The deployment of special forces (Green Berets) to support Honduras in its fight against drug cartels has sparked great interest and — in some quarters — alarm. Why? This is not a new development; it is simply the resumption of longstanding and successful programs that were put on the back burner because of the war on terrorism, which has made tremendous demands on these superb warriors since 9/11.
Throughout the late 1980s and all of the 1990s, Green Berets were deployed to numerous Central and South American countries to help our friends there in their struggle to stop the various drug cartels from further undermining the rule of law. The missions focused on training the local military and paramilitary police units responsible for fighting the drug lords in their country.
U.S. officers and noncommissioned officers taught intelligence gathering, small-unit tactics, human rights protection and civilian-military relations to the host nation troops. They never accompanied their students on missions. Nor did they ever conduct independent missions as portrayed in Tom Clancy’s well-known book “Clear and Present Danger” (later a Harrison Ford movie).
The actual training missions were conducted in, Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador, as well as Honduras and other nations. They were highly effective, added materially to both the war on drugs and the stability of the host counties.
The resumption of these missions, given the growing threat of the Mexican cartels, is wise. It also shows that the post-9/11 operational tempo has begun to slacken a bit. As one who personally worked these missions during the described time period, I am happy to see the resumption. Illegal drugs remain a huge threat to our people, and to the stability of our southern neighbors. Sending our best to help in this fight may not be new, but it is right.
First Appeared in The New York Times.