By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 24, 2009 - The Department of Homeland Security is "still considering" the use of National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border, along with several other initiatives, the DHS secretary said in a White House press briefing today. "This issue requires immediate action," Janet Napolitano said. "We are guided by two very clear objectives. First, we are going to do everything we can to prevent the violence in Mexico from spilling over across the border.
"And second, we will do all in our power to help President [Felipe] Calderón crack down on these drug cartels in Mexico."
Napolitano plans to meet March 26 with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry has expressed the need for more Guard troops or border agents along the state's border with Mexico to disrupt operations of the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca, MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for more Guard troops for the federally funded Joint Counter Narco-terrorism Task Force. That force includes about 150 Army and Air National Guard members in Arizona.
Earlier this month, Gates said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" that the United States is now in a better position to help Mexico. "Some of the old biases against cooperation ... between our militaries ... I think are being set aside," he said.
The last major federal National Guard mission along the U.S.-Mexico border was Operation Jump Start. The two-year mission, from June 2006 to July 2008, dispatched as many as 6,000 National Guard members to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to make the border more secure for legal immigration and commerce until the U.S. Border Patrol could boost its own ranks. Pentagon officials have said that a call up to help stop Mexico's drug wars would be a very different mission.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)