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    International security leaders resume dialogue on Caribbean counterdrug efforts

    International security leaders resume dialogue on Caribbean counterdrug efforts

    Photo By Jose Ruiz | U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, speaks with Sen....... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Southern Command

    NASSAU, Bahamas - Strengthening capabilities, interoperability and information sharing to effectively counter transnational organized crime in the Caribbean was the focus again for military and civilian leaders from 21 nations who met in Nassau Jan. 21-22 to discuss the threat and ways to effectively reduce its presence and impact.

    This was the fifth consecutive year the topic is the central theme of the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC), underscoring the importance of the issue for regional leaders and their commitment to addressing it by working together.

    CANSEC XIII, co-hosted this year for the second time by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), included more than 90 participants representing defense, law enforcement, government and international organizations from the Caribbean, North America, South America, Central America and Europe.

    The RBDF commander, Commodore Roderick Bowe, joined U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM, in co-hosting the two days of briefings, discussion panels and meetings. CANSEC XIII was Kelly's third as host or co-host, and he met privately with defense and security counterparts during the event to hear their ideas, concerns and viewpoints, and discuss bilateral defense cooperation goals.

    "When it comes to the security of the Western Hemisphere, it doesn't matter where you're located on the map," Kelly said, sharing his own observations. “If it's a challenge faced by one of us, it's a challenge faced by all of us."

    Officials from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom and the United States examined illicit trafficking trends impacting the Caribbean, as well as the various programs, activities, mechanisms and systems that support the region's strategy to counter the threat and its effects.

    "Crime, especially transnational organized crime, represents the opposite of democracy and often results in the destruction of institutions and individuals," Dr. Bernard Nottage, the Bahamas' minister of national security, said after welcoming them. "This underscores again why our partnerships, joint operations, coordination efforts, and inter-regional networks must become even more robust."

    The general commended the countries for the work they've accomplished to support the new regional counter illicit trafficking strategy announced in 2013 by the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and encouraged them to "build on that momentum."

    The list of subjects covered in this year's CANSEC included an update on the recently-launched Cooperative Situation Information Integration (CSII) capability. CSII is a web-based, secure information-sharing network that allows nations to selectively share air, land and maritime traffic data with one another while collaborating to detect and disrupt illicit trafficking.

    "At last year's CANSEC, Gen. Kelly called on this audience to improve utilization of information sharing technologies," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jesse Jaramillo, who oversees planning and fielding of SOUTHCOM's multinational information sharing capabilities. "You answered the call, and we now have 17 nations successfully operating on CSII."

    Jaramillo underscored the personal cost for people and communities impacted by the violence associated with transnational organized crime, as he stressed the underlying reason the region has partnered with SOUTHCOM to develop tools like CSII.

    "Whether we choose to share information or choose not to share, always remember that there are lives at stake," he said.

    U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Robert Landofi, of SOUTHCOM's Operations Directorate, updated the delegations on the efforts of SOUTHCOM's Technical Assistance Field Team. The team’s 15 members have traveled across the Caribbean to help maritime patrol forces assess maintenance, logistics and procurement systems critical to their readiness.

    "The TAFT has just completed its first year of deployments," he said, referring to site surveys the team accomplished during the first of the capacity-building initiative's six phases.

    Landofi described how the team will now transition to helping Caribbean partners evaluate and build their maintenance and training requirements, with a long-term goal of assisting them with effectively developing 10-year sustainment plans.

    "We're looking to help build the infrastructure to sustain vessels in as near a new condition as we can," he said, referring to the end state the team's Caribbean partners aim to achieve.

    He added all nine partner countries visited by TAFT have demonstrated an increased level of capacity in at least one of their focus areas.

    In 2014, some of the maritime forces assisted by TAFT participated in Tradewinds, a SOUTHCOM-sponsored, multinational exercise that aims to strengthen the interoperability of participating forces using challenging scenarios to include transnational criminal threats, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

    Douglas Fitzgerald, SOUTHCOM's lead planner for the exercise, briefed participants on Tradewinds 2015, to be hosted in three phases from May through June by St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize and the United States.

    According to Fitzgerald, the first two phases will incorporate security forces and coast guards in both land-based and maritime operations.

    "We've also incorporated CARICOM IMPACS for the first time in Tradewinds 2014, and we've increased their role this year," he said, adding that the organization will head a team of regional observer-trainers in all three phases of the upcoming exercises to monitor the accomplishment of training objectives.

    Other topics covered during the conference broadened the focus slightly to include human rights and the region's infectious diseases response capabilities and preparedness efforts. Following the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the international community, including the Western Hemisphere, has increased its planning, training and equipping for such contingencies.

    Though the Bahamas, like Canada and European countries, do not fall within SOUTHCOM's geographic area of responsibility, they are an important contributor to international counter transnational organized crime efforts and one of the United States' most important counter illicit trafficking partners. The U.S. and the Bahamas support Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), one of the longest running drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean. OPBAT is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led interagency and international mission established in 1982 to stop the flow of cocaine and marijuana through the Bahamas to the U.S. and other countries.



    Date Taken: 01.22.2015
    Date Posted: 01.22.2015 14:46
    Story ID: 152489
    Location: NASSAU, BS 

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