According to Mexican newspaper reports confirmed by SEDENA (Mexico’s National Defense Ministry) and the U.S. military, the U.S. Northern Command is training the Mexican military in counterinsurgency tactics used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, is the military command responsible for homeland defense efforts. NORTHCOM has an area of responsibility that includes the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and surrounding waters out to approximately 500 nautical miles, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida.
The counterinsurgency programs being taught have been used to dismantle insurgent networks in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are applicable in the fight against the drug cartels in Mexico according to NORTHCOM
For two years now the U.S. military has been sending on average 20 teams annually into Mexico.The teams are comprised of 4 to 5 soldiers who travel into Mexico on short missions to provide training without participating in field operations.
Most of the trainers have participated in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan including social work and reconstruction. The counterinsurgency focus is on how to fight an enemy that lives among the civilian population through training in areas of intelligence and in joint operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.
In addition, NORTHCOM has been working with the Mexican military and with the Mexican Federal Police to help them vet new candidates and by providing training to Mexican special forces units.
Mexican military district commanders and U.S. military commanders already meet twice yearly to help share common tactics, techniques and procedures and to share intelligence.
SEDENA confirmed that Mexico's armed forces receive training from the Northern Command and U.S. Army as a whole, but did not specify the programs in which they participate.
The level of communication, cooperation and training between the armed forces of the United States and Mexico has increased dramatically over the past two years and represents a historic opportunity to improve long-term strategy in the security partnership between the U.S. and Mexico” said General Victor Renuart, the previous commander of NORTHCOM, before a Senate committee this past March.
“We are focusing on the ability to develop and share information to the Mexican military to conduct operations against drug trafficking organizations to systematically dismantle them."
The cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico has produced concrete outcomes and benefits. The two governments have worked together on Project Coronado to detain over 1000 members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel in the United States since October 2009.
Intelligence sharing and cooperation also played crucial roles in the takedowns of drug kingpins Arturo “el Barbas” Beltrán Leyva and Carlos Beltrán Leyva in December 2009, Teodoro”el Teo” García Simental in January 2010, and José Antonio “Don Pepe” Medina Arreguin, the “King of Heroin”, in March 2010.
"The number one priority is our partnership with Mexico. There is no doubt," said Admiral James Winnefeld Jr, the new commander of NORTHCOM adding that the relationship between the armed forces of both nations has never been better.
By emphasizing respect for the sovereignty of Mexico, Winnefeld said there are great opportunities "to share training, information and intelligence, and help the Mexican army to build capabilities."
According to NORTHCOM Mexican army officers are also sent to the United States to observe operations and receive training in various areas including irregular warfare, human rights and operational security.
"Additionally, lawyers for Mexico's armed forces have visited several U.S. military organizations for observing, first hand, how U.S. officials are organizing and training for the administration of military justice and to conduct operations in compliance with national and international laws” noted General Renuart.
The efforts of NORTHCOM are coordinated with efforts to build the capacities of civilian law enforcement in Mexico, undertaken by the U.S. Department of State and other agencies.
In a police academy that opened in July 2009 in the city of San Luis Potosi, dozens of American and other foreign instructors are helping to train Mexican federal police recruits. The training program is funded by the U.S. State Department and run by Kaseman LLC, a Chantilly, Va.-based logistics company.
“This is really historic," said Noe Sánchez, academic director at the academy. "We've never had this kind of international cooperation before.”
The program marks a major change for Mexico, which is sensitive about foreign meddling and has long resisted large-scale U.S. training of its police and soldiers.
Since classes began July 20, 2009, hundreds of U.S. law-enforcement officers have come to Mexico to team-teach in three-week shifts.
It brings in FBI agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, U.S. marshals, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and detectives from city police departments, as well as police from Colombia, Spain, Canada, the Czech Republic and other countries
The training program focuses on teaching investigative skills - interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence and intelligence-gathering.
To measure the program's success, the Federal Police have instituted periodic "confidence checks" that combine performance evaluations, drug testing, reviews of officers' finances and a background check.