reversing executive order 12333 and assassinating general Suleimani.  Concerning what he thinks about his scope and power of influence, listen carefully to his recent words.

An Iranian general said Iraq and Hezbollah-dominated South Lebanon “submit” to Tehran’s wishes.

“Those two countries, in a way or another, submit to the will and the wishes of Tehran,” head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, was quoted as saying by Iran’s ISNA student news agency and later relayed by Al-Arabiya television.

He added that his country “can organize any movement that leads to the formation of Islamic governments [in Iraq and Lebanon] in order to fight imperialism.”

According to ISNA, Suleimani’s remarks came during a seminar entitled “Youth and Islamic Awareness”, which was held in Tehran on Thursday.

Commenting on the Syrian crisis, the general said that “the Syrian people support the government [of President Bashar al-Assad] completely.”

Assad’s troops have cracked down on protests against almost five decades of Baath rule which broke out mid-March, killing over 5,400 people and triggering a torrent of international condemnation.

He has killed American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has pressed the ambitions of the radical Mullahs at every chance, and it’s time for him to go.  We need a strategic assassination.

As for the Southern border, we are losing that battle, and it doesn’t bode well that we haven’t taken the fight seriously and yet allow a new gangster – General Suleimani – into the neighborhood.

The Texas Border Coalition On Border Security

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

The Texas Border Coalition recently issued its report entitled Without Strategy: America’s Border Security Blunders Facilitate and Empower Mexico’s Drug Cartels.  The report makes some interesting observations, albeit sprinkled with odd and out-of-place assertions that have nothing whatsoever to do with border security.  But the basic conclusions fall short of crafting the grand strategy they seek.  Portions of the report are reproduced below (with running commentary).

The United States government spent about $90 billion over the past decade to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. The results are mixed, with apprehension rates up to 90 percent for undocumented persons seeking to cross the frontier between designated U.S.-Mexico border crossings, yet the Mexican drug cartels continue to enjoy commercial success smuggling more drugs than ever into the country through the legal border crossings.

A significant part of the $90 billion government expense has been the deployment of U.S. military forces, including the National Guard, to supplement Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection forces on the Mexican border. A recent Government Accountability Office briefing on the costs and benefits of the Department of Defense role in securing the Southwest land border reported that DOD officials “are concerned that there is no comprehensive southwest border security strategy” and the National Guard’s role has been “ad hoc.”

The  military forces deployed to the border don’t “include” National Guard, it is comprised entirely by National Guard.  And as we have discussed before, the National Guard isn’t doing what the public thinks they are doing.

Unfortunately, I must report that “Armed does not always mean “armed” as most Americans would understand. There are various states of being “armed.” These are called “Arming Orders (AO)” which define where the weapon “is,” where the magazine “is,” where the bullets “are” and where the bayonet “is.” They start at Arming Order One which could best be described as a “show of force” or “window dressing” in the worse case.

After considerable searching, I was able to find a complete copy of the Memorundum of Understanding/Rules of Engagement pertaining to the National Guard Deployment (“Operation Jump Start”), which I could then review.

After reviewing the MOU/ROE, I contacted several senior “in the loop” National Guard Officers that I have previously served with, to determine how many soldiers would be “armed” and their Arming Order number. After confirming The El Paso Times article that “very few soldiers there would carry weapons,” I was advised that during the next 90 days, amongst the few soldiers that have weapons, no soldier will have an Arming Order greater than AO-1, which means that an M-16 will be on the shoulder, there will be no magazine in the weapon (thats where the bullets come from), and the magazines stored inside the “ammunition pouch” will in most cases have no ammunition, they will be empty.

It was also conveyed to myself that in the unlikely event that a soldier is ever harmed on the border, the Arming Order will not be raised. Every individual I spoke to envisions no circumstance where there will ever be soldiers at AO-3/4, where a magazine with ammunition would be immediately available. Instead the soldiers will simply be kept farther away from the border if needed. They will be deliberately kept out of harms way.

The National Guard has been “deployed” to the border to perform clerical functions and do overwatch and reporting.  The report does well to point out the high cost of deployment of these troops considering the very little that they have accomplished.  Returning to the report.

As the U.S. spent $90 billion seeking to secure the Southwest border, the Mexican cartels have continued to smuggle cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine through the legal border crossings in California and South Texas, and marijuana between border crossings in remote areas of Arizona. They generally smuggle smaller loads of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in non-commercial vehicles (cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks) to blend in with cross-border traffic. As the Mexican drug cartels flourish in the face of $90 billion spent to secure the border through which they conduct their trade, the U.S. continues to focus on border security tactics grounded in operation that began in the 1990s when an anti-immigration backlash fueled crackdowns code-named “Operation Gatekeeper” and “Operation Hold-the-Line.” Debates in Congress focus on building more fences and walls and whether to snuff environmental protections for public lands on the Southwest and Northern borders.

As reported by the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office, America’s border security effort lacks strategic direction and operates on an ad hoc basis. Without a strategy, America will continue to lose the border security war to the better financed, equipped, more mobile and agile drug cartels. Our national success depends on defining and executing a strategy to defeat the cartels attacking our nation.

The legal border crossings on the U.S. southwestern border have become America’s weakest border security link. Since the cartels choose to smuggle most of their products through the border crossings, a sensible strategy would be to attack their trade where it occurs and anticipate where their smuggling operations might move in response. Yet, the Department of Homeland Security has chosen to ignore these developments and refused to develop a strategy to confront them.

Budget forecasts by Department of Homeland Security officials suggest no new funding for border security infrastructure at the official border crossings for many years and personnel accounts will essentially remain static during that time. While new equipment may become available, some cannot be utilized because the electrical facilities at the border crossings are outdated and inadequate to support the expensive new tools. Congress and the Administration confront a choice when considering strategic directions for securing the U.S-Mexican border. At a minimum, the Texas Border Coalition recommends that Congress and the President have a strategy rather than addressing this challenge ad hoc.

The strategic paths forward offer a choice between closing the gaps between the border
crossings, where criminals face a 90 percent likelihood of apprehension, or addressing the inadequate infrastructure, technology and law enforcement personnel at the southwest border crossings where criminals are less challenged by an apprehension rate of merely 28 percent.

The Texas Border Coalition suggests that the only reasonable path forward is to refocus our border security priorities where our nation is most vulnerable: at the legal border crossings. Spending additional billions of dollars on more Border Patrol agents, fencing-walls or exempting the Border Patrol from the rule of law should be lower priorities compared to making the official border crossings functional in securing our borders.

To choose the other path and continue to fight the border security war where it has been won (between the border crossings) and to continue to surrender the war where we are losing (at the border crossings) is to threaten our national and border security and resign our nation to defeat.

This document is focused on the security aspects of border strategy, especially as they related to Mexican drug cartels. There are additional benefits to improving the security at America’s border crossings, including facilitation of legitimate trade and travel with Mexico, providing a major benefit to the American economy and jobs.

U.S. manufacturers and consumers depend on ready access to Mexican markets and goods. U.S. exporters serve the Mexican market and profit from foreign sales. Border region businesses in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas tie their livelihoods to trade and create jobs for American workers. Mexico is America’s third largest trading partner behind only Canada and China.

U.S.-Mexico trade totals $400 billion, a nearly fivefold increase since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with most goods crossing via commercial truck. More than 13,000 trucks bring over $630 million worth of goods into the U.S. from Mexico every day. U.S. exports to Mexico total $163 billion.

As a matter of general strategy, America cannot solve our budgetary problems solely by cutting expenses. We must increase our revenues. Making our border crossings more efficient in conducting legal trade with both Canada and Mexico will increase our national revenues and give us the resources to fight the other problems we face in our borders.

Take careful note of the trade imbalance.  The report has turned the horrible loss to our economy into a supposed boon if we control the legal border crossings better than we currently do.  But a trade imbalance as large as this isn’t good for the economy.  Further facilitating this trade imbalance may be the raison d’être for the grand strategy they recommend, but it falls far short of being a compelling reason to implement any of their recommendations.

Also, the report seems to downplay the very real problem of border insecurity at locations other than official border crossings.  But the Arizona ranchers might not be so impressed by the coalition’s claim that the border war has been won except for the crossings.  There is still a very real problem, and any diminution of that problem of late has only to do with an ailing American economy rather than any success by U.S. law enforcement.  Finally, to state flatly that “America cannot solve our budgetary problems solely by cutting expenses. We must increase our revenues,” is out of place and irrelevant.  It is a value judgment rather than a statement of fact.  It detracts from the supposed seriousness of the report.

However, the coalition’s focus on the official border crossings does have merit, and the crossings played a role in our own previous recommendations.

  1. Searching every vehicle that crosses the border checkpoints.
  2. Increased sting and undercover operations by law enforcement to root out corruption.
  3. Sending the U.S. Marines to the border to (a) construct and occupy combat outposts and observations posts, (b) conduct regular foot patrols of the border, and (c) be allowed (by the U.S.) to cross the border if necessary to chase Mexican insurgents.
  4. Taking Congressional action to remove legal requirements such as the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner, thus allowing the Marines to conduct combat operations at the border rather than law enforcement operations.
  5. U.S. Special Operations Forces raids against Mexican cartel high value targets inside of Mexico (with or without the permission of the Mexican government, unilaterally, and without Mexican involvement).

The coalition’s report has made the mistake of making this an “either-or” choice rather than what it needs to be, “both-and.”  While we’re engaging in debates about grand strategy, it’s important to note the state of affairs at the border again.

A federal grand jury in Laredo, TX, convicted a Zetas-linked “hitman” on a raft of conspiracy, racketeering and weapons charges on Jan. 25, after hearing testimony that outlined activities of the gang’s vicious assassination cells on both sides of the southern border.

Gerardo Castillo-Chavez, also called “Cachetes,” a native of Tamaulipas, Mexico, was convicted on all the counts against him, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, interstate travel in aid of racketeering (ITAR), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

Castillo-Chavez’ trial began on Jan. 17 with jury selection and the verdicts were reached after four-and-a-half days of trial testimony and six hours of deliberation, said the FBI in a Jan. 25 statement.

Castillo-Chavez and 33 others  were charged in Feb. 2010 with 47 counts of conspiracy to kidnap and murder U.S. citizens in a foreign country, drug conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, use of juveniles to commit a violent crime, accessory after the fact, solicitation, as well as substantive money laundering, drug trafficking, and ITAR charges.

As to tactics, “Witnesses, including a federal informant and former Zetas operatives, offered a dramatic and sometimes gruesome peek into the inner workings of the cartel’s drug-smuggling operations in Mexico and the U.S.

Among the most grisly testimony: new cartel recruits were trained to kill at a camp near the small Mexican town of San Fernando, where the remains of 200 bodies were unearthed last year.

The informant testified that would-be hit men were ordered to kill people — sometimes with machetes and sledgehammers — as a way to test their mettle.”

In all, 34 killers (in this one instance) were released to the U.S. to conduct operations on the U.S. side of the border.  This is a stark reminder that there is little time left.

Prior:

Losing the Border War

Threat Assessment: Transnational Jihadists and Mexican Cartels

Legalization Of Drugs Won’t End The Border War

Border War

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Losing The Border War

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

From The Fix:

An anonymous Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, speaking exclusively with The Fix, paints a stark picture of the drug war along the US-Mexico Border. The cartels’ traffickers are punching through our borders without fear, he confirms, supplying US streets with cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. But the administration seems more concerned with immigration than with drugs: “Border patrol is very adamant about stopping the illegal aliens,” he tells us. “But border patrol is not adamant about stopping the drugs and the cartels’ vehicles from coming across the border.”

Why does he believe this? He says the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t provide the border patrol with enough manpower to fight the drug war effectively. With around 2,000 miles of vast desert to protect and very little backup, agents find it nearly impossible to apprehend the traffickers. “Cartels transport their drugs across the desert in groups of two or three trucks,” he explains. “And they’re armed with automatic weapons.”

Cartel members know that even if one of the in-ground motion sensors picks up their movements, they still have the advantage. Each border patrol agent on the ground is responsible for a considerable area. And he is only one man with a gun. “Border patrol agents in the desert are often surrounded by the drug cartels or by Mexican military, who have been bribed to help the cartels,” he says, explaining that agents are frequently faced with a stark choice: they can fight the traffickers and die, or they can get out of the way and live. “At the end of the day, we all want to go home to our families alive.”

“We have cameras, and we have motion sensors in the ground,” summarizes our source. “We catch the cartels’ movements on camera. But do we have an agent out there close enough to respond? Do we have backup for that agent that can get out there quickly enough? If we don’t, guess what? We’re going to watch the drugs go through.”

So let’s divorce ourselves from the hotly contested issue of the so-called war on drugs for a moment.  A number of things jump out about this report.  First of all, the administration certainly isn’t serious about combating illegal immigration, any more than was the previous administration.

Second, while The Fix might be concerned about issues associated with illicit drugs, I’m not.  I am more concerned about the criminal insurgency and warlord-ism of the cartels (which only temporally uses drugs, and would and does use anything else to increase their power, such as human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, gang violence and brutality, and so on).

But even more to the point, we are losing the war at the border.  We will lose the war at the border until we cease and desist treating it as a law enforcement endeavor, change the rules for the use of force (away from the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee versus Garner), and deploy the U.S. Marines to the border.

The National Guard isn’t the answer.  I have dealt with this many times before, considering whether training has been done, arming orders have been issued, and weapons and ammunition have been checked out of the armory.  But the National Guard isn’t doing anything at all to effect border security.

While I loath every word that comes out of the mouth of this president and cannot stand to listen to him, and would in fact blame the fire ants in my back yard on his administration if I could get away with it, removal of the National Guard from the border (as he has ordered) has nothing to do with anything.  We have a larger, societal problem.  We aren’t ready to fight the war at the border any more than we were or are ready to fight the campaign in Afghanistan.

Prior:

Threat Assessment: Transnational Jihadists and Mexican Cartels

Legalization of Drugs Won’t End The Border War

Border War

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Legalization Of Drugs Won’t End The Border War

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

This is why.

While the Obama White House and some of his disciple politicians disagree that Texas border counties may be in a growing “war zone,” the impact of drug cartel violence and power in Mexico could be affecting American households in more direct means than generally believed.

For instance, avocados and lime costs imported into the U.S. from Mexico are subject to a drug cartel tax, or “la cota,“ said a former cartel member, who talked with the Examiner,  provided we did not reveal his real name.

Carlos is a 28-year-old Mexican national moved to the San Antonio area to escape cartel torture, death and “before they killed the only family I have left.”

“They charge those farmers and packers ‘la cota’ for each truck they send out,” Carlos explained. “And before the trucks make it to the distribution, they might get stopped three or four times for la cota.”

Carlos described what happens to anyone that doesn’t pay the tax.

“They call it Mexican insurance,” he said. “They tell you they know who your wife is, or your mother, or your daughters and you better pay or we will rape and kill them.”

“They pay the cartels what they want, like a toll road,” Carlos observed. “We charged about 600 or 700 pesos for each truck about five years ago, but I don’t know any more what it is. It’s a common thing.”

“Americans think the drug gangs just make their money from the drugs, but they make money off of your food and imports that come from Mexico too,” claimed Carlos.

“Sometimes those terminals in Mexico and even here in Texas wait for the trucks to get there, but if the drug gangs don’t get paid, those trucks will not get there,” Carlos observed.  “You ask any of them (distributors or terminals) and they will tell you this is more common than people think.”

I advocated against the war on poppy in battling the Taliban; the Taliban make their money by various means, including (but not limited to) precious metal mines, pomegranates, timber, and extortion.  I advocated against the war on poppy for the same reason that I advocate seeing the war against the cartels and other insurgents as a border war.  Drugs isn’t the defining characteristic of the warlords and insurgents in Mexico (and increasingly North of the border), just as the Taliban won’t cease to exist if we destroy all of the poppy crops in the Helmand Province.

I have little vested interest in the final disposition of a war on drugs or whether drugs are legal, except as follows.  Drug users have hitched me to their wagon, just like 48% of the balance of the (non-tax paying) American public.  If the pro-legalization forces would simply unhitch the rest of the tax- and rate-payers from their wagon, we might be persuaded to side with them.  To do this, ensure that I don’t have to pay one cent of welfare for lost work time or support of out of work drug users, or one cent of medical costs associated with drug use, or any other cost not being discussed here but associated with drug use.  After pro-legalization advocates do this, then – and only then – will I consider supporting their cause.  Until then, I have a right and vested interest in the behavior of anyone and everyone whom my tax monies support.  If you don’t approve of my meddling, neither do I.  Remove my support and I won’t meddle.  It’s a win-win proposition.  You make the first move.

I will consider supporting their cause (and delaying my support until such time as my preconditions obtain), because drug legalization, or lack thereof, won’t significantly affect the insurgency to the South.  I can’t possibly lose in this deal.

See also Border War.

Mexican Cartels Are Warlords and Insurgents

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

But a State Department official doesn’t think so.

A State Department official resisted pressure from congressmen to call Mexican drug cartels “terrorist” or “insurgent” organizations during a Oct. 4 joint hearing of subcommittees from House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security.

“I agree with virtually all of the suggestions that the facts are consistent with the label [terrorist group],” said William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

But so labeling Mexican drug cartels could have unknown implications, Brownfield said. “What does it give us that is more than we already have?” he asked.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland subcommittee on oversight, investigations and management, contended that the designation would “provide additional authorities to help Mr. Calderón win this war,” referring to Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan suggested in a April 11 Dallas Morning News letter to the editor that a consequence of calling the cartels terrorist would be “to start calling drug consumers in the U.S. ‘financiers of terrorist organizations.’”

But the degree of psychological [un]appeal of a conclusion is no excuse for not completing the syllogism.   This is logic 101.  As to what would be accomplished were we to treat the Mexican cartels as warlords and insurgents as I have recommended, we could unleash the U.S. military and unshackle their efforts from the constraints of the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner.  As for decriminalizing drugs as a solution, I continue to claim that it is a Potemkin solution.  Further, it isn’t legitimate to discuss this issue unless and until the legal and political framework is in place where I am not required to pay for the food, housing, medical care or any other cost associated with drug users.  Reconstruct this framework and we’ll talk.  Until then, as long as my tax dollars go to support half of the country (and could support more if drugs are legalized), I have the right to say how they live.  You can’t have partial libertarianism.  It’s all or nothing.  Continuing with the report:

“Our interest is less in the semantics, less in the label but what the label implies operationally for us. And for us we find that the law enforcement tools that we have are best-suited for the job,” said Mariko Silver, acting assistant secretary within the Homeland Security Department office of international affairs.

“I believe our authorities, our federal narcotic laws are sufficient to address the trafficking problem that exists now,” said Rodney Benson, Drug Enforcement Administration chief of intelligence.

Thus is Rodney Benson an idiot.  No one goes on record saying that everything is just fine and all the tools necessary to secure the border and fight crime are available.  Some people want to legalize drugs, some people (me) want to treat this as a war (no, not with some ridiculous “war on drugs” slogan, but a real war against warlords and insurgents, killing the bad guys with robust rules of engagement), and some want to increase law enforcement assets.  But no one says that every thing is fine.  Except for Rodney Benson, who thinks that everything is just fine, and who is an idiot.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Border Security and Potemkin Solutions

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Dan Riehl conveys a report on one of Governor Rick Perry’s solutions to the war at the border.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said on Saturday that as president, he would consider sending American troops into Mexico to help defeat drug cartels and improve border security. He indicated that any such action would be done “in concert” with the Mexican government.

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their network,” Mr. Perry said during a campaign appearance here.

Dan observes that:

As I suspect there’s little to no support across America for deploying troops to Mexico under any circumstances – and it would likely never happen in the first place – it was, in a word, dumb to even bring it up. Pssst, Rick, if you have to cross the border to deal with a problem, maybe the border IS the problem to stay focused upon if you’re running for President of a, you know, sovereign nation? Imagine that. Suggesting sending troops into Mexico only reinforces the idea of a reluctance, or inability to deal with the core issue – sealing the border. It may even be somewhat honest on his part. But it’s simply not good politics. Perry may not only be in Texas right now. But if this keeps up, he will be and will remain there after 2012.-

I suspect that Dan is right and there is no stomach for sending troops of any kind into Mexico.  I have advocated some variant of what Perry is suggesting, although it’s difficult to know exactly what he is suggesting since he has given no detail.  In Texas Border Security: A Strategic Assessment (and also previously) my advocacy has included (but has not been restricted to) the following:

  1. Searching every vehicle that crosses the border checkpoints.
  2. Increased sting and undercover operations by law enforcement to root out corruption.
  3. Sending the U.S. Marines to the border to (a) construct and occupy combat outposts and observations posts, (b) conduct regular foot patrols of the border, and (c) be allowed (by the U.S.) to cross the border if necessary to chase Mexican insurgents.
  4. Taking Congressional action to remove legal requirements such as the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner, thus allowing the Marines to conduct combat operations at the border rather than law enforcement operations.
  5. U.S. Special Operations Forces raids against Mexican cartel high value targets inside of Mexico (with or without the permission of the Mexican government, unilaterally, and without Mexican involvement).

Several military and former military friends and contacts have weighed in with me recently with the view that the gravest national security risk faced by America today comes from South of the border, not Pakistan or Yemen.  I have recommended treating this as a war against warlords and insurgents rather than a law enforcement operation, and my sense of things is that the American public, even if they don’t support sending U.S. troops into Mexico in companion operations with Mexican troops, support some sort of militarization of the border.

For the American public, however, it always seems a legitimate solution to send the National Guard to the border.  We tried this, and because of lack of training, the application of Tennessee v. Garner to their operations, arming orders that focus on prevention of incidents, misunderstanding of the Posse Comitatus Act and why it doesn’t really apply to border troops, and host of other problematic bureaucratic entanglements, a National Guard outpost was overrun by Mexican fighters partly because the troops didn’t even have weapons.

Sending National Guard troops to the border is a Potemkin solution as we have previously demonstrated.  But military operations alongside Mexican troops – as Perry has suggested – will be equally ineffective while the border isn’t secure.  There is absolutely no replacement for securing the border, regardless of how the solution might be dressed and served up.

Another Potemkin solution is given to us by Terry Goddard, Attorney General of Arizona (lengthy quote).

As the Attorney General of Arizona, I have been part of law enforcement on the southwestern border for most of the past decade. My office confronted border crime on an almost daily basis. From that view, it is clear that much of the “secure the border” debate is nonsense. Again and again, symbols trump reality, misinformation buries the truth. Programs like building a bigger border wall or enlisting police in the local enforcement of immigration laws are sold as ways to make the border more secure. They will not. In the latter instance, the “cure” could actually make the crime problem worse. Equally misguided is the idea that a force buildup alone can keep the border secure in the face of increasingly sophisticated smuggling organizations—the cartels.

Since improved border security is a common denominator in the immigration debate, both sides should be anxious to know what actually works. This paper is based on the assumption that sincere parties on both sides want to go beyond the rhetoric and the symbols. I believe a more effective border defense is possible, but not on the present course. Not by the Administration’s defense-only buildup of Border Patrol and National Guard on the border, and not by the huge investment in bricks and mortar or the quasi-military responses proposed by the Administration’s critics.

A more effective border strategy starts with the money; the torrent of cash pouring across the border into the cartel pocketbooks. Cartels are, first and foremost, business enterprises.  Sophisticated cartel organizations are formed not for any lust for power or to employ the bosses’ relatives, but because they maximize profits. Cartel agents do not threaten, terrorize, and kill because they love the work, or out of religious zeal. They do it because they are very well-paid. So, go after the money. Taking away the profit cripples the organization. Conversely, as long as the money from drug sales and human smuggling—which may total more than $40 billion a year—flows to the cartels, the violence in Mexico, the sophisticated smugglers crossing our border, and the perception that nothing is being done to defend the border will continue.

We can also do a much better job of taking the fight directly to the drug cartels using the full arsenal of law-enforcement methods. We can significantly reduce the number of illegal crossers and the amounts of illegal drugs smuggled, as well as the violence in Mexico. The answers are straightforward; the mystery is why they have not been taken up long ago.

Read all of his report.  We should indeed use all tools at our disposal, including freezing assets and other tools mentioned by Goddard.  But this notion that “force alone” cannot secure the border is juvenile, and similar to the population-centric counterinsurgency mantra that “you cannot kill your way to victory.”  Of course you can, and of course force can make the border secure.  And of course the involvement of local law enforcement can help federal efforts (if such efforts exist at all).

It strikes me as silly and and stolid to suggest that something we have never tried won’t work.  It also strikes me as silly and stolid that Perry’s advisers haven’t to this date informed him that he cannot score the nomination while holding his current views of immigration and the border.  Finally, it strikes me as particularly dangerous for the American voting public not to be informed enough to know when a recommendation (such as sending National Guard troops to the border, or going after cartel assets to the exclusion of all other efforts, including border security) is a Potemkin solution.  It’s the sovereignty and security of America that is at stake.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

Two very important individuals in the military (and now consulting) community, Barry McCaffrey and Robert Scales, have penned a much-anticipated study entitled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.

The state on the ground in the war with the Mexican cartels is remarkable.  We’ve already discussed how the Mexican cartels have adopted military-style tactics, techniques and procedures.

Mexican drug cartels are using military weapons and tactics while also recruiting Texas teenagers to carry out their operations, which are evolving into full-blown criminal enterprises, experts said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw said last week in a report given to Congress that the cartels “incorporate reconnaissance networks, techniques and capabilities normally associated with military organizations, such as communications intercepts, interrogations, trend analysis, secure communications, coordinated military-style tactical operations, GPS, thermal imagery and military armaments, including fully automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.”

There is apparently massive corruption in the U.S. border patrol, and the Mexican cartels have law enforcement officials at the local, state and national levels on their payroll.  In order to combat the smuggling operations across the Rio Grande, Texas is creating a marine division.  The reach of the cartels goes into the High Schools in Texas where they are recruiting children for cartel work.

McCaffrey and Scales add to the bleak picture by showing how the cartel strategy has changed from control through locations South of the border to control via operations at least one county deep into Texas, and they discuss the increased criminalization and violence associated with the cartels.  The bleak picture dovetails with an assessment by Robert Bunker at Small Wars Journal.

Ten years after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda, the United States has reached a pivotal strategic decision point in our national policies. Are we to continue with our national security policy of focusing on that terrorist entity (and its group of networks) as the dominant threat to the US and the homeland or will the Mexican cartels (and their supporting gang networks) now be recognized as replacing Al Qaeda as the number one threat to our government and safety of our citizens? While the violence potentials of Al Qaeda are universally recognized— we will never forget the thousands of our dead mourned after 9/11— the violence associated with the criminal insurgent potentials of the Mexican cartels and their ability to corrupt and undermine governments in the Western Hemisphere must now be considered far more threatening to our nation.

The cartels’ influence expands to thousands of U.S. cities and communities, and there are on the order of 18,000 cartels members or associated workers in Texas alone.  The ability to intimidate and corrupt is unmatched in U.S. history – there is no national analogue to which the U.S. can refer to combat this menace.

The task for McCaffrey and Scales is big, and the bar set high.  As for their recommendations?  They sweep across a range of options, coordinated relationships, and increased efficiency in law enforcement.  Counterintelligence and sting operations are of course important, as is rapid response capabilities and increased manpower.

McCaffrey and Scales do recommend the involvement of state troops (i.e., National Guard), but all efforts in this program are seen as led by Texas Rangers.  It is fundamentally a civilian-led operation.  Perhaps this focus is in deference to the Posse Comitatus Act (Section 1385, Title 18 U.S.C.), but it isn’t at all clear that U.S. troops should be forbidden or even could be forbidden from participating in border security under this act.

Furthermore, McCaffrey and Scales have a problem with their recommendation to use National Guard under the current circumstances.  Recall that in Arizona, a National Guard-manned post was attacked and overrun by cartel fighters.  Immediately after this, the following assessment was proffered.

Unfortunately, I must report that “Armed does not always mean “armed” as most Americans would understand. There are various states of being “armed.” These are called “Arming Orders (AO)” which define where the weapon “is,” where the magazine “is,” where the bullets “are” and where the bayonet “is.” They start at Arming Order One which could best be described as a “show of force” or “window dressing” in the worse case.

After considerable searching, I was able to find a complete copy of the Memorundum of Understanding/Rules of Engagement pertaining to the National Guard Deployment (“Operation Jump Start”), which I could then review.

After reviewing the MOU/ROE, I contacted several senior “in the loop” National Guard Officers that I have previously served with, to determine how many soldiers would be “armed” and their Arming Order number. After confirming The El Paso Times article that “very few soldiers there would carry weapons,” I was advised that during the next 90 days, amongst the few soldiers that have weapons, no soldier will have an Arming Order greater than AO-1, which means that an M-16 will be on the shoulder, there will be no magazine in the weapon (thats where the bullets come from), and the magazines stored inside the “ammunition pouch” will in most cases have no ammunition, they will be empty.

It was also conveyed to myself that in the unlikely event that a soldier is ever harmed on the border, the Arming Order will not be raised. Every individual I spoke to envisions no circumstance where there will ever be soldiers at AO-3/4, where a magazine with ammunition would be immediately available. Instead the soldiers will simply be kept farther away from the border if needed. They will be deliberately kept out of harms way.

I know you are thinking (maybe screaming), “but Why?” The easy public relations answer is that a soldier could kill someone. The National Guard is going to ensure that there is not a repeat of the incident in which Esequiel Hernández was killed by a US Marine along the Border.

There are also numerous regulations pertaining to weapons. There is a requirement that a soldier must qualify with his weapon on an annual basis. Reasonably, you must be “qualified” with your weapon before you may carry a weapon. However, ranges for weapons qualification are extremely limited. National Guard soldiers normally perform their once a year required qualification when they go to Annual Training at Ft. Stewart, Ft. McCoy…… This year they are going to “the border” and unless there is a “regulation M-16 qualification range” down the road, they will not be able to get qualified. There is also the question of weapon storage and how do you prevent theft.

Even disregarding all of this, the rules for the use of force will prevent the effective use of the National Guard to accomplish border security.  That is, unless something drastically changes.

I have recommended that we view what is going on as a war against warlords and insurgents who will destabilize the state both South and even North of the border.  I have further recommended that the RUF be amended and the U.S. Marines be used to set up outposts and observation posts along the border in distributed operations, even making incursions into Mexican territory if necessary while chasing insurgents (Mexican police have used U.S. soil in pursuit of the insurgents).

While militarization of border security may be an unpalatable option for America, it is the only option that will work.  All other choices make the situation worse because it is allowed to expand and grow.  Every other option is mere window dressing.

While McCaffrey and Scales have done a service in their outline of the scope and magnitude of the problem, their recommendations are, needless to say, underwhelming.  They kick the can down the road, and the road only becomes more dangerous with time and distance.  Above it was said that there is no national analogue to the menace at the border.  The only analogue to this problem is the most recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The problem has exceeded the ability of law enforcement to cope.

Obama Allows Mexican Police To Violate U.S. Sovereignty

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

From St. Louis Today:

President Barack Obama’s administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the U.S., assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the U.S. side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Former U.S. law enforcement officials who were once posted in Mexico described the boomerang operations as a new take on an old strategy that was briefly used in the late 1990s when the DEA helped Mexico crack down on the Tijuana Cartel by letting the specially vetted Mexican police to stage operations out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Recall that I recommended combined and even unilateral military operations against the cartels by U.S. forces.  Do you reckon that Mr. Obama bargained for unilateral U.S. operations against the cartels?  Or perhaps was it just a one-way agreement?  Which is most likely?

Expansion of Mexican Drug Cartel’s Area of Influence

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

So do you think that the insurgency in Mexico, and not coincidentally, in the border states of the U.S., is related only to drugs and the war on drugs, rather than to insurgents, warlords and criminals?  Think again.

The Salvadoran single mother was hoping to support her children in the United States. Instead, gunmen from the Zeta drug cartel kidnapped her in Mexico and forced her to cook, clean and endure rapes by multiple men.

Now the survivor of this terrifying three-month ordeal is a witness for a growing group of legislators, political leaders and advocates who are calling for action against the trafficking of women in Mexico for sexual exploitation.

As organized crime and globalization have increased, Mexico has become a major destination for sex traffic, as well as a transit point and supplier of victims to the United States. Drug cartels are moving into the trade, preying on immigrant women, sometimes with the complicity of corrupt regional officials, according to diplomats and activists.

“If narcotics traffickers are caught, they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity,” said Rosi Orozco, a congresswoman in Mexico and sponsor of a proposed law against human trafficking.

In Mexico, thousands of women and children are forced into sex traffic every year, Orozco said, most of it involving lucrative prostitution rings.

“It is growing because of poverty, because the cartels have gotten involved and because no one tells them no,” said Teresa Ulloa, the regional director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are fighting so that their lives and their bodies are not merchandise.”

“This is an inferno of sexual exploitation for thousands and thousands of women,” President Felipe Calderon told officials in mid-July after they heard the testimony of a young survivor. “With this new law, we will all be obliged to act, and no authority can say it’s not my responsibility or turn a blind eye to the terrible crime of human trafficking.”

More laws.  The ultimate, always-ready progressive answer to crime and sin.  Except it won’t work.  Not with warlords who routinely behead their enemies and gun down women and children without so much as a blink.

And do you believe that they aren’t in central, everyman’s-town, U.S.A.?  Think again.

Many of the nation’s top lawmen have been in Idaho this week. More than 150 federal and state prosecutors are wrapping up a convention of the National District Attorneys Association in Sun Valley. And while the DAs heard from a number of speakers this week, a bit of a bombshell was dropped in an address from El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparaza.

In today’s Idaho Mountain Express, officials are quoted as saying that one of the most dangerous gangs in the Western world has made its way to Idaho. The so-called Barrio Azteca, which works with Mexican drug cartels primarily at the U.S.-Mexico border, is now present in Idaho, according to Esparaza.

And in spite of the legalization of Marijuana in California and other states, cartel business is booming.  That’s because this isn’t about the legalization of drugs.  That’s a tangential issue, and you can take whatever position you wish on that.  This is about warlord-ism South of the border, and it will ultimately affect every man, woman and child in the U.S.  No amount of silly gun tracking programs will end the insurgency.


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