U.S. Special Operations In Mexico
Three puzzle pieces about operations against Mexican drug cartels let me assume that U.S. Special Forces are involved in recent mass killings of alleged Zeta Cartel members in Mexico.
From a piece which ran on October 20 in the LA Times: Mystery group targets Veracruz drug cartel
VERACRUZ, Mexico — Callers to the radio program were voicing support for the Matazetas, the Zeta killers.Better they fight among themselves. Let them kill each other. Anything to rid us of thugs who long ago took control of our city and are slaughtering our people.
Yet, it also comes with a disturbing question: Just who is behind the killings of Zetas? Another drug gang? Agents acting on behalf of the government or military? An ad hoc group whose presence is tolerated by authorities as well as the public?
On Sept. 20, nearly three dozen half-naked bodies were dumped in broad daylight on a busy highway underpass in a well-to-do tourist area of Veracruz, the state capital. Fourteen more turned up days later — during a convention of the nation’s top state and federal prosecutors. Then, on Oct. 6, barely 48 hours after announcing a major security offensive, military and police found 36 bodies, and 10 more turned up the next day.
In videotaped presentations, a group of masked men with military bearing have claimed responsibility for the spate of killings, portraying it as a cleansing operation. Many bodies had a “Z” for Zeta written on the back with ink marker, a witness said.
The mystery group announced it was in Veracruz as “the armed branch of the people, and for the people.”
My first thought after reading the above was “That’s JSOC”.
The U.S. Joint Special Operation Command and its Special Mission Units does dirty work against terrorists, often in cooperation with the CIA. It sometimes uses local forces which it trains, supplies with information and leads into combat. It is also quite good at Information Operations, i.e. issuing propaganda in support of its operations. Those callers to the radio program supporting these mass killings may be something other than random radio listening Mexican civilians.
Are such U.S. units involved in extralegal killing of assumed drug gangsters in Mexico?
The Zeta Cartel was founded by 30 former Mexican Army Special Forces. Anyone who wants to fight them needs some superb military capabilities. The success of the Matazetas, the Zeta killers, points to high qualified military trained personal with additionally very good access to information about the gangs.
Today’s NYT adds to the picture on the intelligence side:
As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.Typically, the officials said, Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants — including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives — partly because of concerns about corruption among the Mexican police, and partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil.
[T]he United States, hoping to shore up Mexico’s stability and prevent its violence from spilling across the border, has expanded its role in ways unthinkable five years ago, including flying drones in Mexican skies.
U.S. drones over Mexico do not only allow for visual surveillance, which is often useless, but also for the more effective SIGINT, signal intelligence, side of the drone capability. IMSI catcher on board of the drones allow the operators to know the location of each mobile phone in the surveillance area and to listen to what is said through them. If one has the number of a mobile phone of a suspect the drone can find out where the person who carries it is and which other phone carriers that person is meeting. This method of finding assumed suspects and their networks has been used in Iraq and is widely used by JSOC in Afghanistan, often with deadly consequences for innocent civilians.
A third piece for the puzzle comes from a blog post Col. Pat Lang wrote in December 2009: JSOC and the Mexican drug lords
I suggest that [JSOC] should be unleashed on the Mexican drug cartels. Kill or capture. Kill or capture. Those should be the instructions. The legal niceties could be “cleaned up” through arrest or execution warrants. On the other hand, maybe that is not necessary if recent history is a guide.
As one can tell from the dates of the comments to the piece, Pat Lang reissued that post three days ago on the front page of his blog. It is now back in the archives. But why did he republish it?
In recent days there were reports about mysterious mass killing of Zetas by high qualified military personal, acknowledgment of high-tech U.S. intelligence operations against the drug cartels in Mexico and a former Defense Intelligence Agency head relaunched a two year old blog post that demanded JSOC “kill or capture” operations against drug cartels.
Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, …
Unlike the Taliban the Zetas do have the capability to hit inside the United States. If JSOC is really operating those death squadrons in Mexico we can soon expect some violent retributions on the northern side of the border.