“Over the past few years the amount of interdiction has declined as well as the amount of illegal drug interceptions.”
The efforts to keep illegal drugs from entering the country has always been a high priority for the United States. Recent cutbacks to the military budget have made this job much more difficult due to sparse resources available those running these operations. Members of the House Armed Service Committee were informed by the commanders of the U.S. Southern and Northern Commands, Marine General John Kelly and Army General Charles Jacoby that over the past few years the amount of interdiction has declined as well as the amount of illegal drug interceptions.
A joint effort by the US, Europe, Canada and Latin America referred to as Operation Martillo focuses on drug trafficking routes located in the coastal waters of the Central American isthmus and attempts to intercept the drugs before they reach the countries. This is critical, since once the drugs have entered the country, the shrewd and organized drug trade operations make it very difficult to infiltrate and recover the drug supplies. In the last year, this operation prevented approximately 20 fewer metric tons of cocaine from entering because of lack of resources.
Operations of these kind do not require high levels costly military equipment; however, adequate supplies are necessary to complete the mission. General Kelly expressed the need for more ships capable of carrying helicopters essential to the missions.
There are several advantages to intercepting the drugs at sea. This process is a fairly simple one in which the ships are boarded, the drugs are taken, and the traffickers are captured and questioned. While in the Air Force, I participated in such interdiction missions while deployed to Ecuador. I can attest that in these types of operations, violence levels are very low and bulk supplies of drugs can be obtained at one time. On the other hand, if the drugs were to get into the country, the violence likelihood escalates significantly. It is also much more difficult to acquire the drugs in large amounts once inside the country due to the fact that shipments are usually separated into smaller quantities and sent out for distribution. Approximately 100 more tons of drugs have been confiscated at sea than by the officials patrolling the borders.
Generals Jacoby and Kelly warn that action against these drug cartels and other traffickers needs to be taken because there are already indications that these groups are adapting and diversifying their businesses to include other trades such as illegal immigrants, sex slaves and rare materials. They stress the importance of joint efforts with other countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras that will require ongoing funds. Americans’ desire for these illegal drugs has led to violence in other countries. If it appears that the fight against drugs has lost its importance to the American leaders and does not receive the adequate funding to continue in full force, there is fear that our partners working with us in control efforts could sit back and allow these illegal operations to continue unopposed.
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