New U.S. special operations HQ to train Mexican forces in fighting cartels
BY Associated Press
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 5:36 AM
The Pentagon is stepping up aid for Mexico's bloody drug war with a new U.S.-based special operations headquarters to teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way special operations teams hunt al-Qaida, according to documents and interviews with multiple U.S. officials.
Such assistance could help newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto establish a military force to focus on drug criminal networks that have terrorized Mexico's northern states and threatened the U.S. Southwest border. Mexican officials say warring drug gangs have killed at least 70,000 people between 2006 and 2012.
Based at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, Special Operations Command-North will build on a commando program that has brought Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study U.S. counterterrorist operations, to show them how special operations troops built an interagency network to target al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and his followers.
The special operations team within Northcom will be turned into a new headquarters, led by a general instead of a colonel.
Mexican and U.S. military officials played down the change, and it's unclear whether the Mexican government will agree to boost its training.
"We are merely placing a component commander in charge of things we are already doing," said Northcom spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis in a written statement.
Mexico's Foreign Affairs Department emailed a statement saying it had been briefed on the changes and had no further comment.
The creation of the new command marks another expansion of Adm. Bill McRaven's special operations empire, as he seeks to migrate special operators from their decade of service in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to new missions.
The new headquarters will also coordinate special operations troops when needed for domestic roles like rescuing survivors after a natural disaster, or helping the U.S. Coast Guard strike ships carrying suspect cargo just outside U.S. territorial waters, according to multiple current and former U.S. officials briefed on the mission.
U.S. officials stress that sharing this expertise does not mean U.S. special operations teams will be conducting raids against targets in Mexico, nor will they be entering the country with their own weapons.
Original Print Headline: U.S. military to help train Mexican forces
Adm. Bill McRaven: He's led the U.S. military's special operations through its roles in combating insurgents and terrorist operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now tasked with working with Mexican officials in showing them how they can use U.S. special forces' techniques to combat drug cartels