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Two Faces of Attrition: Analysis of a Mismatched Strategy against Mexican and Central American Drug Traffickers

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Technical Report,09 Aug 2016,01 Apr 2017

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NDU/JFSC Joint Advanced Warfighting School NORFOLK

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Over the past decade, Mexico, Central America, and the United States strategy against drug trafficking in the region focused on the removal of senior leaders, termed High Value Targeting HVT, hoping this would diminish their ability to challenge the rule of law, but Transnational Organized Crime TOC and criminal groups are ascendant throughout the region. Drug trafficking groups are not attriting, but regenerating after leadership removals, partially from uninterrupted cocaine supply and a continuous funding stream from drug proceeds that allow the groups to adapt to HVT successes. The emphasis on HVT comes at the expense of drug interdiction, particularly cocaine, which also is needed to fight this war of attrition. By comparing the timing of HVT targeting campaigns to quantitative datasets that identify increased cocaine shipments, the thesis shows that HVT alone does not diminish drug traffickers capability to challenge the rule of law, but may increase it. The results suggest greater frequency and amounts of cocaine interdiction will deprive the traffickers from maximizing profits and curtail some of the traffickers buying power used to recruit new members, gain political protection, and gain access to law enforcement. A more balanced approach, which includes both HVT targeting and cocaine interdiction is needed to fight this war of attrition to shift the balance of power away from TOC.

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  • Sociology and Law

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