As of last year, the Taliban controlled or contested 46 percent of the districts in Afghanistan’s civil war. That was enough justification for us to keep our military perpetually engaged there in combat. What if you were told that 80 percent of Mexico’s territory is controlled by dangerous cartels, including all of the key smuggling routes at our border, and that the cartels are orchestrating all of the illegal immigration into our territory and bringing their members back and forth across our own border?
Several weeks ago, the Mexican investigative journal Contralínea posted a map of Mexico prepared by the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), showing that 80 percent of the country’s 266 districts recently targeted for enforcement by the Mexican National Guard in a new counter-cartel operation are either controlled (57.5 percent) or disputed (23.3 percent) by the cartels. “Only 53 (19.92 percent) enjoy a low level of violence, which means that control is exercised by the authorities,” reported Contralínea on May 4, citing the data on the color-coded map.
As you can see, Mexico looks awfully similar to Afghanistan in terms of how much is controlled by insurgent groups. The map of Mexico shows the districts in red fully controlled by the cartels, the ones in yellow in dispute, and the ones in green in control of the Mexican government. They all represent priority enforcement areas for a new Mexican National Guard operation against the cartels proposed by the AMLO regime.
It’s important to note that according to Jaeson Jones, retired captain of Texas’ Department of Public Safety Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, the priority areas color-coded on the map are mainly the areas where people live, and the ones left out are simply not a priority, not because the cartels don’t control most of those areas, but because there is little infrastructure or population in those areas.
For example, the areas color-coded at the border are all the cities where people live, such as Tijuana, Mexicali, San Luis, Nogales, Juarez, Piedras Negras, Loredo, Miguel Alimen, and Reynosa (going west to east). And notice how every one of them is controlled by the cartels. All of the major smuggling areas leaning into California, Nogales, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas are fully controlled by the cartels. The other areas are deserts with few people and no infrastructure, so they weren’t a priority for the Mexican government’s campaign, but they still affect our security because the cartels are sending large flows of migrants in areas like Antelope Wells, New Mexico, which are absolutely controlled by Sinaloa.
Thus, we now see from an internal document of the Mexican government an admission that Mexico has essentially lost control over every important populated area in Mexico outside Mexico City and a few others, and particularly the most sensitive areas of the U.S.-Mexican border.
So why do we not have Special Operations Command engaged in protecting our border from the cartels? Unlike the Taliban, cartel operatives come over our border all the time. Why do the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the State Department refuse to recognize the border issue as a military problem and agree to target the cartels as terrorists?
If the Taliban were orchestrating a flow of mass migration across parts of Afghani-controlled territory, strategically shutting down our security, and profiting from it, we would instantly take military action. When Mexican cartels are placing our own country in mortal danger, why is that not reason enough to treat this is a military threat instead of an immigration issue?
What is amazing is that Border Patrol and the National Guard are ordered not to engage the cartels and armed smugglers at all and cannot nab any of them even a few feet over our border for concern of violating Mexico’s sovereignty. We won’t even fight back when they detain and disarm our regular military units on our own side of the river. Yet, we now see that the Mexican government itself admits it has no sovereignty over that area. Why should we allow our sovereignty to be trampled by cartel figures going back and forth with impunity when fighting them won’t even violate Mexican sovereignty and will actually help it?
Our government is fully aware of this dynamic. This map of control was sent out by a federal agency to Border Patrol in a daily intelligence briefing on May 9. CR has obtained a copy of this briefing from a Border Patrol agent who must remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the press. Why the relevant government agencies refuse to recognize the border as an insurgency conflict rather than simply an immigration issue remains a mystery.
Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Mark Green, R-Tenn., asked the president to designate the cartels as terrorists earlier this year. This move would open up new resources to target the cartels and to treat all of our border policies in a much different light than simply a domestic immigration problem. Yet the State Department continues to balk.
The cartels have long passed the stage of simply profiting from drugs. They are international organizations that are engaged in endless criminality, most prominently human smuggling, but they seek to control territory and terrorize populations as well. Mexican drug cartels seek to replace local governments by imposing their own law. The Mexican cartel culture is similar to the ideology of ISIS and al Qaeda in the sense that they seek “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) or to effect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping,” which is the definition of international terrorism defined under 18 U.S.C. § 2331.
The day we solve our sovereignty issue will be the day our government finally prioritizes the security of America the way it prioritizes the security of the Afghani government. That will not happen until we take our sovereignty as serious as we do the sovereignty of the Mexican government’s ever-diminishing control over a handful of cities.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.