Focus on Central America
We are currently focused on strengthening the security capacities of our partners in Central America. As the lead U.S. agency responsible for directing illicit trafficking detection and monitoring activities, SOUTHCOM is undertaking operational and tactical activity in support of whole-of-government efforts to counter transnational organized crime in the maritime approaches to Central America.
Illicit Trafficking Focus
A primary focus of SOUTHCOM’s Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) efforts is supporting the interdiction of drug trafficking. SOUTHCOM collaborates with other agencies and nations to support CTOC efforts through detection & monitoring, information sharing, and partner nation capacity building.
Detection and monitoring
The DoD is the lead federal agency in efforts to detect and monitor aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs towards the United States. The Key West, Fla.-based Joint Interagency Task Force 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.
The U.S. military commits a variety of forces in the region to support detection and monitoring efforts.
MARITIME: Normally, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and partner nation (British, French, Dutch, Canadian and Colombian) ships patrol the waters in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific on a year-round basis. Embarked on U.S., and at times allied nation naval vessels, are Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments that take the lead during operations to board suspected vessels, seize illegal drugs, and apprehend suspects. These forces also work closely with other regional partner nation coast guard and naval forces to provide support to board, search and seizure operations within partner nation territorial waters.
AIR: U.S. military, interagency and partner nation aircraft work together to support detection and monitoring missions. The aircraft are located throughout the region and at two Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) in Comalapa, El Salvador and in Curacao and Aruba, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles (see more on CSL operations). These aircraft, in cooperation with partner nations and U.S. agencies, fly persistent missions to monitor areas with a history of illicit trafficking. The U.S. aircraft offer unique surveillance capabilities that complement the counter-illicit trafficking efforts of U.S. and partner nation law enforcement agencies.
OTHER: SOUTHCOM also provides support to partner nations through training, information sharing, and technological and resource/infrastructure assistance.
Using information gathered by Joint Interagency Task Force 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 aircraft 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.
Supporting Partner Nations' Efforts
Active engagement with partner nations is a key component to effectively counter transnational criminal activities.
SOUTHCOM’s ongoing strategic partnership with Colombia -- undertaken within the framework of the Colombian Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI) originally developed by the U.S. Embassy in Bogota -- serves as a model for integrated collaboration. CSDI aligns the U.S. government support to Colombia with the Colombian government’s National Consolidation Plan, a whole-of-government effort to expand state presence and services in targeted areas where poverty, violence, illicit crop cultivation, and drug trafficking have historically converged.
In Central America and the Caribbean, SOUTHCOM supports the U.S. government’s two regional initiatives to improve citizen safety -- the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). U.S. Southern Command will continue to support interagency efforts to interdict illicit trafficking in international waters and airspace.
The U.S. military also assists partner nation CTOC efforts by:
Training partner nation forces who are leading the fight against transnational criminal organizations
Providing planning training, logistical support and intelligence support
Providing nonlethal equipment, including helicopter support, intelligence platforms, and command & control systems
Helping nations develop human rights policy and programs
Sponsoring multinational counter drug and counter-terrorism training exercises
Also see: Secure Seas | Supporting Parter Nations, Building Partner Capacity
Partnering with U.S. Northern Command
SOUTHCOM works directly with U.S. Northern Command to synchronize Department of Defense operations in the Western Hemisphere and coordinate the employment of combined resources.
The growing influence of Mexican transnational criminal organizations in Central America is a shared threat between SOUTHCOM and NORTHCOM, with regional violence and corruption increasing in both command’s areas of responsibility as transnational criminal organizations increase their areas of influence.
SOUTHCOM works closely with NORTHCOM in monitoring the Tri-border area between Mexico’s Southern border, Belize, and Guatemala -- a key region of the narcotics transit zone.
Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement
2014 Posture Statement to Congress
White House / Office of Nat’l Drug Control Policy links:
State Department links: