Panetta touts new Latin America strategy

Source: Defcon Hill

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to spend the next week touting the department’s new strategic plan for Latin America during a series of meetings with key American allies in the region.

Initial stops on the trip include visits with top military and political leaders in Peru and Uruguay, before Panetta heads to a key summit of defense chiefs at the annual Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, according to DOD Press Secretary George Little.

“The emphasis of those discussions will be on strengthening partnerships and working with other [Latin American] nations to build their capacity to contribute to regional and international security efforts,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Panetta will outline the United States’ new strategic vision for the region, known as the “Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement,” during those discussions, Little said.

That strategy is rooted in establishing new military cooperation pacts with regional powers in South and Central America, while enhancing existing agreements with key U.S. allies in the Americas.

That cooperation runs the gamut from U.S. support for ongoing counternarcotics programs in the region to exploring options on joint security operations in Afghanistan, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. special operations forces and counterinsurgency (COIN) specialists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will begin ramping up operations across the globe, particularly in South America and Africa, according to the administration’s plan.

These small bands of special forces and COIN experts will lean upon “innovative methods” learned in Southwest Asia to expand American influence in those two continents, Panetta said at the time.

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