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Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 in Huntsville, Ala., constructed low-water crossings, fences and roads along the Arizona-Mexico border

NEW YORK – The Department of Homeland Security has developed contingency plans to deploy the U.S. military to protect American citizens in the event Mexico’s drug war spills across the border.

The DHS decision is yet another indication Mexico’s drug war is threatening to spin out of control and threaten the well-being of U.S. citizens living along our southern border with Mexico.

Moreover, the development of the DHS plan signals the U.S. has joined the Mexican government in concluding that Mexican drug violence may reach the point of exceeding the ability of state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in both countries to control it.

Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for DHS, confirmed to WND that the agency has developed formal contingency plans to involve the U.S. military through U.S. Northern Command, or USNORTHCOM, to address the threat.

“The escalating violence is occurring because the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon is cracking down on the drug cartels,” Kudwa explained. “Predictably, the drug cartels are fighting back to protect their very lucrative criminal livelihood.”

USNORTHCOM also confirmed to WND that it is ready to support the Department of Defense in sending U.S. military resources to the border to support federal law enforcement.

“USNORTHCOM has been involved in the DHS contingency planning from the very beginning,” Michael Kucharek, chief of current operations for the Public Affairs Office of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

“Our mission is to support the Department of Defense in what is a DHS-driven plan,” Kucharek said. “When you read the reports and see cases of decapitation and the like, you realize how ruthless these drug cartel guys are. It’s only reasonable for DHS and DOD to be doing contingency planning for a possible spillover of the drug violence into the United States.”

The DHS’s Kudwa said the agency has seen “isolated incidents of cross-border violence in shooting and kidnappings going back decades.”

“What we are looking at is the potential that drug-related violence from Mexico [would exceed] the capabilities of U.S. law enforcement on the border at the state and local level,” she said.

Kudwa explained that the DHS drug war contingency plans were developed to bring federal law enforcement resources, including military resources, to bear on the border, with the goal of assisting without superseding state and local law enforcement efforts.

“Whether the emergency is a flood, a wildfire, or here, the drug war, we bring federal resources to supplement and support state and local resources,” she continued. “So what the drug war contingency plan does is identify potential contingencies and the federal resources that could be provided to state and local authorities.”

Kudwa said the DHS contingency plan to use federal law enforcement, including the military, in the drug war has not been published, and no copy of the directive is available for public review.

“The drug war contingency plan is a common sense extension of our on-going work with state and local partners to secure the southwest border with Mexico,” Kudwa told WND.

Kudwa also clarified the plan would be coordinated through DHS, not through USNORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Armando Carrasco, public affairs officer for Joint Task Force North, or JTF North, also confirmed to WND that JTF North is ready to assist DOD and USNORTHCOM in the Mexican drug war along the southern border.

“Joint Task Force North has been supporting law enforcement agencies since it was first established in 1989,” Carrasco said. “Our involvement on the border always depends upon requests for support from federal law enforcement agencies.”

As WND reported, JTF North is a U.S. joint service military command organized under USNORTHCOM, based at Biggs Army Airfield in Fort Bliss, Texas.

JTF North’s mission is to employ military capabilities in USNORTHCOM’s area of responsibility to support law enforcement agencies, predominately along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

The story began developing last week when DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told the New York Times, “We completed a contingency plan for border violence, so if we did get a significant spillover, we have a surge – if I may use that word – capability to bring in not only our own assets but even to work with Defense.”

Chertoff told the Times that criminal activity in Mexico caused more than 5,300 deaths last year and the DHS contingency plans were ordered to confront in the U.S. a spillover of the type of violence in Mexico that has killed members of warring drug cartels, law enforcement officers and civilians.

“As a last resort, [the DHS drug war border contingency plan] would include the military,” Jason Ciliberti, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the El Paso Times Jan. 9, confirming the existence of the plan.

WND previously reported USNORTHCOM was created as a domestic U.S. military command charged with a homeland defense mission in case of a wide range of emergencies or disasters, including hurricanes, riots, or even, as here, the possibility violence from the Mexican drug war.

Under the auspices of what is known as the “Merida Initiative,” the U.S. Congress at the strong urging of the Bush administration allocated in December $197 million of the $500 million authorized under a planned $1.6 billion program to provide U.S. military assistance in the form of training and equipment to the Mexican military to help it combat the drug cartels.

Earlier in 2008, Congress funded $99 million under the Merida Initiative to Mexico through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The initial $99 million was programmed to allow Mexico to purchase aircraft and non-intrusive inspection equipment for the Mexican military to secure both Mexican land and waterways against drug cartels seeking to smuggle drugs, cash and weapons.

In his 90-minute meeting in Washington with Calderon last week, President-elect Barack Obama expressed his continued support for continuing the Merida Initiative, according to news reports.

WND also has reported that federal Border Patrol agents along the southern border with Mexico have been increasingly reluctant to fire their weapons against drug dealers after the convictions of Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. The men remain in federal prison for a 2005 incident in which they fired on a drug smuggler as he fled back into Mexico after smuggling 750 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. near Fabens, Texas.

WND also reported a Feb.14, 2008, agreement signed by USNORTHCOM defining a Civil Assistance Plan allowing the armed forces from Canada or the U.S. to support the armed forces of the other nation during a domestic civil emergency in either country.

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