Archive for September 2011
“I’d simply say that given the limited size and capability of the Iranian navy they would be far better off focusing on the challenges closer to home”
Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) from Mexico and South America are aggressively expanding their operations in Central America to bypass interdiction efforts on seaborne and airborne shipping routes. These DTOs take advantage of a new U.S. funded Pan-American Highway, weak and corrupted Central American governments, and connections with armed youth gangs to ship drugs by land into Mexico from South America.
This growth in land-based trafficking through Central America has increased violence in that region, particularly in the northern section of the isthmus, bordering Mexico. There, Mexican groups such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel compete for territory, recruiting youth “mara” gangs as enforcers and drug couriers. The expansion into Central America is part of a deliberate strategy by Mexican DTOs trying to augment their ability to get illegal narcotics into the United States from South America. Components of this strategy include establishing and holding transshipment lanes and pickup locations. Currently, it is less likely for narcotics to travel by land all the way from South America to Mexico, instead a combination of transit methods are used, which include littoral transit, aerial delivery, and overland transport.
Indications are that DTOs have established networks of front companies, expressly to help move contraband. “Maras” recruited into trafficking are paid with drugs or with relatively small amounts of cash, which keeps them dependent on Mexican DTOs. Meanwhile, larger Central American criminal organizations, which could potentially rival the Mexican groups, are targeted for elimination.
Implemented in 2008, the Merida Initiative is the current U.S.-led effort to counter illegal drug trafficking in the region. There is a Central American component to the Initiative which aims to re-establish rule of law and increase security by disrupting the movement of criminals through the region. However, Central American governments claim their portion of the aid is too insignificant to adequately disrupt criminal activity.
Increased drug trafficking through Central America has had a negative impact on the region’s governing and economic institutions. Inflation is fueled by laundered drug money, which passes its way through economies that widely use the U.S. dollar and have lax banking oversight. Judicial systems already flooded with drug-related criminal cases are simultaneously corrupted through bribery and intimidation. Furthermore, police forces are frequently outgunned with national militaries called in to support law enforcement efforts, which adds the risk of exposing more national security forces to corruption by their proximity to drug trafficking operations.
As Mexican DTOs continue their expansion into Central America, they will likely continue to maintain their paternal role with local youth gangs, while posing additional security risks to the state and exposing more individuals to drug addiction. These problems are compounded by the region’s systemic unemployment, which is especially high among males, 18-25 years old; the typical drug trafficking demographic. By establishing a larger foothold in the Central American region, Mexican DTOs will likely increase the volume of narcotics trafficking from South America. In the short-run, this may lead to pitched competition between DTOs and violent clashes for new territory.
Stratfor explains the Pakistan-based Lashkar e-Taiba?
India picks a verbal confrontation with China.
U.S. gives Colombia the “thumbs up” on Human Rights. Moves toward free trade agreement.
Gov. Rick Perry aims for the Jewish vote.
The burden to protect Somalia has cost $55 billion since 1991.
Ghanaian legislators fall under spell, try to protect the rights of witches.
Here are some news stories that deserve more main stream coverage.
[The Financial Times] termed the actions of the Chinese warship as the latest example of Beijing’s assertiveness which had irked India and Vietnam. China claims South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over the resource rich region.
Maritime disputes between the world’s two most populous countries are a growing concern, especially as China grows more confident in its military capabilities.
At one unguarded facility, empty packing crates and documents reveal that 482 sophisticated Russian SA-24 missiles were shipped to Libya in 2004, and now are gone. With a range of 11,000 feet, the SA-24 is Moscow’s modern version of the American “stinger,” which in the 1980s helped the US-backed Afghan mujahideen turn their war against the Soviet Union.
Though Libya’s SA-24s are reportedly the variant without the “gripstick,” which means they cannot be man portable and shoulder fired, they are still a major air defense weapon. In in the wrong hands they could be used as an offensive capability by guerrilla fighters or terrorists. The small arms and light weaponry looted from Libyan stockpiles is a growing security concern, especially with regards to the missing remnants of Qaddafi’s chemical weapons program. John Brennan worries that Libya could become an “arms bazaar” for terrorist organizations.
“Currently, the situation is so-called post-Gaddafi. And it is not NATO’s intention to stay on top of this situation. The UN should take the reins in its hands, and we are ready to support it, should we receive such a request,” NATO Assistant Secretary General Dirk Brengelmann told reporters.
The UN and NATO are likely to have a major hand in the development of post-Qaddafi Libya. Yet, there has not been an established framework on how they are going to conduct state building in the country and help Libyan rebels create viable governing institutions. Sooner rather than later this needs to be addressed by all the interested parties.
Afghan and NATO officials have long struggled to entice young men in the heavily Pashtun south — the Taliban heartland — to join the Afghan Army. Despite years of efforts to increase the enlistment of southern Pashtuns, an analysis of recruitment patterns by The New York Times shows that the number of them joining the army remains relatively minuscule, reflecting a deep and lingering fear of the insurgents, or sympathy for them, as well as doubts about the stability and integrity of the central government in Kabul, the capital.
Building a professional and representative Afghan National Army is one of the top priorities of America’s strategy in Afghanistan. However, serious problems remain regarding professionalism, recruitment of quality soldiers, and abuses by ANA personnel such as thievery. Many parts of Afghanistan are skeptical of the rank and file ANA because they are viewed as miscreants from across the country who are sent into the army by tribal leaders tired of having them in their village.
Over the weekend news broke that Libya’s former intelligence services had links to the CIA and MI6. This news shouldn’t shock anyone who acknowledges that after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Libya agreed – through a process that included back-channel negotiations – to relinquish its nuclear weapons program. Reportedly, however, the relationship expanded after 2003, to include cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts. In this arrangement, Libya shared information on terrorist groups and took-in rendered suspected terrorists. Again, news that shouldn’t shock anyone.
However, criticism against the U.S. and NATO now centers on two things: 1) How immoral it was to collaborate with Qaddafi. And 2) How that collaboration may affect our role in the future government of Libya.
To the first point. Saying it was reprehensible to work with Qaddafi presumes that other options were more preferable. In reality, had the U.S. forgone collaboration it would have lost a strategic asset in Northern Africa and been worse off. Essentially, intelligence played the hand it was dealt.
To the second point. Rebel forces, unless oblivious, most likely had already suspected U.S. and NATO involvement with Qaddafi before the discovery of these documents. At worst, this could deepen suspicion of Western influence, but that does not deny they will still need Western support to survive. Lastly, it would have been significantly more difficult for Western intelligence to grapple with the rebellion in Libya, had it not already established a foothold in the country through Qaddafi. The reality did not present a choice between good and bad, but instead a chance to choose the less worse of two options.
Perhaps the most worrisome part of this story has been covered in the Christian Science Monitor. By relinquishing his nuclear weapons program, Qaddafi lost his most important security umbrella. This made it easy for NATO to turn on him and aid the rebels. Essentially, this has signaled to countries like Iran and North Korea that by giving up their nuclear weapons program they face greater risk of Western backed rebellion.