The time for drug cartel reckoning has come

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Earlier this month, the DC-based foreign policy establishment seemed dismayed by claims in former Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new memoir that former President Donald Trump asked about the launch. missiles in Mexico to “destroy drug labs” and eliminate cartels.

My reaction: We shouldn’t reject President Trump’s idea that the time for accountability for these drug cartels has come. These cartels have terrorized our country for years by importing drugs and violence, while playing a role in destabilizing our southern border.


A police officer walks amidst ammunition near the scene of a shooting in Mexico City, Mexico, June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero – RC22HH9GO673

Groupthink on foreign policy has plagued our government in recent years as new crises multiply across the world. One of the benefits of having a disruptor like Donald Trump in the Oval Office was his ability to see things differently and challenge the status quo in Washington.

President Trump asked questions few thought they were asking and demanded results few DCs imagined possible. He asked, “Why not change tactics around the Middle East peace negotiations to get the results we need? Towards the end of his administration, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had signed the historic Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House.

A similar pattern emerged when he ordered to strike IRGC General Qasem Soleimani to restore deterrence against the Iranian regime after its proxies attacked our bases and embassy in Iraq. He also recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved our embassy there, despite dire warnings from grassroots “experts”.

The American people deserve this continued and disruptive approach to our strategy with respect to our southern border. Threats from cartels in Mexico have wreaked havoc on our submerged border, destabilized our neighbor Mexico, and sparked a terrible drug epidemic at home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the United States last year. A report by Families Against Fentanyl estimates that the deadly imported drug is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. The murder of thousands of Americans by a foreign substance is a serious national security crisis.

Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram recently connected Chinese chemical companies that manufacture fentanyl with Mexican drug cartels and said, “I can say with 100% assurance that the criminal cartels drug companies in Mexico will stop at nothing to get fentanyl into the United States.

Simply accepting the status quo will only lead to hundreds of thousands more Americans dead. It is time to establish deterrence against the cartels that terrorize our communities.

We can do the same with the cartels in Mexico, just as we did in Colombia with the direct involvement of the United States.

In the early 1970s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began smuggling cocaine into the United States to fund their guerrilla warfare against the Colombian government.

What have we done? We have helped the Colombian military launch some of the most successful counter-insurgency operations to bring down FARC and other cartel operations to establish more regional stability and stem the flow of drugs. For years, US Army special forces, the “Green Berets,” have trained government forces to keep these narco-guerrillas at bay.

With a small US Special Forces presence on the ground in Colombia and other nearby areas, we advised government forces in patrols, marksmanship, land navigation and more. We need to invest similar, if not more aggressive, vigor when it comes to tackling cartels in Mexico.

Colombia is far from the only example of this precedent in American foreign policy. Nearly 20 years ago, I helped serve in the Pentagon’s counternarcotics bureau, where I primarily helped Afghans dismantle drug operations in Afghanistan as the opium trade fueled the rise of the Taliban.

Afghanistan’s drug lords were (and still are) tied to terrorist groups as a financial backbone. It was essential to suppress these groups as they helped fund terrorist activities both in the region and globally in exchange for regional security to continue counter-narcotics operations. In 2017, then-President Trump expanded targeted airstrikes against Taliban drug labs in an effort to harm their narcotics revenues.

We should apply similar tactics against Mexican cartels to disable their cash flow and operations.

Last March, US consulate personnel in Nuevo Laredo and their families were forced to evacuate due to an outbreak of cartel violence. It’s not a distant place – it’s a town just south of the Texas border.
The Mexican military and police forces have not been able to contain the cartels, and we must help them.

The Biden administration is expected to pressure the Mexican government to allow military advisers into its country to help establish counterinsurgency operations to tackle areas of Mexico that have fallen into the fold. anarchy under the control of paramilitary cartels.


The proximity of Mexico allows us to use our airborne means of surveillance to sow fear in the heart of the cartels. As we demonstrated during the 2020 operation to eliminate Soleimani, we can conduct strikes against high-level terrorist leaders with minimal collateral damage. We need to plant this fear in the minds of drug traffickers.


Americans, especially those in border states, have suffered for too long as our border is overwhelmed with human and drug traffickers. We shouldn’t be supporting more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths a year.

Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, we treated Al-Qaeda as a law enforcement issue rather than a military threat. We shouldn’t make the same mistakes with the Mexican drug cartels.

It is time to think outside the box to assess how we are dealing with this national security crisis. It may be time to take the fight to cartel territory.


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