D.E.A. "Commando" Squads Meld Drug War with War on Terror

Squads of military-trained agents deployed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are muddling the war on terror in Central Asia with the drug war in Central America.

On Monday, The New York Times reported:

The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations—including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize—that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.

The program—called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team—was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

In Honduras last March, a training mission including one of the D.E.A. squads and Honduran police was interrupted “when they received word that a suspicious plane from Venezuela was being tracked to a clandestine landing strip nearby.” After a 20 minute firefight during which a Honduran officer was wounded and two drug traffickers were killed, the law enforcement officials seized the plane’s cocaine and withdrew from the skirmish.

The D.E.A. squads’ expansion to the Western Hemisphere is the latest evidence of the war on terror seeping into the drug war. Mike Riggs recently reported on some House Republicans’ wishes to designate Mexican drug cartels as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” a move that would allow U.S. law enforcement officials to pursue cartels more aggressively but would also probably damage U.S.-Mexico relations.

Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Mexico Institute gave Riggs his thoughts on the subject:

“The government of Mexico certainly does not describe the organizations as terrorist organizations. They’re not like Al Qaeda. They’re not motivated by an ideology or a religion, they don’t have an intention of taking over the government and running the country. They’re not enemies attempting to tear down the United States. They wreak terror on civilians, there’s no question about that. But they’re not organized in the same fashion.”

Riggs also noted that State Department official William Brownfield has testified that cartels’ activities in Mexico are different from activities in “other parts of the world that we describe as having insurgencies.” Brownfield added that "if we cannot reach basic agreement with the government of Mexico, our efforts will probably not succeed. It has to be cooperative, they have to agree."

Read Riggs’ related coverage on why waging the war on drugs in Latin America is a gold mine for contractors and a waste for taxpayers.

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  • teh rael o2||

    actually one can reverse the argument since the taliban use opium profits for financing.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Judges, can we get a ruling on whether this constitutes another front in the 2008 Nobel Laureates ever-expanding campaign of peace?

  • ||

    Reply hazy, try again.

  • PIRS||

    I hope one of the first things President Paul does is get rid of the DEA - or alternatively he could order them to do only useful things. Perhaps they could be tasked to investigate cold case files on actual crimes with real victims? There are a hell of a lot of DEA agents and we pay their salaries. Either lay them off or have them do something that is actually useful.

  • cynical||

    He should bring the military home from Afghanistan, and send all of the nation's DEA agents in their place. And then pull out and leave them there.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    The military is fast becoming the foot soldiers of the DEA under Obama.

  • Anomalous||

    First rule of Drug War: don't question the need for Drug War.

  • cynical||

    So which department is running the FURIOUS program?

  • ||

    EOP.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    This is an unauthorized question. All active agents are to begin retaliatory DNS attack. Text wall begins here. No reading beyond this point.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    They’re not motivated by an ideology or a religion

    Uh, they kind of are. Their ideology is called get rich by selling drugs. And kill people who interfere with the aforementioned production, transport, and sale of the drugs in question.

    they don’t have an intention of taking over the government and running the country

    In some parts of the Mexico, the cartels are the government. And they only want to run the parts of the country they need for their business.

  • The Other Kevin||

    Our status as an economic superpower may be slipping, but we still have people in more countries killing other people than anyone else. Go USA!

  • CatoTheElder||

    Fuck yeah!

  • John Tagliaferro||

    The transport and sale of contraband has been long associated with funding for various terrorist/insurgent/militant groups. The thing is, frequently contraband merchants are just doing it for personal profit, so the drug trade (in this case) may not always be associated with militants. However, you would be hard pressed to find a militant group that was not in the drug, or other contraband trade.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Which is another great reason, if not one of the best reasons to legalize drugs, including their production and distribution.

  • Joe M||

    Mission creep? More like mission sprint.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Ludicrous speed.

  • ||

    As if we needed any more proof that drugs cause insanity.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I believe it is the unchecked presidential power causing the insanity.

  • BradK||

    Power exercised by a President who has admittedly used drugs.

    So there you go, full circle.

  • Whoopi||

    Don't worry. It's not invasion invasion.

  • Joe Zilch||

    I'm a little confused by the designation of the cartels as FTOs. They kill people without much regard, use terror to suppress opposition and because they essentially own vast swaths of Mexico (including government officials) we shouldn't designate them as FTOs?

    I understand the logic behind NOT giving the US Government more authority into the drug war but why aren't they FTOs on their actions alone?

    If somebody murders you for money or for Allah, they still murdered you.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That's the whole problem with the word terrorism isn't it. So vague and open ended and yet the powers the government gives themselves to fight it are so broad and also open ended. It's a totalitarians wet dream and a freedom lovers nightmare.

  • Mr. Mark||

    Don't care about the drug war (as it ignores economics and human nature), but with regard to this specific thing here:

    "they don’t have an intention of taking over the government and running the country."

    Wrong. I certify this guy has no idea what he's talking about.

  • jtuf||

    And yet, the Democrats still support the Drug War.

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  • Hacha Cha||

    The only good thing about this is more dead DEA agents.

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