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"Special Operations Command North" to work with Mexico's military

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  • Cort Greene
    Friday, January 18, 2013 Special Operations Command North to work with Mexico s military For 26 years, U.S. Southern Command has had a Special Forces
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2013
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      Friday, January 18, 2013
      "Special Operations Command North" to work with Mexico's military

      For 26 years, U.S. Southern Command has had a Special Forces component,
      Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH <http://www.socso.southcom.mil/>),
      headed by a general and based in Florida. It coordinates the activities of
      Special Operations Forces (elite
      like Army Rangers and Green Berets, or Navy SEALs and Special Boat Units)
      in Southcom�s area of operations, which includes all of Latin America
      except Mexico, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

      Mexico falls under the purview of the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom,
      founded in 2002), which did not have a formal Special Forces component �
      until now, apparently. Special Operations Command North was stood up on
      December 31, and its principal focus for now is to deepen training of elite
      military units in Mexico.

      We know this not from Northcom�s website <http://www.northcom.mil/>, which
      doesn�t even mention the existence of Special Operations Command North, but
      from a story<http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/new-us-special-operations-headquarters-to-help-mexican-forces-to-fight-drug-gangs/2013/01/17/49d67180-6103-11e2-8f16-7b37a1341b04_story.html>
      yesterday by the Associated Press.

      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. It was established in
      a Dec. 31 memo signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. That move gives
      the group more autonomy and the number of people could eventually quintuple
      from 30 to 150, meaning the headquarters could expand its training missions
      with the Mexicans, even though no new money is being assigned to the

      This news brings up three points (not including persistent
      the human rights record of SOCNORTH�s Mexican military partners):

      1. It signals a closer relationship with Mexico�s Defense Department
      under the new leadership that came in with President Enrique Pe�a
      Nieto. SEDENA incorporates Mexico�s Army and Air Force, which during the
      presidency of Felipe Calder�n were noticeably less enthusiastic than
      Mexico�s Navy (SEMAR) about cooperating with U.S. military counterparts.
      �Historically, suspicion of the United States has been a prime driver of a
      military bureaucratic culture that has kept SEDENA closed to us,� noted a
      leaked <http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10MEXICO83.html> 2010 State
      Department cable. It is notable that U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta signed
      the order establishing SOCNORTH only a month after Pe�a Nieto assumed
      office, along with a new SEDENA secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos.

      2. It appears that one of SOCNORTH�s first tasks is helping the Pe�a Nieto
      government to stand up a new intelligence unit within the Interior
      Ministry. �The special operations program has already helped Mexican
      officials set up their own intelligence center in Mexico City to target
      criminal networks, patterned after similar centers in war zones built to
      target al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq,� the AP story reports. That unit,
      the National Intelligence Center or CNI, will �concentrate in one entity,
      like the fusion centers or offices that we have in the United States, all
      intelligence information that is gathered by the Army, the Navy, CISEN [the
      existing civilian intelligence agency], the PGR [attorney-general�s office]
      and all other federal and even state agencies involved in the fight against
      narcotrafficking,� a U.S. consultant source
      Mexico�s Proceso magazine.

      3. This is an emblematic indication that the Obama administration�s �light
      footprint� strategy is moving ahead. The administration is unlikely to
      commit to any large, costly new �M�rida Initiative�-style programs in
      Mexico. Budget realities alone determine that. But as we noted last
      as Special Forces units leave Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 drawdown, there
      will be many more of them available for training and other missions in
      Latin America. The pace of Special Forces deployments � low-profile, under
      the radar, mostly for training, but also serving other purposes, like
      intelligence-gathering � is very likely beginning to pick up throughout the
      hemisphere. As that happens, the establishment of SOCNORTH to guide work
      with Mexico is an important milestone.

      By Adam Isacson at 01/18/2013 - 16:37


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