Most Drug Shipments Evade US Forces, General Says
Even high-ranking US military officials don't think the war on drugs is succeeding. Air Force General Douglas Fraser, Chief of the US Southern Command, admits that the US military covering South America only intercepts about one third of the drug shipments and other illegal traffic that it knows about—and even that number is starting to decrease. The smugglers succeed in operating in hard-to-reach areas, where US forces can't pursue them without violating foreign airspace, while the local authorities lack the resources for the job. Fraser blames factors including a limited budgets in both the US and other allied nations, a shrinking US Navy, and the diversion of Air Force reconnaissance assets to Afghanistan. "I don't think a long term trend of the military being involved in law enforcement is a good thing, [but] countries have seen the necessity to do that as their only available solution," says Fraser. "[Instead, we need to] help build law enforcement capacity, help build judicial capacity." The US Navy is also retiring its Perry-class frigates—the main staples of drug interdiction patrols—which will likely be replaced with other vessels coming back from Iraq, some of which could be transferred to friendly countries that currently lack the capability to intercept drug boats in their own waters. Fraser also hopes to use the Air Force's MC-12 "Liberty" reconnaissance planes and "Global Hawk" high-altitude drones, most of which are currently in use in Afghanistan.