White House officials push for more US military presence in Darien Gap
The reason in doing so is to address issues of drug and human trafficking in the region.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration is pushing forth a proposal to station US military personnel in the Darien Gap - the only overland path connecting Central and South America.
The reason for doing so is to address issues of drug and human trafficking in the region.
According to the report, White House officials are endorsing the proposal of expanding missions in Colombia and Panama to assist local governments with the level of crime in the Darien Gap.
Each year, thousands of migrants cross the mountainous stretch of land in the hopes of reaching the United States, where work and safety are believed to be found. For this reason, they often seek the assistance of smugglers to help them traverse the land.
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According to the White House and defense sources interviewed in the report, the Biden administration seeks to move US troops into the area to 'advise' Colombian and Panamanian forces on how to tackle the drug and human trafficking crisis.
US military personnel would reportedly instruct local forces on various strategies, including border security, counter human smuggling, counternarcotics, planning, and logistics. They would also provide assistance in the construction of a National Border Service operation center, the report states.
Among the key figures pushing for the initiative include US Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.
Moreover, the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security have both been increasing their support to Panama and Colombia within the framework of an existing "Darien Surge Campaign."
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Last month, US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas agreed with Panama and Colombia authorities to launch a 60-day campaign to address the situation in the Darien Gap. Yet, the consideration to send troops is still hanging, the report states.
Yesterday, US Army General Laura Richardson, head of US Southern Command, visited the Darien Gap to assess the situation there, a SOUTHCOM spokesperson told NBC.
There, Richardson met with officials from Colombia and the country's National Police. Colombian authorities are reportedly expecting more US troops to arrive in the region in the near future.
The likelihood of moving additional troops is high, the sources say, noting that 10 troops are already stationed in the countries to assist with efforts. White House officials are still pushing for more troops to be moved into the area, the report concludes.
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