U.S. Should Strengthen Security On Its Southern Flank, Analysts Say
WASHINGTON, FEB. 20, 2004
- Pentagon officials are
still debating whether to abolish the Miami-based U.S. Southern
Command-despite the fact that the terrorist presence in Latin and
South America is growing and may soon threaten U.S. interests, says
a paper from The Heritage Foundation.
At least seven major terrorist groups, including three with ties to
Islamic terrorist organizations, are active in the region.
According to U.S. Ambassador Cofer Black, such groups are becoming
more active in the drug trade, arms trafficking, money laundering
and smuggling. And the problems they cause are exacerbated by
"regional troublemakers" such as Venezuelan President Hugo
Chàvez, who reportedly has been encouraging activists in
Bolivia and Ecuador to rise up against elected leaders.
"Defense officials are focused, understandably, on threats from
abroad, but we can't afford to ignore the security of our own
neighborhood," says Heritage foreign-policy expert James Carafano,
who co-authored the paper with Heritage's Stephen Johnson. "We
should work closely with other governments to neutralize these
threats before they get out of hand."
One way to do that, Carafano and Johnson say, is to revitalize the
U.S. Southern Command. "Closing it down would throw U.S. military
programs and goals in the region south of Mexico into disarray,"
they say. "It would be better to enhance and modernize its role in
supporting U.S. military operations in Latin America, fighting both
terrorism and the illegal drug trade."
They also stress the need to improve intelligence gathering in the
region and make it easier for U.S. officials to train and assist
the police forces of foreign democratic governments.
Their paper is online at