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General warns of increased drug traffic under budget cuts

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Automatic defense spending cuts will force the U.S. military to curtail training for Latin American allies who combat drug traffickers, the commander of U.S. Southern Command said Wednesday.

"A couple of squads of Marines to go to Guatemala, Honduras and teach them a little bit about [river operations] is huge, but the Marine Corps can't afford that this year. So that's the way of the budget," Marine Gen. John F. Kelly told Pentagon reporters.

In addition, the U.S. does not have enough naval and Coast Guard assets to stop drugs from entering its borders through illegal networks that run through Latin America, Gen. Kelly said.

"Do I have enough assets? I don't," he said. "The Coast Guard is going full-bore, but they don't have assets … Even in the normal period before [the spending cuts], I had only a fraction of what I could effectively use, and we still got between 150 and 200 tons of [drugs] … after it left Colombia but before it got to Honduras."

"For every ship I lose, you can add 20 to 25 tons that will get through," the general said. "Go to no ships, 200 tons gets through. Go to one ship, 175 tons gets through. It's almost a scientific thing."

The spending cuts, which began March 1, require the Pentagon to reduce its budget by $46 billion by Sept. 30 and by $500 billion over the next 10 years.

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