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US to Give Mexico More Military Aid Against Cartels

The expansion of a commando training program will make use of know-how gained in the hunt for al-Qaida.

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Defense Secretary Leon Panette Photo via

By Ben Feuerherd

01/18/13

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The US military is stepping up its training of Mexican security forces in an effort to combat drug cartels—using techniques developed in the US hunt for al-Qaida. A new “Special Operations Command-North” will expand an existing commando program; Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly signed a memo approving the expansions on December 31. Specifically, they include: turning the Special Operations Command-North into a headquarters for the training; appointing a general, instead of a colonel, to lead the program; and increasing the number of people working at HQ from 30 to 150. These steps are an extension of the Merida Initiative, which was started in 2008 to provide military aid to Mexico. The new Mexican president, Pena Nieto, is likely to welcome the growing military partnership with the US as he plots his approach to his country's catastrophic drug war, which has claimed over 47,000 lives in the last five years. Dr. Agnes Schaefer, of Rand Corp., a global policy think tank, tells the Associated Press: “He [Nieto] has talked about setting up a paramilitary force...made up of former military and police forces, which he has described as more surgical.”

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