By Gary P Jackson
A few words in the local newspaper, mostly sympathetic to “border communities” sensibilities, rather than those who are concerned for America’s national security, caught my eye this past Sunday.
The Texas agriculture commissioner stands by a report that calls Mexican drug cartels a terrorist risk and suggests more troops are needed on the Texas border, while officials from border communities call the report political propaganda.
Staples wrote this op-ed in support of an alarming report titled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment
Despite empty assurances from Washington, communities along the Texas-Mexico border continue to face threats and violence from invading Mexican drug cartels.
With the release of our commissioned report, “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment,” the Texas Department of Agriculture offers a powerful perspective into this national security breach.
If the president and his administration won’t hear the concerned voices of Texans, perhaps he will listen to high-ranking, retired military generals who know a thing or two about facing foreign enemies.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, the former U.S. Drug Czar under President Clinton and SouthCom commander of all U.S. troops in Latin America, and retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, former commandant of the United States Army War College, were commissioned by TDA and the Texas Department of Public Safety to utilize their vast military expertise to incorporate strategic, operational and tactical elements of securing borders and hostile territories and make recommendations to apply these elements along the Rio Grande.
First and foremost, the generals argue Washington must shed the cloak of denial and admit there is a problem.
Additionally, they say, there must be a highly organized, integrated, pro-active approach in which local, state and federal officials work together to create synergies to stop terrorists’ incursions.
None of this is possible, they continue, without sufficient federal resources, support and additional boots on the ground.
The generals agree our farmers, ranchers and rural residents — along with our urban areas — are under attack by cartels that rely daily on tactics such as murder, kidnapping, human smuggling, transnational arms shipments and blackmail to carry out their illegal trade to distributor gangs in hundreds of American cities.
Those same gangs help facilitate illegal commerce that pushes drugs into America while sending illegal weapons and cash into Mexico.
The report says between $19 billion and $39 billion in illicit proceeds move through southwestern border “bulk smuggling” operations to Mexico each year.
The generals also conclude that Mexican cartels are seeking to create a “sanitary zone” — their own turf — inside the United States, specifically inside the southwestern border, which they consider to be “vulnerable.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw has testified that, over a period of 18 months, six of seven cartels have established sophisticated command and control facilities in Texas cities.
The report goes on to say at least 70 residential lots in Hidalgo County have been purchased with millions of dollars in drug proceeds.
This lack of security and disregard for Americans’ safety cannot be what our founding fathers had in mind when they penned the United States Constitution and specifically outlined the federal government’s responsibility to protect American soil and citizens from foreign invaders.
It’s important for the American people and the federal government to fully understand that besides being a gateway for criminal activity, the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border plays a critical role in the safe transportation of goods and services through our nation.
Allowing this area to be under siege is not only inexcusable for the sake of our citizens’ safety, but also is detrimental to American trade, agriculture and our overall economy.
The proof will be seen in your neighborhood grocery stores as food prices increase to compensate for added security.
Keep in mind, Mexico is the No.1 trading partner for Texas and No.2 for U.S. exports.
It is this legal trade we are trying to preserve.
As the generals’ report concludes, it is imperative the federal government admits to the problem of cartel violence along the Texas-Mexico border and fulfills its duty to defend and protect Americans.
Denying the problem fails our founding fathers, our citizens and our nation.
Are you listening, Washington? Texans want action!
This is serious business, and indeed something the federal government and our President should be addressing. The federal government does a lot of things that aren’t addressed constitutionally, and yet, one of the few things it is constitutionally required to do, it ignores. A nation that can’t secure it’s borders isn’t a nation for long.
It’s not just the Narco terrorists, Mexican drug cartels, that we have to worry about. There have been numerous reports that Islamic terrorists have been learning Spanish and attempting to blend in with Hispanics who cross our border illegally. One such report from 2006:
Texas Sheriffs: Terrorists Entering U.S. from Mexico
Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez of Zapata County, Texas told Cybercast News Service that Iranian currency, military badges in Arabic, jackets and other clothing are among the items that have been discovered along the banks of the Rio Grande River. The sheriff also said there are a substantial number of individuals crossing the southern border into the U.S. who are not Mexican. He described the individuals in question as well-funded and able to pay so-called “coyotes” – human smugglers – large sums of money for help gaining illegal entry into the U.S.
Read more here.
Another Foreign terrorists breach U.S. border. Illegals coming from Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen Really lays out the dangers:
Almost nine years after terrorists murdered 2,751 people on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. is still facing a major threat as hundreds of illegal aliens from countries known to support and sponsor terrorism sneak across the U.S.-Mexico border.
[ …. ]
Warning of an “ever-present threat of terrorist infiltration over the Southwest border,” the congressional report notes:
* U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations have revealed that aliens were smuggled from the Middle East to staging areas in Central and South America, before being smuggled illegally into the United States.
* Members of Hezbollah have already entered the United States across the Southwest border.
* U.S. military and intelligence officials believe that Venezuela is emerging as a potential hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. The Venezuelan government is issuing identity documents that could subsequently be used to obtain a U.S. visa and enter the country.
The Texas border – specifically the McAllen area – outpaces the rest of the nation in OTMs and aliens from “special-interest countries.“
Read more here.
OTM, for those that may not know, stands for “other than Mexican” which his how the federal government classifies these illegal aliens.
Obviously the Narco terrorists represent the largest threat, as they are very well funded and very well motivated. After all, the United States is their largest customer, and any interruption in their business hurts their bottom line. The drug cartels have all but paralyzed the Mexican government. We regularly read about Mexican law enforcement officials who are slaughtered if they dare oppose the cartels, and the Mexican government has proven completely unable to control them. Even journalists who dare report on the atrocities committed by these terrorists face certain death. There is nothing south of the border to stop the cartels, it’s up to the United States to take action.
We know President Obama is going to do nothing. The democrat party supports open borders. It’s their hope to turn illegals into voters. It’s why the democrats strongly oppose any kind of law that requires identification to vote. Republicans are not much better. Whether it be fear of alienating Hispanics, or protecting cronies who profit from cheap labor provided by illegal workers, few in the GOP will ever seriously address this issue.
We must get a handle on this situation. Men, women, and children …. on both sides of the Texas border …. are being slaughtered by these terrorists, and live in constant fear. The federal government should designate these drug cartels as terrorists, and use the full force of the United States military to put them down. Our troops are scheduled to leave Iraq soon. No better place for their next assignment than on our United States/Mexico border. Our wonderful military protects the world. It’s time they are ordered to protect the homeland.
You must read the full 182 page report Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment, including an introduction by Commissioner Staples, here.
Below are some important points from the report:
TEXAS BORDER SECURITY: A Strategic Military Assessment
During the past two years the state of Texas has become increasingly threatened by the spread of Mexican cartel organized crime. The threat reflects a change in the strategic intent of the cartels to move their operations into the United States. In effect, the cartels seek to create a “sanitary zone” inside the Texas border — one county deep — that will provide sanctuary from Mexican law enforcement and, at the same time, enable the cartels to transform Texas’ border counties into narcotics transshipment points for continued transport and distribution into the continental United States. To achieve their objectives the cartels are relying increasingly on organized gangs to provide expendable and unaccountable manpower to do their dirty work. These gangs are recruited on the streets of Texas cities and inside Texas prisons by top-tier gangs who work in conjunction with the cartels.
Strategic, Operational and Tactical Levels of Conflict
The authors of this report, both retired senior military executives bring more than 80 years of military and governmental service to their perspective on Texas border security viewed in terms of the classic levels of conflict: strategic, operational and tactical.
America’s fight against narco-terrorism, when viewed at the strategic level, takes on the classic trappings of a real war. Crime, gangs and terrorism have converged in such a way that they form a collective threat to the national security of the United States. America is being assaulted not just from across our southern border but from across the hemisphere and beyond. All of Central and South America have become an interconnected source of violence and terrorism. Drug cartels exploit porous borders using all the traditional elements of military force, including command and control, logistics, intelligence, information operations and the application of increasingly deadly firepower. The intention is to increasingly bring governments at all levels throughout the Americas under the influence of international cartels.
In the United States the operational level of the campaign against cartel terrorism is manifested at the state. Texas has become critical terrain and operational ground zero in the cartel’s effort to expand into the United States. Texas has an expansive border with drug cartels controlling multiple shipping lanes into the state. Texas’ location as the geographic center of the U.S. allows for easier distribution of drugs and people. In effect, the fight for control of the border counties along the Rio Grande has become the operational center of gravity for the cartels and federal, state and local forces that oppose them.
At the tactical level of war the cartels seek to gain advantage by exploiting the creases between U.S. federal and state border agencies, and the separation that exists between Mexican and American crime-fighting agencies. Border law enforcement and political officials are the tactical focal point. Sadly, the tactical level is poorly resourced and the most vulnerable to corruption by cartels. To win the tactical fight the counties must have augmentation, oversight and close support from operational and strategic forces. History has shown that a common border offers an enemy sanctuary zone and the opportunity to expand his battlespace in depth and complexity. Our border with Mexico is no exception. Criminality spawned in Mexico is spilling over into the United States. Texas is the tactical close combat zone and frontline in this conflict. Texans have been assaulted by cross-border gangs and narco-terrorist activities. In response, Texas has been the most aggressive and creative in confronting the threat of what has come to be a narco-terrorist military-style campaign being waged against them.
Texas as a Narco-Sanctuary
A successful sanctuary permits insurgents to move freely and operate on whichever side offers greater security. In a curious twist of irony, the more successful the Mexican military becomes in confronting the cartels, the greater likelihood that cartels will take the active fight into Texas as they compete against each other in the battle to control distribution territories and corridors Federal authorities are reluctant to admit to the increasing cross-border campaign by narcoterrorists. Until lately, denial has been facilitated by a dearth of evidence that an organized and substantial campaign exists inside Texas. Evidence collected for this report, principally from Texas border counties, reveals a palpable sense of frustration concerning the effectiveness of U.S. federal border operations.
Accounts of this violence, both data driven and anecdotal, compiled by federal agencies, Congressional testimony and the Texas Department of Agriculture underscores the daily activity and constant threat of a larger presence of narco-terrorists than previously thought. The Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not attribute many narco-crimes to the cartels. Many cross-border crimes are routinely not reported by border farmers and ranchers due to fear of retribution from cartels.
The cartel’s foot soldiers who fight the tactical battle in Texas are “transnational gang” members many of whom are drawn from prison gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Tango Blast, Barrio Azteca and others that formed in U.S. prisons for selfpreservation and protection from other gangs. These transnational gangs not only have continued to expand in Texas and the nation but constitute a very tightly knit network of cooperation and connectivity that has been growing between prison gangs and Mexican cartels.
Impact on Texans
Fear and anxiety levels among Texas farmers and ranchers have grown enormously during the past two years. Farmers, ranchers and other citizens in border communities are caught in the crossfire of escalating cross-border violence resulting in large part from conflicts between cartels, paramilitary enforcement groups and transnational gangs struggling for control of key drug and illegal alien smuggling routes into the U.S. from El Paso to Brownsville. Some Texas farmers and ranchers have even abandoned their livelihoods to move their families to safer ground.
Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock. The Rio Grande River offers little solace to the echoes of gunshots and explosions. News of shootings, murders, kidnappings, beheadings, mass graves and other acts of violence coming across the border go far beyond any definition of “spillover violence.”
Texas Joins the War
Because Texas is the frontline in this conflict and because its citizens and institutions are most affected, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has developed a comprehensive military-like operational campaign against narco-terrorists. This effort is still growing and changing in response to an adaptive and ruthless enemy that still harbors an intense desire to take its campaign into the United States. Five years of effort to curtail narco-terrorist intrusion has given the Texas DPS and its state and local partners enormous and hard-won experience in the art and science of fighting the southwest border war.
Beginning in 2006, Texas began a series of high-intensity, sequential, short-duration operations that resulted in crime reductions ranging from 25 percent to as high as 75 percent as smuggling operations decreased. Later, the state expanded and lengthened these operations by increasing the patrol presence along the Texas-Mexico border. Governor Perry was able to achieve this expansion of effort by leveraging various discretionary grants to increase local and state patrol capacity along the border through overtime payments and the purchase of communications and surveillance equipment as well as new vehicles and weapons. The governor also committed Texas military forces to support these operations.
To gain support from the citizenry, in 2007 the Texas Legislature created the Border Security Council (BSC) charged with advising the governor regarding the allocation of discretionary state homeland security funds. The BSC held a series of public hearings and received testimony from business owners, law enforcement officers, local elected officials and private citizens and then produced a comprehensive report and recommendations on border security issues for the governor and Texas Legislature.
Organization for Combat
The state of Texas organized for combat in a manner familiar to the military by creating six Unified Commands (UCs) each staffed with a Joint Operations and Intelligence Center (JOICs) located principally within Texas cities most threatened by cartel violence. This Texas effort, led by the Texas Rangers, is dependent on a cooperative relationship based not on command authority, but on a shared relationship, trust and commitment to work together.
This cooperative group of players is represented by federal, state, local and military components. The heart and operational engine of the Texas border security effort is located in Austin within the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC). All unified command and joint players intersect in a single facility administered by the Texas Ranger Division of the DPS. The BSOC collects and shares information from all state, local and federal agencies.
Six years of experience has produced a collaborative interagency network that has grown by establishing trust and confidence among network participants from strategic through tactical. The comity engendered through successful operation allows the BSOC team to chip away at bureaucratic cultures and mindsets. Such experience serves to generate interpersonal incentives and rewards selflessness and a commitment to collaborative behavior.
Years of experimentation and field operations have yielded a wealth of lessons learned as well as new materiel, tactics and doctrine unique to Texas but capable of being shared by other state and federal border security agencies. The BSOC operates using a statewide mapping system that graphically displays and shares with unified commands and federal agencies a crime map that includes all drug, cash and weapons seizures. It fuses information from other state and federal agencies. Texas has developed cheap and effective locally procured wildlife cameras linked to the Internet that are capable of passing images in real time to state authorities.
Texas Rangers Lead the Fight
The first principle of Texas border security operations is to empower local law enforcement. Soldiers often say that bad strategies cannot be salvaged by good tactics— but bad tactics can defeat a good strategy. This saying simply reinforces the truism that no national strategy that seeks to defeat narco-terrorism can be adequately confronted unless tactical units, such as local police and federal border security stations, are properly staffed, resourced, competent and well-led.
The Texas Rangers lead a cooperative program that brings together a ground, air and marine assault capability. Ranger Reconnaissance Teams are the tactical combat elements in the war against narco-terrorists. Each participating federal, state and local agency voluntarily adds its unique capabilities to the teams. The Texas Highway Patrol acts as an outer perimeter for the Rangers by funneling traffic toward Ranger border positions. Tactical contact teams, deploying along the Rio Grande in small, concealed positions, are able to respond immediately to intelligence from Autonomous Surveillance Platform (ASP) units, DPS and National Guard surveillance helicopters, as well as calls to UCs from local police or citizens. DPS Dive Teams conduct SONAR scans of the Rio Grande and assist in recovery of vehicles and contraband in splashdown areas.
Resources remain the greatest impediment to the expansion and continued success of the Rangers’ border war against the cartels. Budget cuts for DHS, its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the United States Coast Guard USCG) have severely constrained the ability of Texas to rely on its federal partners and their resources to expand border operations.
A Successful System Under Threat
Years of collective effort by Texas law enforcement have yielded a remarkably flexible and efficient system of border protection that involves all levels of command from federal to local. This system is under threat not only by an increasingly ruthless and adaptive enemy but also by an increasingly diminished budget.
Without question, the future success of this effort will depend on the ability of the state of Texas, local and federal agencies to work together to expand their war against intrusion by cartels. The bottom line, however, is that while today Texas is the frontline in this escalating war, the potential consequences of success or failure will affect our entire nation. Thus, it is up to the nation to support Texas in its efforts to defeat this transnational criminal enterprise.