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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Americas | International | Drug War | Police State and Prisons
US Troops May Now Be Coping with Fast and Furious Fallout
Reported US Military Ramp-up on the Border Follows Years of ATF-Sanctioned Gun Running
U.S. troops deployed to the US/Mexican border last week may well be there, in part, to deal with the blowback from ATF's botched Fast and Furious gambit.
Veteran border reporter Diana Washington Valdez of The El Paso Times reported late last week that “active-duty soldiers” from Fort Bliss, just north of El Paso, Texas, have been deployed to support the US Border Patrol in the Arizona and New Mexico border region.
Tosh Plumlee, a longtime CIA operative, who has been actively monitoring the New Mexico border region for years, also confirms that at least a half dozen “government vans” packed with US soldiers were spotted in recent days on a highway leading into Columbus, N.M., which is just across the border (some 3 miles) from Palomas, Mexico — a hotbed of narco- and weapons- trafficking activity in recent years.
ATF's Fast and Furious gun-running operation catapulted into the national spotlight in early 2011, with the focus on the Arizona border, where the operation allegedly played out — with the weapons, under ATF watch, finding their way in bulk, an ongoing Congressional investigation has found, to the Sinaloa "Cartel," which is led by the likes of Joaquin Guzman Lorea (known as El Chapo) and Ismael Zambada Garcia.
However, an ATF agent, who asked not to be identified, recently told Narco News that the “gun-walking” tactics (allowing weapons to be purchased and smuggled into Mexico unimpeded by law enforcement) that were employed in Fast and Furious also extended to the New Mexico border as part of a “cut-out” operation. The New Mexico operation also allowed hundreds of US weapons (possibly far more) to be smuggled across the US border — with the supposed goal of identifying the “higher-ups” in the Mexican narco-trafficking organizations that were purchasing the illicit weapons.
Plumlee also contends that members of a US military task force operating along the Mexican border (and stationed at Fort Bliss) sent a letter in the fall of 2010 to the Department of Justice and the US Department of State inquiring whether there was some type of covert law-enforcement operation underway due to the large volume of US weapons that were moving across the border into Mexico, seemingly unimpeded. Plumlee says the task force received no response to that letter.
The ATF (the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)-sanctioned Fast and Furious operation, and its predecessors under the Bush administration (one dubbed Wide Receiver, launched in 2006), whether by design or not, in essence it seems, armed one enemy (the Sinaloa Cartel) to fight another enemy (the VCF), and in the process, a lot of innocent people as well as drug-war combatants have been caught up in the blowback — many killed due to smuggling-route battles being waged to assure assess to a lucrative black market that spreads across both sides of an invisible line we like to call a border.
Given the apparent role played by US agencies in empowering the Sinaloa organization via gun-walking, it should be seen as no small coincidence that Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of top Sinaloa organization honcho Ismael Zambada, is now making remarkable claims about the existence of a quid pro quo pact between US law enforcement and the leadership of the Sinaloa syndicate.
Zambada Niebla is now sitting in prison in the Detroit area, awaiting trial in Chicago on narco-trafficking charges — a case in which US prosecutors are seeking to cloak evidence by invoking national security claims.
Zambada Niebla, who was extradited to the US from Mexico in February 2010, raises the Fast and Furious debacle in his court pleadings, arguing, essentially, that the operation is proof of the US government’s cooperation deal with the Sinaloa “Cartel” leadership.
US prosecutors, of course, deny that any such pact exists between the Sinaloa “Cartel” and the US government.
But regardless, the available evidence seems to indicate that since 2006 (dating back to the Bush administration, and in tandem with Mexican President Calderon’s rise to power and declaration of war on the “cartels”), the gun-walking strategy employed by ATF, and ignored or tolerated by other US agencies and politicians across both parties until recently, appears to have gone a long way in tilting the always shifting balance of the drug war — for now.
Read the entire story at Narco News