Vanda Felbab-Brown joined Robert Farley of the University of Kentucky to discuss the threats posed by strengthening drug cartels in Mexico, weakening central governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and other transnational security threats.
ROBERT FARLEY, host: To start off talking about Mexico, you wrote a paper about Mexican drug cartel issues and especially the violence that’s been afflicting Mexico over the past two years, which is really dreadful violence even when compared to Afghanistan and Iraq. Why don’t you start off and talk a little bit about the drug cartel issue in Mexico.
VANDA FELBAB-BROWN: Mexico has very much captured the attention of U.S. policymakers and media over the past few months. There has been a real extraordinary flurry and activity of both reporting and Congressional hearings on Mexico, because it’s such an important country because it is our neighbor and because it’s going through a very violent period. And it’s very much related to drug wars that are going on there.
Mexico has become the principal access route to the U.S. consuming market. We in the U.S. are one of the biggest consumers in the world and because of the border with Mexico, both the sea access as well as the land border, Mexico is just very strategically positioned to become the trans-shipment center. It has happened since the mid 1990s, when until then, the dominant and famous cartels, the Medellín Cartel and the Cali Cartel were largely destroyed. This provided an opening for new actors to come in and it was the Mexicans that have become really strengthened.
[The duplicity of Pakistan's intelligence services was] baked into the stock price of U.S.-Pakistan relations. They were at times minimally responsive, but we always hit a wall. The outstanding list of Al Qaeda-affiliated figures [still operating in Pakistan] is small. But the Haqqani list is moving in the other direction.
Pakistan, America, and extremism: The path ahead
What do you do when your allies [like Pakistan] are part of the problem? The desire to turn our backs on these people is there, but then you worry that terrorists will have more operational freedom and it will cost you more in the long run.