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The United States will send additional soldiers, ships and military aircraft to Central and South America this year to increase pressure against drug trafficking and address the growing influence of Russia and China in the region, the head of the Southern Command said on Wednesday.
“That is due to the recognition of threats in the region,” said Admiral Craig Faller, head of the Southern Command, which oversees US military activities in Central, South America and the Caribbean.
Over the past 12 months, the command has deployed ships to the region to offer medical services to thousands of people in more than a dozen countries, such as refugees fleeing Venezuela.
In January, the USS Detroit launched freedom of navigation operations off the coast of Venezuela to send a message to Nicolás Maduro. On the other hand, Coast Guard ships also regularly assist the Colombian armed forces in counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.
Faller specifically declined to say how many ships, planes and additional personnel will be sent to the region. He gave as an example the anti-drug missions, in which the command has observed an increase in the illegal drug trade activities, which has led to the amount of assets requested by the Southern Command being “much greater” than in the past.
The admiral said that would mean more Coast Guard assets – highway guards, helicopters, and surveillance detachments – because any Navy ship deployed in the region that could be used for counter-narcotics and monitoring tasks would need a Coast Guard detachment for the purposes of arrests and seizures.
That could mean additional rotations of Navy combat ships that can operate in shallow water, Faller said in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon.
“In an area the size of the United States, we have been working with between six and eight ships,” Faller said. “So they were consistent in saying that the number of ships we need to cover that area is much greater. So we will see additional forces in the air, sea and land, and some maritime maneuvers, some security forces, assistance brigades to work with our allies. “
Faller did not say when the additional rotations would begin.
The increase occurs as the command generally prepares for reductions, as part of the review of the Pentagon’s global staffing level, as well as the resources of all its military.
For the Southern Command, that means reducing the personnel assigned to the detention facility at the Guantanamo Naval Base.
“There will be savings, a lot of personnel savings, and cost savings,” Faller said.
The admiral did not offer details on how much military personnel would be eliminated. There are currently about 1,800 National Guard members working at the Guantánamo Base Detention Center.
The facility began operating in 2002 with al-Qaeda-affiliated prisoners and the Taliban taken prisoner during almost two decades of war on terror.
The facility has welcomed some 780 prisoners since it began operating, but only 40 remain, mostly charged in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole.
Source: El Nuevo Herald