Southcom ‘Part of Solution’ to Drug Crime, Commander Says

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012 — U.S. South­ern Command’s cen­tral mis­sion — dis­rupt­ing transna­tion­al traf­fick­ing in drugs, weapons, cash and peo­ple in Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca –- is too large and com­plex for even a U.S. com­bat­ant com­mand to tack­le alone, Southcom’s com­man­der said today.

At a Defense Writ­ers Group break­fast, Air Force Gen. Dou­glas M. Fras­er said that in line with the president’s strat­e­gy tar­get­ing transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, South­com works with oth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies and inter­na­tion­al part­ners’ mil­i­tary and law enforce­ment agen­cies to track, cap­ture and pros­e­cute peo­ple who have made sev­er­al coun­tries in the Amer­i­c­as the most vio­lent in the world. 

Suc­cess in that effort rests on the command’s oth­er pri­ma­ry mis­sion of build­ing inter­na­tion­al and inter­a­gency part­ner­ship and coop­er­a­tion, the gen­er­al told reporters. 

South­com is “only one part of the solu­tion” to transna­tion­al orga­nized crime and its effects in Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca, Fras­er not­ed. Both the Unit­ed States and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty are intent on the issue, he added. 

“We’re work­ing to pull togeth­er all the var­i­ous agen­cies, capa­bil­i­ties, and [the] inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to improve our abil­i­ty to coor­di­nate and focus our efforts to address this larg­er prob­lem,” he said. 

While transna­tion­al orga­nized crime is not a tra­di­tion­al mil­i­tary threat, Fras­er said, the vio­lence and cor­rup­tion stem­ming from the glob­al drug trade in coun­tries south of the Unit­ed States has, in many cas­es, destroyed law enforce­ment and judi­cial processes. 

Fras­er said he does­n’t see either an inter­nal or exter­nal con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary threat in the region, but many coun­tries are using their mil­i­taries to aug­ment too-small or cor­rupt police forces. 

Transna­tion­al crime’s great­est impact is in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, he said. Hon­duras in 2011 led the world in per capi­ta mur­ders, with 86 per 100,000 peo­ple, Fras­er not­ed. El Salvador’s mur­der rate is 66 per 100,000, he added, while Guatemala’s over­all rate is 41 per 100,000, with high­er peaks in parts of the country. 

Those three coun­tries do use their mil­i­tary forces in crime-fight­ing efforts, Fras­er said. He not­ed Hon­duras has com­mit­ted half of its forces to the effort, and Guatemala has employed forces in 60-day sieges against high-crime areas. 

While he does­n’t think mil­i­tary forces should serve in law enforce­ment over the long term, the gen­er­al said, he sup­ports the approach as a bridg­ing strategy. 

“[Southcom’s] efforts along those lines are to help sup­port the mil­i­taries with train­ing, with some equip­ping — to help them work with law enforce­ment as well as address the traf­fic as it enters Cen­tral Amer­i­ca,” he added. 

Fras­er said Southcom’s forces pur­sue a more con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary mis­sion along the region’s coast­lines, where for 20 years they have spot­ted and mon­i­tored air- and sea-based drug move­ment from north­ern South Amer­i­ca through the Caribbean to var­i­ous des­ti­na­tions — most com­mon­ly, now, in Cen­tral America. 

Drug traf­fic — most­ly cocaine but increas­ing­ly includ­ing metham­phet­a­mine pre­cur­sors com­ing from India and Chi­na, rout­ed through the Amer­i­c­as by transna­tion­al crim­i­nal net­works — then typ­i­cal­ly moves inland, by ground or air, through Mex­i­co and into the Unit­ed States, still the world’s largest con­sumer of ille­gal drugs, the gen­er­al said. 

“Brazil has become the sec­ond-largest user of cocaine in the world,” he not­ed, adding drug move­ment is also increas­ing from South Amer­i­ca to West Africa, then into Europe and the Mid­dle East. 

South­com still con­ducts train­ing and dis­as­ter-pre­pared­ness exer­cis­es and oth­er tra­di­tion­al mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ments with part­ner forces in the region, Fras­er said, but inter­na­tion­al and U.S. efforts are most­ly aimed at dis­rupt­ing drug trade. 

Oper­a­tion Mar­tillo, or “Ham­mer,” is focused on air and mar­itime sur­veil­lance of the Caribbean and east­ern Pacif­ic using South­com assets includ­ing Navy and Coast Guard ships and Navy, Air Force and U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion air­craft, Fras­er noted. 

About 80 per­cent of Colombia’s cocaine moves by ship, whether tra­di­tion­al coast-hug­ging “go-fast” drug smug­gling boats, fish­ing ves­sels, or “pret­ty sophis­ti­cat­ed” wood and fiber­glass sub­mersibles and semi-sub­mersibles drug traf­fick­ers craft in the region’s jun­gles, Fras­er said. 

The gen­er­al said South­com and its region­al part­ners inter­dict some 25 to 35 per­cent of the drug sup­ply they know about, but he acknowl­edged the over­all actu­al per­cent­age like­ly is low­er. And as traf­fick­ers shift from larg­er ship­ments to using small­er, more numer­ous boats, he said, more drugs are get­ting through. 

Oper­a­tion Ham­mer has in 45 days net­ted 3.5 met­ric tons of cocaine and 10 smug­gling ves­sels, but the effort’s over­all aim is to use per­sis­tent sur­veil­lance to force traf­fick­ers to move their ship­ping routes into inter­na­tion­al waters, the gen­er­al said. 

That shift would pro­long tran­sit time and offer more oppor­tu­ni­ties for U.S. and oth­er nations’ ves­sels to stop ille­gal ship­ments, seize car­goes and pros­e­cute traf­fick­ers, Fras­er explained. Dutch and French ships are active in coun­ter­drug efforts in the Caribbean, he added. 

The gen­er­al said while South­com may see the num­ber of its own ships decline over time as the Navy reshapes its fleet, some coun­tries in the region are bring­ing more to bear in the coun­ter­drug effort. 

Colombia’s recent strat­e­gy against the nar­coter­ror­ist group FARC — Fuerzas Armadas Rev­olu­cionar­ios de Colom­bia, or Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia — demon­strates what is pos­si­ble, Fras­er said. Colom­bia has focused more task forces against the group, and paired with forces in neigh­bor­ing Venezuela to tar­get illic­it activ­i­ty across the border. 

FARC has been dimin­ished in half, … and they’ve revert­ed back to very tra­di­tion­al gueril­la tac­tics,” he noted. 

South­com sup­ports Colombia’s efforts, and the Unit­ed States has spent some $8 bil­lion on coun­ter­drug efforts in that nation over 10 years, Fras­er said, but Colom­bia itself has invest­ed $100 bil­lion in defense dur­ing that time. Colom­bia can serve as a mod­el for oth­er region­al nations, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach anti-cor­rup­tion efforts, the gen­er­al said. The gov­ern­ment first moves in secu­ri­ty forces to stop drug pro­duc­tion and quell vio­lence in a giv­en region, then fol­lows up with eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment experts to help build sus­tain­able, legal means of liveli­hood, he explained. 

Colom­bian troops get anti-cor­rup­tion train­ing, and spend two months at time in post­ings in the field before rotat­ing to a new assign­ment else­where in the coun­try, Fras­er added. Through these means, the Colom­bian gov­ern­ment has gained con­trol over the country’s cities and large towns, he said. 

Oth­er nations in the region can take those lessons and deter­mine how to apply them to their sit­u­a­tion, the gen­er­al said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →