Low Digits

A declining number of assets available for interdiction will likely mean less cocaine shipments intercepted this year in Central and South America, said Rear Adm. Charles Michel, Joint Interagency Task Force South director, on Wednesday. Briefing reporters in Washington, D.C., Michel said in 2012 the task force disrupted about 20 percent of the known cocaine flow toward the United States. “This year, we are going to interdict a little less” primarily due to a lack of surface vessels to do the mission, he said. “There is actually more intelligence out there available on the movement of cocaine than there are surface vessels to actually go interdict this particular product,” he said. Although the task force’s operating area is 12 times the size of the continental United States, the number of US ships and aircraft available for the mission by year’s end may be in the “low single digits,” he said. Law enforcement partners cannot replicate many of the capabilities that the Defense Department provides for the counter-narcotics mission, he said. This makes the mission especially challenging now that nonstate actors can utilize equipment, such as semi-submersible vessels, that traditionally only nation states had access to, he said during the May 22 press roundtable.