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U.S. military helping Mexican troops battle drug cartels

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Filed: Timeline

The U.S. military has begun to work closely with Mexico's armed forces, sharing information and training soldiers in an expanding effort to help that country battle its violent drug cartels, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

U.S. military officials have been hesitant to discuss publicly their growing ties with Mexico, for fear of triggering a backlash among a Mexican public wary of interference.


U.S. military officials see similarities with their own counterinsurgency efforts and are passing on to the Mexicans some of the techniques they have honed, such as analyzing intelligence to track down enemy fighters.

"We have tried to share many of the lessons we've learned in chasing terrorist organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Gen. Victor Renuart, who recently retired as head of the U.S. military's Northern Command, which oversees the bilateral cooperation.

Mexico historically has been among the most reluctant countries in the hemisphere to cooperate with U.S. forces, in part because of lingering bitterness over invasions. Mexico still will not permit U.S. military trainers or advisers to deploy there full time.

But U.S. military officers are regularly traveling to Mexico to provide short courses for their Mexican counterparts, who then train their own personnel. In addition, more Mexicans are being trained at various U.S. military bases, officials say. The two sides' exchange of information has improved dramatically, officials say.


"The changes in the relationship between the Mexican military and the U.S. military are, I believe, historic," Renuart said.

The Obama administration is now considering what more it can do for Mexico's security forces.


One plan under consideration involves using $50 million in funds from the Pentagon's 2011 budget to improve security along Mexico's southern border, an important corridor for drugs, officials said.


Mexican soldiers were long taught that their main mission was protecting their country from the United States, which took half its territory after the mid-19th century Mexican-American War.

Cooperation began to increase in recent years with the collapse of Mexico's one-party political system. But it is the growing threat from drug traffickers that has prompted the biggest change.


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