Home » Armed Conflict, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Intelligence, International Law, International Organizations

US increases efforts in Mexico to combat drug cartels– But is this the right approach?

The New York Times is reporting that the United States and Mexico have been developing “innovative” methods for addressing the challenge of drug cartels. According to the 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.

The Times notes:

American officials declined to provide details about the work being done by the American team of fewer than two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, C.I.A. officials and retired military personnel members from the Pentagon’s Northern Command. For security reasons, they asked The New York Times not to disclose the location of the compound.

But the officials said the compound had been modeled after “fusion intelligence centers” that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups, and that the United States would strictly play a supporting role.

“The Mexicans are in charge,” said one American military official. “It’s their show. We’re all about technical support.”

While the drug cartels present a serious challenge to both Mexican and American security, is this the best approach? Is this a useful way to deploy retired military personnel? And at a time when we are still attempting to address the damage done by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, should the United States seriously consider using them in this operation?

Share/Bookmark this!

Leave a reply

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally recognized avatar, please register at Gravatar.


Connect: LinkedIn profile Connect: Twitter profile
Connect: LinkedIn profile

Welcome! Who am I?



Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.