Skip to content
June 10, 2011 / jeni

Reading List: Crime Wars

Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and US National Security

Col. Robert Killebrew and Jennifer Bernal

Center for a New American Security


As illustrated by the unprecedented violence in Mexico, drug trafficking groups have evolved to not only pose significant challenges to that country, but to governments and societies across the Western Hemisphere, including the United States. Crime Wars: Gangs, Cartels and U.S. National Securitysurveys organized crime throughout the Western Hemisphere, analyzes the challenges it poses for the region and recommends the United States replace the “war on drugs” paradigm with comprehensive domestic and foreign policies to confront the interrelated challenges of drug trafficking and violence ranging from the Andean Ridge to American streets.

The result of a yearlong study by the Center for a New American Security, Crime Wars provides some elements of such a strategy, including recommendations for the U.S. government to: renew political and military outreach to Latin American states; enhance efforts to strengthen state institutions throughout the region; and better attack cartels’ financial networks. At the same time, domestic policy should aim to disseminate better intelligence among law enforcement, federally fund additional campaigns to diminish drug demand and safeguard U.S. communities against gang recruitment. Only by dealing with transnational crime in a comprehensive manner will societies in the hemisphere be able to mitigate its impact.

There’s also an interesting brief from Killebrew on Colombia at Small Wars Journal:

No responsible Colombian would claim today that the war is over. Though the main guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armedas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which is deeply involved in the narcotics trade, has been substantially defeated and no longer threatens the government, it still retains capability to terrorize and dominate remote areas. Additionally, a new class of violent criminal bands, variously called “Bandas Criminales” or “Bacrim,” has emerged from the breakup of right-wing militias in the ’90s to join the drug trade and ally themselves with the Mexican cartels. Colombian police now consider the Bacrim to be a more significant threat to Colombia than the FARC. Additionally, a Colombian defense official recently noted that, in some ways, this stage of the counterinsurgency campaign is tougher since the various guerrilla and criminal groups, now under increasing pressure from government troops and police, are operating in smaller, more hard-core bands and present more fleeting targets for police and military forces. Military and police strategies are adapting to these new conditions, but at this point it is not the military’s operations per se that are especially remarkable; both the military and police have evolved into professional, competent services. What is remarkable is the manner in which Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) has become such an integral part of Colombia’s military strategy for ending its long-running insurgency.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: