The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has five commando-style squads that it has been using for the past several years to battle drug cartels in nations including Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, The New York Times reports.
The DEA program, called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team, was created under the administration of George W. Bush to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan, the article states. Since 2008, the program has expanded far beyond that country.
The article notes the program fuses elements of the fight against drugs and the war of terror.
Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in Latin America and counternarcotics, told the newspaper the program can be beneficial in fighting drug trafficking. However, it could lead to a backlash against the United States in the countries involved, and could also lead to more violence, he said. “And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America,” he added.
While federal law prohibits the DEA from carrying out arrests in other countries, its agents can accompany their foreign colleagues on operations, and train and mentor them. In some circumstances they can open fire to protect themselves or their partners.
FAST commandos have been deployed at least 15 times to Latin America, the newspaper states. The DEA said some of those deployments were training missions.