Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently renewed talks about designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. In addition, legislation led by the two lawmakers – the Ending the Notorious, Aggressive, and Remorseless Criminal Organizations and Syndicates (NARCOS) Act of 2023 – would establish a task force to eliminate the threat of cartels and drugs, like fentanyl, in America.
In addition to taking the lives of innocent civilians, terrorism – by most definitions – requires a pursuit of political aims by an organization. Global security expert Ben Varlese addressed that in an interview with American Family News.
"Naysayers would say cartels are not doing it for ideological, social, or political reasons," he contends. But he disagrees, arguing they are indeed trying to sway society and politics.
"Cartels are not only using threats of violence while perpetrating their illicit drug business, but they are also using their business to influence and bribe others to get what they want," Varlese tells AFN. "And this is something that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda accomplished for decades all throughout Afghanistan."
He continues: "Using the tactics of terrorists, cities and townships throughout Mexico have become 'narco' states – regions essentially run by the cartels [where in many areas] security forces and many of the politicians are bought off."
"Combine this with a dramatic escalation of violence from cartels and it's easy to make an argument for designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations," Varlese concludes.
How would that help stem the fentanyl flood?
Derek Maltz, a former head of the Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, recently told AFN that wiping out cartels' infrastructure is necessary to defeat the war on drugs.
Varlese agrees, suggesting that "targeting" the cartels' money – an endeavor that would likely require working with partner forces in Mexico – would help fracture their organizations.
"By disrupting [cartels'] income," he says, "it would also disrupt their distribution. [It would] isolate them and destroy them – and not only would there no longer be any cartel influence, but the stream of fentanyl and other drugs pouring into the country would slow to a drip."
In short, says Varlese, designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations "would make the process a whole lot easier."