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Feb-21-2012 11:38printcomments

The Narcosphere Reports: US Troops May Now Be Coping with Fast and Furious Fallout

A covert law enforcement operation allowed thousands of weapons to flow into the hands of the powerful Mexican Sinaloa narco-trafficking organization.

US 7th Special Forces during training exercises
File photo of US 7th Special Forces during training exercises. File photo courtesy: The Narcosphere

(COLUMBUS, NM.) - U.S. troops deployed to the US/Mexican border last week may well be there, in part, to deal with the blowback from ATF's botched Fast and Furious gambit.

Veteran border reporter Diana Washington Valdez of The El Paso Times reported late last week that “active-duty soldiers” from Fort Bliss, just north of El Paso, Texas, have been deployed to support the US Border Patrol in the Arizona and New Mexico border region.

Tosh Plumlee, a longtime CIA operative, who has been actively monitoring the New Mexico border region for years, also confirms that at least a half dozen “government vans” packed with US soldiers were spotted in recent days on a highway leading into Columbus, N.M., which is just across the border (some 3 miles) from Palomas, Mexico — a hotbed of narco- and weapons- trafficking activity in recent years.

Plumlee says the deployment is likely part of an ongoing joint Mexican and US military task-force operation that has been active since at least 2009. Narco News reported on some of the activities of that joint op in mid-2010, including the fact that small teams of US special operations soldiers were active on the Mexican side of the border, imbedded with the Mexican military.

However, neither Plumlee, nor The El Paso Times report, shed any definitive light on the precise nature of the recent US troop deployment along the border, specifically in the Columbus area. Plumlee has told Narco News previously, though, that there have been numerous reports of suspected weapons stashes concealed in the desolate moon-like landscape surrounding Columbus and Palomas — near landmarks such as Guzman Lookout Mountain and Coyote Hill to the east of Columbus.

In fact, several days ago, on the evening of Feb. 16, Plumlee says he was traveling along the border near Columbus when he came across the echoes of a firefight playing out just across the border. It’s not clear, Plumlee adds, who was engaged in that shootout, but it is certain, he says, that there were live rounds ripping through the air. He tape-recorded his experience that evening, providing the play-by-play of the action — a recording that can be found at this link.

[It’s a low-quality tape with a lot of static and background noise so you have to listen carefully to pick up Plumlee’s voice and the gunshot echoes.]

“All Along the Watchtower”

The covert law enforcement operation known as Fast and Furious allowed thousands of weapons to flow across the borders of Arizona and New Mexico and into the hands of the powerful Mexican Sinaloa narco-trafficking organization, which has been engaged in a bloody turf war with the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) Juarez drug organization for control of a long-running, lucrative drug-and-arms smuggling route that cuts a dangerous path through the same badlands that border the Mexican town of Palomas and its USA sister city, Columbus.

The ATF (the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)-sanctioned Fast and Furious operation, and its predecessors under the Bush administration (one dubbed Wide Receiver, launched in 2006), whether by design or not, in essence it seems, armed one enemy (the Sinaloa Cartel) to fight another enemy (the VCF), and in the process, a lot of innocent people as well as drug-war combatants have been caught up in the blowback — many killed due to smuggling-route battles being waged to assure assess to a lucrative black market that spreads across both sides of an invisible line we like to call a border.

It seems the US military has now been drawn into that fray, if the reports by The El Paso Times and Plumlee are right. Those troops might be engaged in searching out and destroying hidden weapons stashes, or providing an extra layer of security in an increasingly borderless drug war, or possibly conducting joint operations with the Mexican military in a type of squeeze play to shut off the Columbus/Palomas contraband route and other similar connections. The truth is, though, likely no one outside the chain of command of that military operation really knows, or will ever know, the real nature of the mission.

But one thing seems clear: The thousands of assault rifles and pistols pumped into the Southwest border region as a result of ATF’s botched gun-walking strategy are likely playing some role in prompting the arrival of the US cavalry — in this case, it seems, special operations soldiers.

This story is just getting started, to keep reading visit The Narcosphere

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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