A special operations task force under the command of the Pentagon is currently in place south of the border providing advice and training to the Mexican Army in gathering intelligence, infiltrating and, as needed, taking direct action against narco-trafficking organizations, claims a former CIA asset who has a long history in the covert operations theater.
The U.S. unit, dubbed Task Force 7, since early 2009, according to the CIA operative, has helped to uncover a warehouse in Juarez packed with U.S. munitions and under the control of drug traffickers; provide critical intelligence that led to the raid of a Juarez sweatshop that was manufacturing phony Mexican military uniforms; worked with the Mexican military in uncovering a mass grave near Palomas, Mexico, just south of Columbus, New Mexico; and, behind the scenes, cooperated with the Mexican Navy in hunting down a major narco-trafficker, Arturo Beltran Leyva — who was killed by Mexican Navy special forces last December during a raid on a luxury apartment complex in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
“This task force [one of several in place in Mexico] is pretty heavily armed and is embedded with the Mexican military,” says William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot who flew numerous missions delivering arms to Latin America and returning drugs to the United States as part of the covert Iran/Contra operations in the 1980s. “These are boots on the ground … seven to eight of them [in Task Force 7], working in a civilian capacity, meaning they are not in uniform.”
Plumlee stresses that the task force’s presence in Mexico pre-dates the Barack Obama administration, but that it remains active today. For obvious reasons, information on the unit’s precise location in Mexico now was not made available, though Plumlee says in the past the group has operated along Mexico’s northern border, including in Juarez — a border city south of El Paso, Texas.
Plumlee still has deep contacts in the U.S. intelligence world. His efforts to expose past CIA complicity in the drug trade are documented in a letter he sent in 1991 to then U.S. Sen. Gary Hart; in testimony he provided that same year to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and are spelled out in an exclusive story he provided to the San Diego Reader in 1990.
In addition, Narco News sources, including former DEA undercover agent Mike Levine, host of Pacifica Radio’s Expert Witness Radio Show, contend Plumlee is the real thing.
“Before I invited Tosh to come on the air,” Levine told Narco News previously, “because his story was so incredible, I vetted him through government agents, all of whom said he is the real thing. I have a copy of the air map he turned over to a San Diego weekly newspaper, bearing notations of all his drug flights, which first sold me on the guy.”
As evidence of his claims about the U.S. special operations task force operating in Mexico, Plumlee in early April last year provided Narco News with information he said he obtained from that task force detailing the Mexican Army’s investigation of a mass grave site located outside of Palomas, Mexico. About a month later, in early May 2009, the first press reports appeared in Mexican newspapers indicating that a mass grave containing at least seven bodies had been discovered at the same site identified by Plumlee.
At the time of the unearthing of the Palomas mass grave, Narco News chose not to release specific information about the U.S. task force for fear that it might compromise lives.
Since that time, however, Plumlee says task force members have become convinced, due to corruption and leaks within the Mexican government, that their presence in Mexico is now known to narco-trafficking organizations. In addition, in recent weeks, there have been a series of reports in mainstream newspapers, such as the Washington Post and The Nation magazine, indicating that U.S. special forces teams are operating in numerous foreign countries.
From a June 4 story in The Nation:
The Nation has learned from well-placed special operations sources that among the countries where elite special forces teams working for the Joint Special Operations Command have been deployed under the Obama administration are: Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Yemen, Pakistan (including in Balochistan) and the Philippines. These teams have also at times deployed in Turkey, Belgium, France and Spain. JSOC has also supported US Drug Enforcement Agency operations in Colombia and Mexico. [Emphasis added.]
Since the task force operations have already been exposed, at least to the extent that narco-trafficking organizations are surely aware of their presence in Mexico, Plumlee says making known in the U.S. the information about Task Force 7 may actually help to protect its members, via that public sunshine, despite the diplomatic embarrassment it might prompt – given the U.S. State Department and Mexican government’s sensitivity to admitting to any type of joint operations on Mexico soil.
In any event, it is not a particularly closely guarded national security secret that the U.S. Department of Defense is working cooperatively with the Mexican military. A statement put out by the White House back in March 2009 states the following:
DoD has been and is continuing to work with its Mexican counterparts to increase information sharing, interoperability, and training and equipping of counternarcotics forces.
In addition, a former U.S. government official who has experience dealing with covert operations and who also asked not to be named, says the presence of special operations forces in Mexico “is really nothing new in terms of how we have dealt with Mexico in the past.”
“Black operations have been going on forever,” the official says. “The recent [mainstream] media reports about those operations under the Obama administration make it sound like it’s a big scoop, but it’s nothing new for those who understand how things really work.”
In fact, U.S. special forces teams, including Delta Force and Navy Seals, worked with a Colombian task force known as the Search Bloc, and also, according to some reports, helped to train a paramilitary death squad known as Los Pepes, as part of the effort to hunt down and ultimately kill the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar in the early 1990s.
Plumlee says he has no information or evidence that Task Force 7, or other similar units he claims are now embedded in Mexico as part of a drug-trafficking interdiction mission, are involved in training or assisting Mexican military units to carry out assassinations of narco-traffickers.
However, the former government official who spoke with Narco News says it would not be surprising if “assassinations [targeting high-profile narco-traffickers] were part of the mission.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” the official says.
Stay tuned ….
– Bill Conroy, Narcosphere
- Transcending the Border to End Militarization
- Fragmented Lives, Fragmented Parts: Culture, Capitalism and Conquest at the U.S.-Mexico Border [review]
- Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juarez [review]
- Dancing Across Borders: Danzas y Bailes Mexicanos [review]
- The U.S Threat to Latin America