WASHINGTON – The United States needs more security personnel and better coordination between agencies to fight the violent Mexican drug war spilling across the southern border, two top US senators said Monday.
"Frankly, there's not enough coordination between the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and some of the groups in the Department of Homeland Security," said independent Senator Joseph Lieberman in an interview with Fox News, after a hearing in Phoenix, Arizona.
"This is literally a war," he added. "The Mexican drug cartels take between 17 billion and 38 billion (dollars) a year out of American drug sales. They are buying the most sophisticated weapons."
The United States has little hope of winning the war unless it has enough personnel on the border and in the border states, Lieberman added.
"We need more coordination between the federal, state and locals," he said.
The mounting drug violence that has claimed thousands of lives in northern Mexico has emerged into a fully-fledged national security threat for the United States in recent months, with even America's top military brass tackling the problem.
"Certainly, there may be a need for additional manpower," General Victor "Gene" Renuart said before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.
Arizona Senator John McCain recalled Monday that the governors of three borders states -- Texas, New Mexico and Arizona -- have called on the federal government to deploy National Guard troops to the region.
Texas Governor Rick Perry in February asked President Barack Obama for 1,000 soldiers and six helicopters equipped with night vision, while Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wrote US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in March asking for 250 more specialized National Guard counternarcotics agents.
"They're the ones who are fighting this battle every single day," said McCain, referring to the governors.
They "have asked for National Guard on the border to help out. I support that," he added.
Mexico's drug war has left more than 7,000 people dead since the start of last year, despite the government deploying thousands of military troops to combat the ruthless cartels.
The Mexican gangs, whose main interaction is with the United States -- the world's largest consumer of cocaine and the main source of the cartels' weaponry -- have become "the number one organized crime threat in America, displacing the mafia," said Lieberman.
"They're operating in at least 230 metropolitan areas around the country, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Hartford, Connecticut, and just about everything in between."
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