Operation Martillo (Hammer) is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
The UK Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll moored in Key West, Fla. in early July 2014 in preparation to re-join the battle against Caribbean drug traffickers. The frigate has left Key West to begin patrols of the Caribbean as part of Operation Martillo, a multinational effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. On her previous patrol in the region, Argyll seized nearly £75m of drugs in the Pacific and captured three traffickers in the Caribbean. (Photo courtesy UK Royal Navy)
Overview of U.S. military support
The U.S. contribution to the multinational detection, monitoring and interdiction operation includes U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, aircraft from U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, and military and law enforcement units from various nations working together to deny transnational criminal organizations the ability to exploit these transshipment routes for the movement of narcotics, precursor chemicals, bulk cash, and weapons along Central American shipping routes.
Operation Martillo is a critical component of the U.S. government’s coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative. Fourteen countries are participating: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. Chile has also contributed to the operation.
In 2013, international and cooperative interagency efforts coordinated through JIATF South resulted in:
The seizure of 131 metric tons of cocaine w/Miami wholesale value of $2,616,800,000.
The seizure of 32,186 lbs of marijuana w/Miami wholesale value of $30,576,700.
The seizure of 4,000 grams of heroin w/Miami wholesale value of $352,000.
Detention of 295 suspects
White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime of July 2011
The White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime of July 2011 is organized around a single, unifying principle: to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat TOC and related threats to our national security – and to urge our partners to do the same. Learn more about CTOC Strategy
U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)
The desired objective of CARSI is to produce a safer and more secure region where criminal organizations no longer wield the power to destabilize governments or threaten national and regional security and public safety, as well as to prevent the entry and spread of illicit drugs, violence, and transnational threats to countries throughout the region and to the United States. Learn more about CARSI
Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South)
The Key West, Fla.-based JIATF South is the National Task Force that serves as the catalyst for integrated and synchronized interagency counter-illicit trafficking operations, and is responsible for the detection and monitoring of suspect air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific. JIATF South also collects, processes, and disseminates counter drug information for interagency and partner nation operations. Learn more about Joint Interagency Task Force South
Department of Defense role
While the Department of Defense is not the lead agency responsible for countering TOC networks, its unique capabilities can be leveraged to support other U.S. government and partner nation efforts. SOUTHCOM is aligned with and supports lead agencies, such as the Departments of Justice and State, as well as partner nations in the C-TOC fight. Learn more about DoD/SOUTHCOM CTOC efforts
Department of Defense interdiction role explained
The DoD is the lead federal agency in efforts to detect and monitor aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs towards the United States. Based on information gathered by JIATF South-coordinated operations, U.S. law enforcement agencies and partner nations take the lead in interdicting drug runners. U.S. military interdiction involvement, if any, is in support of those law enforcement agencies.
Typically, U.S. military personnel are involved in supporting an interdiction during maritime operations in international waters, where U.S. Navy ships and helicopters patrol and intercept suspected traffickers. The actual interdictions – boarding, search, seizures and arrests – are led and conducted by embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments or partner nation drug law enforcement agencies.