Jacoby: Transnational Gangs
Pose Regional Threat
By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media
Washington D.C. – (DOD
News) – July 27, 2014 – Transnational criminal gangs based in Mexico and
Central America pose a threat to the region, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.,
the commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense
Command, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado yesterday.
The response to the threat has been increased cooperation between the United
States and Mexico, Jacoby said.
Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.,
commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command
U.S. Northern Command is a post-9-11 creation dedicated to protecting the
homeland. It has geographic responsibility for North America and the Bahamas.
Transnational criminal gangs and associated networks are responsible for many
of society’s ills, Jacoby said. “If you are not worried about the drugs and the
40,000 dead Americans and what they do to our youth” then people should worry
about organizations “so ruthless, so violent, so powerful” that they have
virtual freedom of movement on the U.S. southern border, he said.
Jacoby said such criminal gangs and organizations can smuggle anything from
drugs to guns to unaccompanied children. “Children are just another product to
them,” he said, noting these organizations have undermined and threatened the
governance of U.S. partners throughout Central America, the Caribbean and
And these gangs are a network, he said. They cooperate when they need to. And
the general said he personally believes there is plenty of evidence of links
between terrorists and criminal organizations.
“We have learned that the best way to fight a network is with a network,” he
said. “Counter-network tactics, techniques, procedures, collection are called
for in effective dealing with cartels and other criminal organizations.”
DoD personnel play a role in interdicting drugs in what professionals call
the transit zone. There have been record numbers of drug seizures, but officials
really have little idea of the impact they are making.
“[The drug cartels] are more powerful, they are more globally interconnected,
they are making more money and they are more violent than they ever have been,”
Jacoby said. Meanwhile, he said, efforts designed to shut down these criminal
“We know how to take a network apart,” Jacoby said. “We know what the access
targets are.” These, he said, are the financiers, logisticians, and operators.
All aspects of the network must have pressure placed on them.
The fear calculus in Mexico and Central America is completely wrong, he said.
“It’s the Mexican people and the Moms and Dads in Honduras who are afraid, not
the criminals,” Jacoby said. “We have to flip that.”
U.S. and Mexican officials need to reevaluate their plans and procedures used
to deter international crime networks , he said. “How is our cooperation between
law enforcement and the intelligence community,” he asked. The level of
cooperation between intelligence and operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq to take
down terror networks, the general said, was much closer than it is in the United
States. And the United States and Mexico are having these conversations. In
2006, then-Mexican President Felipe Calderone put the military on the street to
combat the cartel violence. The Mexican military turned to the United States to
ask for assistance, cooperation and teaming.
This was a sea change in the military-to-military relationship. The
cooperation continued when current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took
office. The military-to-military relationship is still growing, and like any
relationship there are fits and starts. “We trained with more than 5,000 Mexican
soldiers this year,” Jacoby said.
Mexican military officials also worked with Northcom on their strategy for
their border with Guatemala. And there’ve been some impressive results. Mexican
authorities removed the kingpins of the Sinaloa, Zeta and the Gulf cartels.
The U.S. and Mexican militaries learn together, Jacoby said. “What we’ve
cooperated on has helped the Mexican military modernize and become more
effective at all of the tasks that they’ve set out for themselves,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.
U.S. Northern Command
Special Report: U.S. Northern Command
North American Aerospace Defense Command
Special Report: Aspen Security Forum
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