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  • 1. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security Is a Mexican Drug Cartel-Al-Qaedarelationship possible to attack Mexican or US interests? Francisco Javier Franco Quintero Mármol MA. Intelligence and International Security 2007-2008 Student number.0747426 DISSERTATION 2
  • 2. Francisco FrancoMA. Intelligence and International Security 3
  • 4. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security INTRODUCTIONOn August 8, 2007 The Washington Times reported that, according to a DrugEnforcement Administration (DEA) report, „[i]t is very likely that any futureSeptember 11th type of terrorist event in the United States may be facilitated,wittingly or unwittingly, by drug traffickers operating on both sides of the UnitedStates-Mexico border‟.1 The article was supported by the Department ofHomeland Security (DHS) intelligence report where it was stated that during thelast two years, Al-Qaeda had been aided by established Mexican drug cartels tosmuggle weapons of mass destruction and transport terrorist into the UnitedStates (US) through sophisticated trafficking routes. The great concern for USintelligence authorities, the article pointed out, is that terrorist cells have beencamouflaging their nationalities with Latin American nationalities to enter into theUS utilizing the illegal migration flow. The report concludes stating that the USsouthern border is at terrorist risk, that it is vulnerable from the entry of terrorists,weapons of mass destruction or portable conventional weapons into the UnitedStates.This warning is not new, after 9/11 certain US commentators have consistentlyargued that the border is a serious security threat for the ease with which it canbe transgressed.2 However, even though no hard evidence has been presentedby the authorities, the US media has consistently voiced out alarm in this regard.As a result of this concern and as an intelligence issue, the possibility ofterrorists, particularly Al-Qaeda, teaming with Mexican Drug Cartels (MDC) toproduce an attack in Mexico or in the US has motivated this dissertation.1 „Terrorist teaming with drug cartels‟, The Washington Times, August 8, 20072 Leiken and Brooke (2007). In his article the authors stated that CNN is probably the most vocal of these; CNN collectionof „Broken Borders‟ reports can be accessed at According to them, The WashingtonTimes is another: „„Insults from South of the Border,‟‟ The Washington Times, March 23, 2005; „„Terrorists Said to SeekEntry to U.S. via Mexico”, the Washington Times, April 7, 2003; „„Al Qaeda Seeks Tie to Local Gangs,‟‟ The WashingtonTimes, September 28, 2004. They added that Fox News and NBC as well are repeatedly talking about the issue. Also, theauthors include other reports as „„Bordering On Nukes? New Accounts from Al-Qaeda to Attack the U.S. with Weapons ofMass Destruction,‟‟ Time Magazine, November 22, 2004 by Adam Zogorin, and „„Search Underway for Six Who May PoseTerrorist Threat to Boston,‟‟ The Boston Globe, January 19, 2005 by Donovan Slack; along with the report presented bythe UK paper The Telegraph: „„Arab terrorists „are getting into the US over Mexican border‟ ‟‟ on August 15, 2004. 5
  • 5. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityHistorically the border has always been a motive of concerns for both countries.After Mexico‟s independence in 1810, the Government was worried about thecontinuous US illegal migration which had been placed in Texas, especially aboutthose bandits that running out of US territory found safe haven in Mexico. 3 In1846, without a casus-belli US soldiers crossed the border to initialize a war withMexico that after two years finished with Mexico‟s defeat and the loss of theterritories now known as Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California. 4 Later onin the XX century, concerns in the frontier were focused in the increasing illegalmigration from Mexico to the US and the smuggling of drugs and goods: „[f]romMexico came marijuana, heroin and, later, cocaine, whereas from the UnitedStates came refrigerators, televisions, cars and weapons‟5.It is a fact that the events of September 11, 2001 forced the re-examination ofMexico-US border relations. In the post-9/11 calculus, terrorism raised newnational security concerns for both countries with the possibility of infiltration fromterrorists and weapons of mass destruction through the common frontier.Therefore, Is a Mexican Drug Cartel-Al-Qaeda relationship possible to attackMexican or US interests? To answer this question the present dissertation will bedivided in four chapters. Chapter one has been divided into two sections: the firstone includes a review of terrorist attacks on Mexico and how this affected US‟interests as well; in the second section the presence of Al-Qaeda in LatinAmerica will be analyzed. Chapter two deals with the importance of the analysisof adversary intentions and capabilities to understand the level of the threatposed. Chapter three analyzes Al-Qaeda‟s intentions and capabilities to attackMexico or the US and questions its intentions and capabilities to collaborate withMDC. Chapter four discusses MDC‟ intentions and capabilities to attack Mexicanor US interests as well as its intentions and capabilities to collaborate with Al-Qaeda. A conclusion arguing that in the short-term a collaboration between MDC3 Vázquez and Meyer (2001).4 Ibid5 Pimentel (2000), p. 36 6
  • 6. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityand Al-Qaeda to attack Mexican or US interests is not possible becausedifferences in both group‟s intentions will end the discussion, but warns thatintelligence communities in both countries must be alert for this possibilitybecause in the intelligence world adversary‟ intentions are changing all the timeand that which today seems irrational in the future might occur.Finally, for the purposes of this dissertation, US and Mexican interests are notdefined by its strategic importance. Country‟s interests can be all those thingsthat formed modern national-states as its people, territory and government, eventhough some interests are outside of traditional land boundaries, such asembassies, citizens or even business enterprises. Mexico and especially the UShave worldwide interests. Thus, when this dissertation refers to either Mexican orUS interests it is talking about every single element that concerns Mexico or theUS. 7
  • 7. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityI. TERRORISM IN MEXICO, AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE &AL-QAEDA PRESENCE IN LATIN AMERICATERRORISM IN MEXICO, AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVETo start explaining terrorist activities in Mexico, it is useful to consider what MarkSedgwick stated: „the most important cause of global waves of terror is theinspiring example for radicals everywhere of what are, or appear to be,successful uses of terrorist strategies‟.6 In this observation, it is considered thatglobal influences had, and still continue to have, a big impact on terrorismactivities in the country, therefore three different waves of terrorism can behistorically distinguished in Mexico; the first one took place in the context of theCold War during the 70s and 80s, where leftist guerrilla groups carried outseveral kidnappings and bombings on strategic targets; only during thesedecades, the US and even other countries‟ interests were affected; the secondwave occurred during the 90s, where Narcoterrorist activities first appeared.These actions were mostly inspired by the Colombian cartels of Cali andMedellin; the third wave started after the 9/11 attacks, when apparently somegroups have been inspired by terrorist techniques of groups such as Al-Qaeda. a) Terrorism activities in the 70s and 80sIn the context of the Cold War, several terrorist manifestations with a nationalistand anti-American tinge appeared worldwide and Mexico was not the exception.Terrorist activities on Mexico started in the 70s when two strongly politicallymotivated organizations, the Fuerzas Revolucionarias Armadas del Pueblo(Peoples Revolutionary Armed Forces) (FRAP) and La liga Comunista 23 deSeptiembre (The Twenty-third of September Communist League) carried out6 Sedgwick (2007), p.97 8
  • 8. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitykidnappings and terrorist attacks against strategic targets.7 As a result, thisperiod of time is considered the most intense as far as terrorist activities thatMexico has ever dealt with.FRAP‟s strategy consisted on kidnapping strategic targets in order to obtainpublicity and money. Those targets were either Mexican or US as happened withthe kidnapping of the US general consul, Terence G. Leonhardy, on May 4, 1973in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The group demanded the release of thirty prisoners, apublication of an antigovernment communiqué and the suspension of the searchfor Leonhardy‟s kidnappers. The Mexican Government quickly agreed to thedemands and the diplomat was released on May 6.8 The next action was thekidnapping of the former Governor of Jalisco, and the father-in-law of MexicanPresident Luis Echeverria, José Guadalupe Zuno Hernandez, on August 28,1974. The FRAP threatened to kill him unless the government paid a $1.6 millionransom, released ten political prisoners and allowed them safe passage intoCuba, and authorized a publication of a FRAP manifesto in leading newspapers.The government refused to negotiate, and following a successfully operation thepolice arrested the kidnappers and released Zuno.9La Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre was more active in its actions and becamethe first organization that utilized home-made bombs to affect US and Mexicaninterests. The first attack occurred on July 17, 1972 when a panel truckcontaining plastic cans filled with gasoline and attached to dynamite caps,exploded in front of the US Consulate General in Monterrey, the capital of thenorthern state of Nuevo Leon. The explosion destroyed the truck but caused nodamage to the Consulate and no injuries to any of its members.10 The second7 In those decades the Government recognized 5 more guerrilla organizations: Armed Vanguardof the Proletariat, Mexican Peoples Revolutionary Army, Peoples Armed Command, PeoplesLiberation Army, United Popular Liberation Army of America; however these organizations had nocriminal or terrorist activities.8 Mickolus (1980), p.3899 Ibid, p. 47310 Ibid, p. 333 9
  • 9. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityterrorist attack took place on September 16 1972, on Mexicos IndependenceDay celebration, when twelve bombs exploded simultaneously in four citiesinjuring one person and causing considerable property damage; seven of theblasts damaged the offices of US owned businesses.11 The third attack occurredon February 24, 1974, on another patriotic day in Mexico, when seven bombswent off simultaneously during the night at the offices of US and other foreignand national companies. In Guadalajara, for example, Pepsi-Cola and UnionCarbide plants were damaged, while Coca-Cola offices, a bakery, and federaloffices were targeted in the southern state of Oaxaca.12However, US interests were not the only ones being attacked during the 70s or80s by the Twenty-third of September Communist League. The organizationclaimed credit for the kidnapping of the UK honorary consul, Anthony DuncanWilliams, in Guadalajara on October 10, 1973. Simultaneously, the organizationwas also allegedly responsible of the homemade bombs that exploded onemonth later causing considerable damage to the Bank of London branch inGuadalajara.13 The following year, on December 5, this organization heldhostage two French diplomats at gunpoint in their embassy in Mexico City for fivehours.14 In addition on May 25, 1976, Nadine Chaval, the daughter of the Belgianambassador, was kidnapped after leaving her home in Mexico City when shewas going to the School, though the ambassador Andree Chaval, was theintended victim, and after the ransom payment, she was released.15Nonetheless, la Liga 23 de Septiembre, also affected Mexican interests as well.On November 30, 1976, they were allegedly responsible for four bombs thatexploded in Mexico City on the eve of the inauguration of President-elect JoseLopez Portillo;16 and the bomb that exploded at a military checkpoint near the11 Mickolus (1980), p. 34512 Ibid, p. 43913 Ibid, p. 41914 Ibid, p. 49315 Ibid. p. 61016 Ibid, p. 662 10
  • 10. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitymeeting site for Mexican President Lopez Portillo and Panamas PresidentTorrijos on May 6, 1977.17Another important factor that needs to be highlighted is that Mexico was utilizedduring the 70s and 80s by international terrorist groups to achieve its specificdemands. These were the notorious cases of the attacks against the Cubanregime by anti-Castro Cuban exiles. The objectives of these groups was twofold;first, to conduct attacks on Cuban interests anywhere and everywhere wherethey could be perpetrated, and second, to generate terror within Mexico in orderto affect the closest relationship that the Mexican Government had with LaHavana during the Cold War.18In this regard the Cuban embassy in Lima, Peru, was targeted twice by bombpackages mailed from Mexico that killed two and damaged the building. Theseevents occurred on February 4, 1974; and the next day, the Movimiento ArmadoNacionalista Organizado (MANO), a Peruvian terrorist group, claimed theattacks.19 In the same fashion, the Cuban embassy in Mexico City was hit twiceon December 3, 197320 and January 20, 1974.21 Both attacks were claimed bythe Cuban National Liberation Front. In addition, there was a failed attempt toassassinate the Cuban ambassador Fernando Lopes Muino, on November 28,1975.22 The next day a group of Anti-Castro Cuban exiles were believed to beresponsible for planting a bomb that caused property damage on the entrance ofthe Soviet embassy in Mexico City.23The last case with regard to international groups utilizing Mexican soil to achievetheir demands occurred on April 27, 1986, when the police found and deactivated17 Mickolus (1980), p, 69718 Vázquez and Meyer (2001).19 Mickolus (1980), p. 43520 Ibid, p. 42021 Ibid, p. 43022 Ibid, p. 56523 Ibid 11
  • 11. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitya 15-kilogram gelignite bomb in the trunk of a stolen car, parked within 50 metersof the US embassy in Mexico City. The next day, the unknown Simon BolivarAnti-Imperialist Commando claimed responsibility for the attacks and sent astatement to the newspapers stating that the bomb was meant as a protest forthe US raid on Libya.24 b) Narcoterrorism in the 90sAs a result of international law enforcement pressure against drug traffickers inColombia, which started on the 80s but was intensified in the 90s, the cartels ofCali and Medellin followed two courses of action: one, they expanded even moretheir networks in order to camouflage the illegal activities and continued with theirbusiness. Secondly, they defended themselves by carrying out an uncontrolledwar against rival cartels and also against law enforcement officials who impededthe trade. The Cartel of Medellin was the most dangerous in this regard; PabloEscobar for example began a terrorist campaign under the principle of Plata oPlomo, (Silver or Lead): a choice between accepting a job on a criminal payroll oraccepting a bullet in the head.25While the violence in Colombia was intensifying, links between drug cartels inMexico and Colombia were stretched.26 In this regard, MDC probably consideredthat the terrorist techniques used by the Cartel of Medellin to intimidate and kill itsopponents, as using car bombs for example, had the potential to succeed uponthe Mexican national security scenario. As a consequence, with or without directColombian training, these techniques were imitated by criminal organizations inMexico.In concrete, only two cases of Narcoterrorist actions were registered during the90s‟. Both attacks occurred in North and Central Mexico, in the states of Sinaloa24 Mickolus (1980), p. 38725 Ibid26 Ibid 12
  • 12. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityand Jalisco respectively, this attacks were carried out to eliminate lawenforcement officers or as a revenge among drug lords.The first event took place in Sinaloa on the morning of May 29, 1992 when twocar-bombs were set off simultaneously. In the first explosion the target wasGustavo Rico Urrea, a local drug lord.27 In the second explosion the target wasArmando Barraza, a former local law enforcement official in Culiacán the capitalof the state.28The second event occurred in Jalisco, on June 11, 1994 when acar-bomb exploded outside the Camino Real hotel in Guadalajara; the target wasAmado Carrillo Fuentes, the leader of Sinaloa Drug Cartel, who survived theattack.29 c) Terrorism activities in the XXI centuryTerrorism activities started in early 2000 and intensified in the following yearsafter 9/11 attacks and in the aftermath. These attacks have been carried out bydrug cartels, but most intensely and more frequently by insurgent groups; bothhave completely different targets since while drug cartels still focus onsanctioning their opponents and law enforcement officers, insurgents groupshave affected political institutions and national and international economicinterests.  Terrorist activities in the XXI century carried out by Insurgent groupsSeven attacks were attributed to leftist guerrilla organizations since 2000, andeven there is no evidence of collaboration between Insurgent groups an Al-Qaeda in those attacks, is a fact that these guerrilla organizations have a radicalideology and apparently are imitating Bin Laden‟s terrorist techniques to achievetheir goals.27 „Surgió en los 90 el terrorismo del narco‟, El Universal, February 20, 200828 Ibid.29 Ibid. 13
  • 13. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityThe first terrorist attack occurred on March 15, 2000 when a military air forcebase and a dam were hit in the Estado de Mexico, the closest state to MexicoCity. The alleged responsible group was the Ejército Popular Revolucionario(EPR), People‟s Army Revolutionary.30 This organization, formed by ex guerrillafighters from the 70s and 80s, currently is the most active guerrilla group in thecountry.The second attack took place on August 8, 2001, when three home-made bombsexploded simultaneously in three Banamex Bank branches in Mexico City. TheFuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias del Pueblo (FARP), Peoples ArmedRevolutionary Forces, a group that split up from EPR claimed responsibility forthe attack.31Three years later, on May 23, 2004 the previously unknown rebel groupComando Jaramillista Morelense 23 de Mayo was believed responsible forsetting off three bombs at Banamex, BBVA Bancomer and Santander SerfinBank branches in Cuernavaca, a city only 60 km from Mexico City. 32 In bothattacks no injuries were reported.In the coming years EPR‟ attacks increased in intensity and level of complexityjust as the attacks on November 6, 2006 when three explosives were set offsimultaneously in Mexico City. The first target was the Partido RevolucionarioInstitucional (PRI) headquarters, the party that ruled Mexico for 71 years, andcurrently the second most important political party in Mexico; the second targetwas the Tribunal Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Tribunal), the institution thatvalidated the controversial July 2006 presidential election; and the third targetwas a Scotiabank branch.33 Those attacks took place four months after thepresidential elections against political, electoral and economic objectives and30 „La PGR aun no aclara 11 ataques eperristas‟, El Universal, December 14, 200731 „Cronología de atentados en el DF‟, El Universal, February 16, 200832 „La PGR aun no aclara 11 ataques eperristas‟, El Universal, December 14, 200733 Ibid. 14
  • 14. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitythough no casualties were reported and the government‟s capabilities remainedintact, the EPR sent a powerful message about their opposition to political andeconomic norms of the Mexican system.The following three EPR‟s attacks were directed against PEMEX facilities(Mexican state oil company). The first one occurred on July 5, 2007 in PEMEXfacilities in Salamanca, Celaya y Valle de Santiago, all of them in the state ofGuanajuato; the second attack occurred five days later on July 10, in PEMEXpipelines in the state of Queretaro. The last one occurred on September 10, 2007when oil pipelines were hit in the states of Tlaxcala and Veracruz. These attacksrepresented an economic loss of more than US$ 300 million.34Even though, some commentators consider that those attacks carried out by theEPR arose as a response to law enforcement pressure35 the evidence suggeststhat the EPR has impact a terrorist strategy to achieve its goals and is imitatingterrorist techniques such as those of Al-Qaeda against oil facilities in SaudiArabia and Iraq. In this regard Mexican intelligence agencies must be alert on thenetworks that these groups are building up.  Terrorism activities in the XXI century carried out by drug cartelsSince 2000 only one incident has been registered. This occurred on February15, 2008, when a bomb went off outside the building of the Secretaría deSeguridad Pública del Distrito Federal ( Mexico City‟s Public SecurityMinistry).The attack only killed the bomb-carrier and left two injured; the34 „La PGR aun no aclara 11 ataques eperristas‟, El Universal, December 14, 200735 Some people consider that those attacks were in response of the „the dirty war‟ against leftistgroups. In fact previously to the attacks on PEMEX facilities three EPR‟ members weredisappeared in the state of Oaxaca and so far their whereabouts remain unknown. The EPRpointed out that the local government was the responsible for these disappearances. 15
  • 15. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityattempted target was a top police official and the Cartel of Sinaloa wasresponsible for the attack.36MDC intentions will be discussed further below, but in short it is considered thatMDC are imitating terrorist techniques of groups such as Al-Qaeda or others tointimidate its rivals, as occurred during the 90s with cartels in Colombia, ratherthan adopting a radical ideology or a terrorist strategy.In addition, it is important to highlight two important facts with regard to Mexicanterrorist activities after 9/11. The first one, is that some international terroristorganizations have increased their presence in the country as was revealed withthe discovery of FARC offices in Mexico City on April 200237 and the arrests onJuly 18, 2003 of six Spaniards and three Mexicans, all of them members of theBasque Nation and Liberty (ETA).38 Mexican officials said they were launderingmoney for ETA and forging documents for its membersThe other fact is that because of Mexico‟s proximity with US, after 9/11 thecountry could be more frequently used as a platform to attack the US regardlessof whether the MDC or other local criminal organizations are involved. Thisobservation became a reality on December 2003 when terrorist alerts in thecountry increased drastically as a result of US intelligence agencies warning thatAl-Qaeda plan to hijack a commercial airplane departing from Mexico City whichcould be used for terrorist purposes. This warning resulted in the cancellation ofthe 409 Aeromexico flight flying from Mexico City to Los Angeles for threeconsecutive days December 31, 2003, January 1, 2004 and January 2, 2004.39This intelligence information affected other countries as well; actually it was a oneweek terrorist alert that had started on mid-December 2003 with the cancellation36 „Cronología de atentados en el DF‟ El Universal, February 16, 200837 Mickolus and Simons (2006), p. 3838 Ibid, p. 21839 „Aeroméxico suspende dos vuelos a Los Angeles por exigencias de EU‟, La Jornada, January2, 2004 16
  • 16. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityof other seven flights coming from the UK and France. The first one was the 223British Airways flight that was cancelled on January 2 and 3, 2004.40 The lasttime that this Boeing 727 flew to Los Angeles was on the December 31, 2003 butwas escorted by two F-16 of the US air force. Once the airplane landed, the crewand passengers were subject to a rigorous interrogatory.41 The six remainingcancelled flights during those days belong to Air France and were supposed toarrived from Paris to Los Angeles on the 2nd and 3rd of January, 2004.42THE PRESENCE OF AL-QAEDA IN LATIN AMERICAAccording to Rohan Gunaratna „[t]he arrest and interrogation of an Afghanistan-trained member of the Islamic Group of Egypt in Uruguay on February 27, 1999was the first suggestion of a possible Al Qaeda presence in the region‟.43 Thesuggestion was based on the fact that the Egyptian group „has merged with AlQaeda at strategic, operational, and tactical levels and functions almost as oneorganization‟.44 However, as Gunaratna recognized, even though some Al-Qaeda allies have been identified in some Latin American countries, the truth isthat there is no consistent evidence of a permanent Al-Qaeda presence in theregion.With regard to Al-Qaeda‟s allies, Paul Williams stated that Hezbollah was the firstMiddle Eastern terrorist group that came to South America in 198345 and wasfollowed by Hamas from Palestine, and by Egypt‟s Al-Gama‟a al-Islamiyya(Islamic Group) that came to the region in the mid-nineties46. All of themestablished permanent base-camps in a South American jungle corner called the40 „British Airways cancela uno de sus vuelos con destino a Washington por seguridad‟ El Mundo,January 3, 2004.41 Ibid42 „Pasajeros de una pesadilla de número 223‟, Pagina 12, January 3, 200443 Gunaratna (2002), p. 16444 Ibid45 Williams (2005), p.12346 Gunaratna (2002), p.164 17
  • 17. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityTri-Border area, a place that covers the cities of Puerto Iguazu, in Argentina; Fozdo Iguazu in Brazil; and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Recent reports from theTri-Border area also include the presence of Al-Jihad from Egypt and al-Muqawamah, which is a pro-Iran wing of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.47The importance of Al-Qaeda‟s allies in the zone resides on the fact that thosegroups have developed an important infrastructure that might be helpful for BinLaden‟s intentions. These groups collude with local criminal groups and theirreach extents far beyond the Tri-Border area. These links are becomingincreasingly relevant because Al-Qaeda could connect with other groups furthernorth of the continent, towards the US. In this regard Paul Williams explains that: [u]pon their arrival in the New World, the Hezbollah officials wasted little time in establishing business ties with the drug cartels from Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador, along with Latin American paramilitary groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Peru‟s Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Star”). The dealers and the revolutionaries needed guns that Hezbollah could provide though its connections with the Chechen Mafia, and Hezbollah sought cocaine that it could sell throughout the 48 Middle East and Europe with the help of the Sicilian Mafia.Furthermore, Gunaratna concludes that „[t]he Islamist terrorist threat to LatinAmerica and beyond will depend to a large extent on post-9/11 Al Qaeda-Hezbollah decision-making, two groups that hitherto have cooperated to advancecommon aims and objectives‟.49 In this regard it is a fact that Islamic terrorismmight become a serious threat in Latin America in the coming years. Additionally,either using the infrastructure developed by Hezbollah or using by their owncapabilities, Al-Qaeda could settle anywhere in Latin America without thenecessity of maintaining permanent base-camps; or attack any country withoutthe support of its Tri-Border‟s allies.47 Hudson (2003), p. 148 Williams (2005), p.12449 Gunaratna (2002), p.165 18
  • 18. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityNevertheless, even though the long history of Latin American terrorist events, itmust be acknowledge that there is no evidence registered as far as terroristsattacks carried out, or supported by, Al-Qaeda in any Latin American countrybefore or after 9/11. Gunaratna confirm that a terrorist alarm sounded on April 6,2001, when the US closed its diplomatic missions in Paraguay, Uruguay andEcuador following intelligence reports that Al-Qaeda‟s attacks were likely tooccur,50 but nothing happened. In addition, there is no solid Al-Qaeda connectionto Hezbollah‟s attacks in Argentina on March 17, 1992 and July 17, 1994.Since the 70s onwards, it cannot be ignored that although terrorist activities inMexico included the increased presence of international terrorist groups in thecountry, as well as the possibility of an Al-Qaeda presence in any Latin Americancountry, a group‟s intentions must be considered a key element to analyze evenabove of those facts. The reason is that when an attack or collaboration withanother group are planned, the group‟s intentions indicate how far a group iswilling to go in implementing its terrorist activities. In this sense a further analysiswill question Al-Qaeda‟s and MDC‟ intentions to collaborate and/or attackMexican or US interests.50 Gunaratna (2002) p.165 19
  • 19. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityII. INTENTIONS AND CAPABILITIES.Every group or individual has specific characteristics that define them and allowthem to achieve their goals. In the world of intelligence an adversary‟scharacteristics —regardless of whether an adversary is a group or individual, orstate or non-state actor— are defined by his intentions and capabilities.The adversary‟s capabilities are all those resources that he can use in order toachieve his goals and these can be material or non-material: material capabilitiesare commonly weapons or money, and non-material capabilities are „… thequality of the organization, morale, and military doctrine‟.51 On the other hand,the adversary‟s intentions are his plans and goals, and according to MichaelHandel, these can be political and/or military.52 As a result it is considered that abetter understanding of an adversary‟s capabilities, but specially his intentions,might provide a close insight of his agenda and therefore be able to estimate thelevel of threat posed by such adversary. In this regard, Handel pointed out that itis equally important to address both intentions and capabilities however it is morecritical to emphasize the study of the adversary‟s intentions for two key reasons: (A) An adversary can still decide to attack even though his capabilities are relatively weak (1) if he miscalculates the strength of the intended victim; (2) If he is more interested in applying political pressure or making political gains even at the cost of a military defeat; (3) if he gambles that his surprise attack will have a force multiplier effect sufficient to compensate for his inferior capabilities. (B) War and surprise attack are determined not by the existence of capabilities per se, but by the political intention to use them. The mere possession of superior, equal, or inferior strength is therefore less important. A corollary of this is that, while the adversary‟s intentions can be influenced at any point, it is impossible to have comparable impact on capabilities immediately before the outbreak of war.5351 Handel (2003), p.1252 Ibid, p. 1453 Betts and Mahnken (2003), p. 14 20
  • 20. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityMoreover, the study and analysis of an adversary‟s intentions and capabilitiesmight be helpful as well to understand why this group or individual will beinterested in cooperating with other groups.It is truth that not every terrorist or criminal group needs to establish allianceswith others to be able to achieve its goals. However some —especially thosewhich have targets beyond their borders or local conflicts, that target the „farenemy‟— apparently are looking to collaborate with groups that might havesimilar intentions and/or complementary capabilities to its own in order to fulfiltheir objectives.Groups sharing similar intentions might establish a cooperative relationship toincrease either political/military goals or strengthen the image and perceptionswithin their audiences. In the other hand, some groups are looking to collaboratewith other groups because they have complementary capabilities to their own, orthey want to acquire new capabilities that are useful for their purposes. Al-Qaedafor example, forged a tactical relationship with Hezbollah in order to master theart of bombing buildings.54 In return, Hezbollah gain access to weapons andmoney that has become important for its cause.Notwithstanding, any cooperative relationship is possible only when both partiesobtain something in return for their cooperation. The most common bondsbetween criminal and terrorist groups are drugs for weapons; money forprotection; or money for weapons. According to each group‟s own intentions andcapabilities any combination may apply.Al-Qaeda, for example, built-up networks across many countries in order toexpand its intentions and capabilities; the World Islamic Front for Jihad againstthe Jews and Crusaders represents the best example. Described by Bari Atwanas „an umbrella group for various jihadi organizations including Egyptian Islamic54 Gunaratna (2002), p. 12. 21
  • 21. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityJihad, Egyptian Jama‟at Islamiyah and several others from Kashmir andPakistan‟55 , this group of organizations has established a cooperativerelationship sharing intentions and capabilities to benefit each other and be ableto target the US and its allies everywhere and anywhere.On the other hand, some of the MDC have built-up networks with other criminalgroups, especially in South American countries such as Colombia, Bolivia andPeru. These relationships seek to establish safer traffic-cocaine routes to the USand obtain mutual benefits in return of their cooperation. Colombian cartelscontrol the cocaine production in the region, while MDC control the routes to theUS and within. Simultaneously, the Colombians absorb the risk of producingcocaine while the Mexicans absorb the risk of its transportation. In this senseboth organizations share risks, but also huge profits.Following Handel‟s argument about why the study of an adversary‟s intentionsmust be emphasized above its capabilities, it can be said that collaborationbetween two or more groups is mostly determined by each group‟s intentions aswell.Furthermore, using Handel‟s argument we can suggest that even a group withrelative weak capabilities will reject to collaborate with a group that hascomplementary capabilities to its own if: a) it is considered that both agendas,plans and goals are completely different; b) the group does not gain anything inreturn for their collaboration; and c) he chooses to absorb the cost of a defeat inorder to save long-term intentions and goals that otherwise might becompromised with a relationship with certain groups or individuals.The problem in the intelligence information gathering process is that adversaryintentions are simpler to conceal and usually change from time to time, as Handelobserved when he stated that „only a handful of leaders, and at times a single55 Atwan (2006), p. 54. 22
  • 22. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityleader (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Sadat) will shape the strategy of a state‟ Therefore,since there are elements unknown for analysts, a possible collaboration betweenAl-Qaeda and MDC might occur, but hopefully present analyses that will questionboth groups‟ intentions to collaborate with each other might be helpful to shedlight on this issue. 23
  • 23. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityIII. Al-Qaeda.Al-Qaeda emerged as the worldwide most wanted terrorist organization after the9/11 attacks, and has been described as „the first multinational terrorist group of 56the twenty-first century‟ with intentions and capabilities to attack the US and itsallies anywhere and everywhere.Al-Qaeda, an organization led by Osama bin Laden, is formed by formal andinformal networks „that mobilize people to resort to terrorism‟,57 or as othersprefer to describe it, „a global umbrella for groups and individuals who share theiragenda‟.58 This decentralized organization composition gives Al-Qaeda twospecial characteristics: one, the possibility to maintain worldwide presence andsupport through radical Muslims living in the five continents; and two, that Al-Qaeda‟s cells can work almost independently of the core organization, making itirrelevant whether the main leaders are alive or not.Moreover, the reasons for Al-Qaeda‟s global intentions are founded in BinLaden‟s „Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the land of theTwo Holy Places‟, a fatwa or religious opinion that according to Sageman wasthe result of four events that radicalized and motivated the group to carry out aglobal war against the US and its allies. [The first event was] [t]he Gulf War in 1991 [that] established the continued presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia [the place were la Mecca ---the holiest place in Islam--- is and Bin Laden‟s home country]. [The second event was] [t]he Somali humanitarian crisis in 1993 [that] dispatch US troops to Somalia to aver widespread starvation among the population, Those with a more paranoid conspiratorial view of history saw in this twin presence the beginning of a full-scale US invasion of the Middle East through a pincer movement from the north in Saudi Arabia and from the south in Somalia. [The third event occurred when] the Algerian government cancelled the second round of elections in January 1992 [and] when it became clear that the FIS [The Islamic Salvation Front], was going to wing by landslide. The hand of the French government, another far enemy, was assumed to be behind this move. [The56 Gunaratna (2002), p. 157 Sageman (2008), p. 3158 Atwan (2006), p. 219 24
  • 24. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security four event took place when] [i]n the former Yugoslavia, Serb military forces were carrying out ethnic cleansing against an unarmed Muslim Bosnian population. To prevent the situation from escalating, Western powers established an arms embargo on the region. Muslims decried the embargo, saying it favoured the Serb forces who had access to their own weapons from the remnants of the former Yugoslav army. In 1994, the conflict between Muslim forces in Chechnya and predominantly Christian Russian forces escalated into a full-blown civil war. 59According to Sageman, Al-Qaeda‟s terrorist activities started in 1995, when theybegan to plot against far enemy targets.60 Its activities became more intense as aresult of subsequent events explained in the 1998‟ fatwa. The fact is that thepossibility of an Al-Qaeda attack on Mexico or the US in collaboration with MDCmight occur because it falls within Bin Laden‟s global strategy. However, toconfirm this statement both groups‟ intentions and capabilities must bequestioned and analyzed beforehand.AL-QAEDA’S INTENTIONS.According to Bari Atwan, Al-Qaeda‟s intentions are based on a long-term strategythat has four aspects: (1) military, (2) ideological/political within the Islamic world,(3) ideological/political within the populations of the US and its allies, and (4)economic.61(1) Military strategyFollowing the argument of Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, Al-Qaeda‟s mainmilitary strategist, Atwan argues that the organization has started a long-termstrategy that has five distinct stages.59 Sageman (2008), p.4260 Ibid, p. 5861 Atwan (2006), p. 221 25
  • 25. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityThe first and second stage are closely related; first of all Al-Qaeda aims toprovoke „“the ponderous American elephant” into invading Muslim lands‟62 byconducting continuous attacks on US interests. This has the objective to bring USsoldiers into Muslim soil and consequently, this leads into the second stage of theplane, which generates the widespread hatred of America by exploiting thereligious aspect that reminds themes of the crusades that „reawaken another“giant elephant” – the umma itself‟.63 This reaction brings potentially all Muslimsinto a war against the US. The third stage consists of „expand[ing] the conflictthrough the region and engage the US in a long war of attrition‟ thereby creatinga „jihad Triangle of Horror‟64 running from Afghanistan through Iran and SouthernIraq, into Turkey, south Lebanon and Syria. The fourth stage is to „become aglobal network‟65 by affiliating Muslims all over the world and giving theorganization flexibility in order to make extremely difficult to detect next terroristattacks. The fifth stage consists of opening war-fronts in as many places aspossible, regardless of whether these arise within the Arab world. The mainobjective here is to increase US casualties, and most importantly to provoke thebankruptcy of the American military budget.66(2) Ideological and Political strategy within the Islamic world 67The strategy within the Islamic world consists of demonstrating that the US andits allies are carrying out an unending war that far from seeking an end to terroristgroups, are seeking an attempt to kill Muslims and obtain control of oil resourcesin the region. This has the aim of reinforcing Al-Qaeda‟s military strategy as wellas the reception of more support from Muslims around the world.(3) Ideological and Political strategy with US populations and its allies62 Atwan (2006) p 22163 Ibid64 Ibid, p 22265 Ibid66 Ibid67 Ibid, p 223 26
  • 26. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityThe ideological and political strategy within US population and its allies,according to Atwan, is trying to „foment a „clash of civilizations‟ with Christianfundamentalism opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, resulting in an eventual all-out war between the „believers‟ and the kafir‟.68(4) Economic strategy69Finally, Al-Qaeda‟s Economic Strategy and the so-called „terror premium‟,consists of conducting regular attacks on oil pipelines and installations to makean impact on oil prices and destabilize the US economy.For the purposes of this dissertation three statements might be inferred followingAtwan‟s arguments: a) Al-Qaeda will continue with its attacks on US interests; b)they will carry out an attack on Mexico with or without collaboration of MDC; andc) Al-Qaeda will continue with its alleged intentions to collaborate with MDC forits next attacks in the US. Although Atwan‟s insights with regard to Al-Qaeda‟sintentions must be considered extremely relevant and important to be analyzedby intelligence agencies, whether or not Al-Qaeda‟s intentions are analyzedseparately on a case by case basis, we will probably find that not all thesearguments are as evident as some consider.  Al-Qaeda‟s intentions to attack US‟ interests.Al-Qaeda‟s intentions to continue attacking US interests are clear enough to beexplained; these targets might be either on US soil or overseas. Osama BinLaden has stated several times that the US would never enjoy security till „infidelarmies‟ leave the Gulf and as far as US foreign policy remains the same in theregion, Al-Qaeda‟s intentions against the US will likely probably remain exactlythe same.68 Atwan (2006), p 22569 Ibid, p. 227 27
  • 27. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security  Al-Qaeda‟s intentions to attack Mexican interestsThe Mexican case presents a different analysis than the US case whenconsidering Al-Qaeda‟s intentions. When the 9/11 attacks occurred, includingthose that took place in US-friendly countries, it was considered that Mexico wasfar from Al-Qaeda‟s eye. This statement was based on three views: A) that theMexican Government had no strategic (political and economic) interests neitherin Central Asia nor in the Middle East; B) that from a Military point of view,Mexico has never participated in any conflict where Muslims had been involved,and sometimes had been opposing US foreign military policy; C) From a Socialperspective, even when Mexico has some small Muslim communities, around6000 thousand members,70 these ones have never been politically involved orhave carried out suspicious activities; furthermore Mexico does not maintainclose links with communities that have been related with some Al-Qaeda‟sattacks as Pakistanis, Lebanese, Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, or Maghrebis.Nevertheless, because Al-Qaeda has grown as a terrorist organization withglobal intentions challenging the US and its allies everywhere, more countries arenow threatened. As Atwan pointed out, Al-Qaeda „is capable of constantlytransforming and adapting to changes in circumstances, history and strategy‟;71and for it, differences between countries are apparently factors that do notsafeguard potential victims from other possible attacks. In this regard thecloseness of the Mexican economy with the US economy was the key factorconsidered by Al-Qaeda to threaten Mexico as well.The Al-Qaeda threat to Mexico was de facto presented on February 8, 2007 inSawt al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad) issue #30, an on-line Magazine; the article‟s titlewas Bin Laden and the Oil Weapon and the author, Adeeb al Bassam, stated thefollowing:70 Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía www.inegi.gob.mx71 Atwan (2006), p. 219. 28
  • 28. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security The American culture‟s addiction to oil will continue for at least several more decades. Therefore the United States will remain dependent on the Middle East in the near future, its oil will continue to be an easy target for all the enemies of the United States, and it will remain a weak spot for many decades to come. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the U.S. has spent a great deal on alternative energy technology, and will spend even more in and in earnest. This indicates that America might become independent of the Middle East, or at least lessen its reliance on the region in the long term, while sufficing oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and several new collaborators, as well as domestic energy sources. That is why it is imperative that we strike petroleum interests in all regions that the United States benefits from, and not only in the Middle East. The goal is to cut off its imports or reduce them by all means The targeting of oil interests includes oil production wells, export pipelines, loading platforms, tankers---and anything else that will deprive the United States of oil, force it to make decisions that it has avoided having to make for a long time, disrupt and stifle its economy, and threaten its economic and political future. Shaykh Usama‟s [Bin Laden‟s] instructions are crystal clear with respect to the targeting of oil interests. In implementing these instructions, the mujahideen must gather information [and] select worthy targets. 72Certainly, Mexico is the third main oil exporting country to the US, and has beensince the 80s, with 1.1 million barrels per day (mbpd), only below Canada andSaudi Arabia with 1.8 mbpd and 1.5 mbpd respectively.73 According to theEnergy Information Administration, the top-five oil exporting countries accountedfor the US‟ 66 percent of all the crude it needs.74Consequently, and considering Al-Qaeda‟s global strategy, Al-Qaeda could hitany Mexican oil-installation in addition to any of the 364 oil fields, 199 offshoreplatforms, 6 refineries or even any of the fifty-four thousand kilometres of onshorepipelines or any of the two-thousand kilometres of offshore pipelines.75Additionally, because these installations are complex and are distributed throughthe whole country, Al-Qaeda‟s threat is a latent reality. The fact that the Mexican72 The complete article can be accessed at www.globalterroralert.com73 Energy Information Administration Statistics from May 200874 The other two countries are Venezuela (1.030 mbpd), and Nigeria (0.851) mbpd75 Petróleos Mexicanos 29
  • 29. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityintelligence community is focused in the „war on drugs‟ makes Mexico an evenmore vulnerable target for Bin Laden even when counting on US support inhelping Mexico secure its border.An obvious potential target could be Cantarell, the largest oil field in Mexico andthe second largest oil field in the world. Cantarell is protected by the MexicanArmy but still presents vulnerabilities because of its magnitude and alsoconsidering the capability and complexity of Al-Qaeda‟s attacks which enable it tohit hard targets.Furthermore, regardless of the level of threat and the possible targets that couldbe hit, do we consider this Al-Qaeda threat as a real one even though it has notbeen articulated clearly by any radical fatwa or even by Bin Laden itself?Sageman argued, that after 2004 instructions and communications to Al-Qaeda‟sfollowers appear to have started to run through the internet and on-line portals ormagazines. The Madrid bombers were inspired by a document posted on the Global Islamic Media Front website in December 2003. The Hofstad Group in the Netherlands interacted through dedicated forums and chat rooms and inspired other young Muslims to join them physically after making contact with them on the forums. The April 2005 Cairo Khan al-Khalili bombing was added by the Internet, with the perpetrators downloading bomb-making instructions from jihadi websites. One of the largest international terrorists cases of its kind---the arrest of the Toronto group in Operation Osage in June 2006---had its roots in the group‟s linkage through an online forum to a group in Copenhagen that sent some of its members to Bosnia to bomb the U.S. embassy there, to a group in London that acted as general coordinators, and to two people in the state of Georgia in the United Sates. The people who tried to plant bombs on trains in Germany in the summer of 2006 met in an Internet forum. This clearly shows the change from offline to online interaction in the evolution of the threat.7676 Sageman (2008), p. 110 30
  • 30. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityIn this sense it is clear that the threat is completely real and now Mexico is on Al-Qaeda‟s line of fire. So should we ignore those facts previously described whenMexico was considered far from an Al-Qaeda attack? Or should we believe in thisAl-Qaeda‟s intention of bringing different countries into conflict regardless ofwhether these have been opposed to US foreign military policy in the MiddleEast? Should we then consider Al-Qaeda as an organization that randomlychooses its targets?Many questions emerge since Al-Qaeda threatened Mexico, and there are nosimple explanations or answers on this regard. The fact is that Mexico is a closeUS business partner and this factor is considered the motive behind a potentialAl-Qaeda attack. Consequently, Mexican intelligence agencies must be preparedfor an attack because in the final analysis, Al-Qaeda is an unpredictableorganization with followers capable of conducting terrorist activities anywherewhere the US might be affected.  Al-Qaeda‟s intentions when teaming with Mexican Drug CartelsAs was observed in the introduction, some US reports pointed out to an imminentrelationship between Al-Qaeda and MDC. The reason is that MDC haveoperational and logistic capabilities that could be useful for Al-Qaeda‟s purposes,such as the sophisticated trafficking routes that MDC controls and its criminalnetworks within US territory. However, even though this relationship soundstheoretically attractive and possible, in practice it is more complicated as it firstappears and as some people consider.According to Hutchinson and O‟Malley, where cooperation between terroristgroups and criminal organizations may exist, three types of relationships must beexpected: Temporary, Parasitic and Symbiotic. 31
  • 31. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitya) „“Temporary” is perhaps the most likely relationship and can be seen via one-time contracts for quick profit, or sporadic and episodic cooperation over time‟.77From this statement if follows that temporary relationships could also be eitherstrategic or tactical.Temporary Strategic relationships occur when both groups cooperate becauseboth share intentions or have a mutual interest in carrying out together someactivities during a specific period of time. Temporary Tactical relationships arisewhen, regardless of their intentions and common objectives, each groupcollaborates in the sharing of capabilities or in order to acquire new ones.A Temporary Strategic relationship will be, however, more difficult to establishbetween both groups because they have completely different aims, goals andintentions. An analysis of drug cartels‟ intentions will be further discussed toclarify this point.On the other hand, a Temporary Tactical relationship neither can be establishedbecause a key element of this relationship is that both organizations obtainsomething in return for their collaboration. And apparently, even Al-Qaeda hasthe intention of teaming with MDC, there is nothing that Bin Laden could offer inreturn to MDC for their cooperation. This point will be further discussed whenboth organizations‟ capabilities are discussed.b) The second cooperation described is the „“Parasitic” cooperation [that]involves more enduring relationships between terrorist and criminal groups,although it is one where terrorists are feeding off organized crime profits andactivities‟.78Whether Al-Qaeda has the intention to take advantage of MDC capabilities bygaining their loyalty or by coercing MDC members, it will be an error of strategic77 Hutchinson and O‟Malley (2007), p. 110478 Hutchinson and Omalley (2007), p. 1104 32
  • 32. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitycalculus resulting in a probable disaster rather than constitute a strategic benefitfor Al-Qaeda‟s purposes. Gaining MDC loyalty is considered less probablebecause although both groups do not share any similar intentions, MDC areprofit-oriented organizations where everything that negatively and unnecessarilyaffects the business is rejected. Gaining MDC loyalty by coercion will be amistake for Al-Qaeda because as it will be demonstrated, MDC have more thanenough capabilities to face Al-Qaeda in Mexico. It does not, as a result, makesense to believe that Al-Qaeda has the intention to carry out a war against MDC.c) The third type of relationship is the „“Symbiotic” relationship‟,79 but according tothe authors „there is no available evidence of symbiotic partnerships betweenterrorist groups and organized crime groups‟ making it the least probablerelationship to occur. The reason resides in each group‟s nature and intentions.„Criminal groups do not desire media, public, and government attention, whereasthe opposite is true of most terrorist groups‟80 ; besides where one is politicallymotivated, the other is profit-oriented that seek optimal business conditions.„These and other ideological and organizational differences preclude symbioticcooperation between the two groups‟81 , conclude the authors.Furthermore, regardless of the argument presented by these types ofrelationships a key question remains; does Al-Qaeda really aim at collaboratingwith any of the MDC?It is obvious that Al-Qaeda is interested in MDC‟ operational capabilities butHutchinson and O‟Malley argue in this regard that „the degree of a terroristgroup‟s organization and need are key predictors of the types of crime they willengage in.‟82 Following this argument Al-Qaeda was described as „a global79 Ibid.80 Ibid.81 Ibid.82 Hutchinson and O‟Malley (2007), p. 1096 33
  • 33. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityumbrella for groups and individuals who share their agenda‟83 and composed byextremely secret and mostly autonomous cells and structures. Organizations likeAl-Qaeda, Hutchinson and O‟Malley argue, have low-profile members with fewspecialized skills capable of carrying out attacks mostly with quite low financial ormaterial assets. Further Hutchinson and O‟Malley stated that [f]or such groups, engagement with crime may have three key determinants:84 1. The nature of the event or the attack planned; 2. The activities, training, and material they require; and, 3. The availability of self funding, traditional types of financing, and resources on hand.Under this argument it can be stated that Al-Qaeda desires a workingrelationship. However, the problem is that MDC may compromise any secretoperation because they are constantly being infiltrated by US and Mexicansecurity authorities. Additionally, drug traffickers are difficult to trust because theyare profit oriented, making hard to maintain minimal levels of loyalty. Finally, mostAl-Qaeda recruits are home-grown people85 in order to blind international lawenforcement attention, and even despite the fact that many drug traffickers haveUS passports most of them have traceable criminal records, a characteristic thatAl-Qaeda continuously tries to avoid.Even with the support that MDC‟ capabilities provide, collaboration with themimplies inherent risks that may compromise any possible Al-Qaeda operation, arisk that terrorists groups, especially, avoid being exposed to.83 Atwan (2006), p. 21984 Hutchinson and O‟Malley (2007), p. 109985 Ibid, p 1100 34
  • 34. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityAL-QAEDA’S CAPABILITIES  Al-Qaeda‟s material capabilitiesAl-Qaeda‟s material capabilities reside in three pillars: its supporters, its weaponsand training, and its financial wealth.Members.It is difficult to estimate the number of members that a secret organization suchas Al-Qaeda could have, however some argue that they „can draw on the supportof some 6-7 million radical Muslims worldwide, of which 120,000 are willing totake up arms‟.86 Beyond this, it is true that „the war on terror‟ carried out by theUS and its allies, along with Al-Qaeda‟s strategy of presenting it as a war againstMuslims and to have control of the oil sources in the region has apparently aidedAl-Qaeda‟s recruitment strategy. As Atwan noted „American foreign policy is thebest recruitment officer al-Qa‟ida has ever had.‟87Weapons and Training.Moreover, regardless of the conventional weapons that this organization couldpossess, Al-Qaeda has appropriated and mastered the tactical use of „suicidemissions‟, which have become its most effective and cheaper weapon.Atwan stated that suicide missions are extremely difficult to detect withoutprevious intelligence information and are relatively easy to carry out. In terms of logistics the suicide bomber typically pilots a vehicle with explosives into the target or detonates bombs carried on his own body, sometime in a bag o rucksack (as in the London bombings) or, more commonly, in a suicide belt or86 Gunaratna (2002), p. 9587 Atwan (2006), p.10 35
  • 35. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security vest. A suicide belt is easily manufactured, and several websites give step-by- step instructions in how to customize a strip of strong fabric with pockets to hold the explosives and detonators. Worn underneath the bomber‟s normal clothing, it is very difficult to detect.88Another key element of Al-Qaeda‟s material capabilities are its training camps,because here is where the indoctrination and training of its followers take place.In training camps, jihadi fighters obtain military training in the use of explosives,heavy weapons and in guerrilla and assassination techniques. In addition, theygain specialised training courses in surveillance and counter-surveillanceoperations; learn how to forge and adapt identity documents, and mostimportantly, assimilate elemental techniques to carry out suicide attacks in landor sea.89Even though some Al-Qaeda training camps were closed in Afghanistan as aconsequence of the US invasion, there are rumours that some camps are stilldistributed and working worldwide. Al-Qaeda‟s training camps have been recentlyfounded in England, in the Lake District and in the southern counties ofBerkshire, Kent and East Sussex.90MoneyAl-Qaeda‟s financial wealth is another material capability that needs to beconsidered. In this regard Gunaratna described that Bin Laden‟s business andworldwide investments, along with state sponsors as Sudan, Afghanistan andIran or Islamist groups‟ contributions and clandestine money collection in somemosques, generates significant funds for the organization. He concludes bystating that [v]ery few groups have acquired financial assets and independent resources to the extent that Al Qaeda has. Despite a US-led worldwide effort to close down its88 Atwan (2006), p.10089 Gunaratna (2002), p. 72.90 „Top extremist recruiter is jailed‟ BBC news, February, 26, 2008. 36
  • 36. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security financial networks, Al Qaeda continues to operate through the hawala, or unregulated, banking system, based on the use of promissory notes for the exchange of cash and gold. Al Qaeda also benefited from copying many of the financial models and networks devised by the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which collapsed in 1991. It was used extensively by terrorists, state sponsors of terrorism and by various security and intelligence organisations. 91The InternetMoreover, alongside Al-Qaeda‟s capabilities with regard to fighters, weapons andmoney described above, it is considered that Bin Laden‟s organization is usinganother „weapon‟ that has been extremely helpful to recruit, organize,communicate and train jihadi fighters: the internet.92It is not clear whether the Internet can be described as a material capabilitythough it is a fact that Al-Qaeda is using the system for its own purposes. As wasdescribed further above, some terrorist attacks were planned and organized inon-line chat forums, and the instructions to build home-made bombs can befound in some jihadi web-pages. Furthermore, the terrorist attacks in Spain wereinspired by a web magazine and Mexico was threatened as well on-line.In this regard, Bari Atwan adds that The internet is a multipurpose tool and weapon. It can be used to communicate one-to-one or to millions; it can be used to convey hidden information, instructions or plans; and since computers control the majority of the developed world‟s infrastructure, it is a chink in the West‟s amour, easily penetrated by dedicated hackers. Cyber-attacks can create enormous damage at very little cost to the jiihadis, a principle they value and which we have already seen applied with devastating results in al-Qa‟ida‟s preference for suicide missions over armed combat.9391 Gunaratna (2002), p. 7092 Sageman (2008), p.11493 Atwan (2006), p. 125 37
  • 37. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityOverall, despite of whether a material capability exist or not, the Internet must beconsidered as a weapon that Al-Qaeda is using in order to fulfil its goals. AsAtwan declared, Al-Qaeda is „the the first Web-directed guerrilla network‟.94  Al-Qaeda non-material capabilitiesAs was described beforehand by Handel, non-material capabilities are the qualityof the organization, morale, and military doctrine, and in this regard Al-Qaeda‟sstrength equals that of its material capabilities.Quality of the organization.In terms of the quality of the organisation Al-Qaeda is extremely efficient becauseit has been able to expand the organization horizontally avoiding rigid andhierarchical forms;95 it „is structured in such a way that it can operate without acentralised command. As a result, al-Qaeda regional bureaux functioned as thenodal point of its oriental network outside Afghanistan and liaise with otherassociate groups and Al Qaeda cells.‟ 96As it expands horizontally, the internet becomes the most important tool withinthese small and independent groups, because it provides ease ofcommunication, recruitment and a portal for receiving elemental instructions toconduct attacks.97Despite the US invasion in Afghanistan that made Al-Qaeda lose its mainorganizational base, the truth is that the „war on terror‟ has not been able to94 Ibid, p.12295 Magouirk, Atran, and Sageman (2008).96 Gunaratna (2002), p. 1097 Atwan (2006). 38
  • 38. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityeradicate the organization since it has survived as by not remaining static andconsequently increasing its versatility.98MoraleThe heart of Al-Qaeda‟s high morale resides on the fact that the organizationrather than being destroyed, is still fully functioning and capable of hitting the USand its allies.99 This fact has been exploited by Bin Laden and his associates toincrease the confidence of Al-Qaeda‟s militants and has enabled it to maintaintheir loyalty and keep radicals highly active and motivated. 100Military DoctrineAccording to Rohan Gunaratna [m]ost Al Qaeda attacks involve three distinct phases. First, intelligence teams mount surveillance, be it on a static or a moving target. Based on the target intelligence obtained, the attach team rehearses its operation in an Al Qaeda camp, often on a scale model of the building or vessel in question. Next and Al Qaeda support team arrives in the target area and organises safe houses and vehicles, bringing with it the necessary weapons and explosives. Lastly, Al Qaeda‟s strike team arrives and withdraws after completing the mission, unless it is a suicide attack. As the exfiltration of attack teams in a hostile environment is very difficult, suicide is likely to remain Al Qaeda‟s preferred tactic for the foreseeable future.101In this sense Al-Qaeda has become a modern terrorist organization thatmaintains highly standards on its operations. Firstly it is „a secret, almost virtualorganization, one that denies its own existence in order to remain in theshadows‟102, which has allowed them to succeed in most of its attacks. Secondly,new Al-Qaeda recruitments are not coming only from Pakistan or Afghanistan orany other related country, these are home-grown individuals, sometimes without98 Ibid.99 Gunaratna (2002).100 Ibid.101 Ibid, p. 78102 Ibid, p. 3 39
  • 39. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityany previous links with radical Islam.103 Thirdly, Al-Qaeda is determined tofunction at a global level, as Gunaratna described: „[i]nstead of resistingglobalisation, its forces are being harnessed by contemporary Islamist groups,constantly looking for new bases and new targets worldwide‟.104 Fourthly, it isconstantly transforming and adapting its resources available because „itsnetworks are intertwined in the socio-economic, political, and religious fabric ofMuslims living in at least eighty countries‟105  Al-Qaeda‟s capabilities to attack Mexican or US interests.It is clear enough that Al-Qaeda has capabilities to hit interests in both countries.Even though the „war on terror‟ has limited its resources available, its capabilitieshave not been much eroded or eliminated, and the organization is still fullyfunctioning. It cannot be ignored that Al-Qaeda is the first terrorist group that wascapable to hit the US „on land (US embassies in east Africa, 1998), sea (USSCole, Yemen, 2000) and in the air (September 11, 2001)‟106. This reflects thepower of Al-Qaeda and it seems that there will be no changes with regard to Al-Qaeda‟s capabilities in the coming future.As was observed previously, Al-Qaeda has interesting capabilities that havetransformed into the most dangerous terrorist organization. Notwithstanding, thekey element still remains whether Al-Qaeda can offer MDC something in returnfor their collaboration as a conduit to fulfil their objectives and strike at USinterests primarily, but also at Mexican targets. In this regard, a further analysisabout MDC‟ intentions and capabilities will answer this question.103 Atwan (2006).104 Gunaratna (2002), p. 11105 Gunaratna (2002), p. 10106 Ibid p. 7 40
  • 40. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityIV. MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS.The origins of drug trafficking in Mexico started with poppy cultivation in the northof the country, in the mountains of the state of Sinaloa from where the heroin wassent to the US during the 40s in the context of World War II. In the 50s the crisisin the mine industry in the northern states of Chihuahua and Sonora compelledsome workers to cultivate marijuana and poppy, an activity considered legal atthat moment. As legal restrictions in the US appeared, along with an increase inthe demand of drugs during the 60s, the prices of marijuana and heroin rose andthe profits were quickly duplicated pushing illegal activity to Sinaloa‟sneighbouring states. In the 70s the activity was concentrated in the so called„golden quadrangle‟ a region in the mountains that acquired perfect conditions forillegal activity: remoteness of law enforcement officials and closeness to the USborder. This zone comprehended the limits of the states of Durango, Sonora,Chihuahua and Sinaloa. Until the end of the 70s illegal activities were controlledby several families which became powerless in 1982 when Miguel Felix Gallardocreated the so called Cartel of Guadalajara, an organization inspired in theMedellin Drug Cartel, which associated some of these families in order to controlthe production and distribution of heroin and marijuana within the US. 107 In thisfashion, and most importantly, it become a powerful organization that could faceMexican and US authorities.Gallardo‟s main associates Rafel Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca took careof the drug business after he was captured in 1989, though internal leadershipproblems provoked the separation of both drug lords.108 Since then, severaldifferent drug cartels with complex organization structures were created.Currently drug trafficking is controlled by seven cartels based in Mexico: theTijuana Cartel, run by Arellano Felix brothers that controls almost 3000 km in thewestern part of the Mexico-US border; the Juárez Cartel, run by Amado Carrillo107 Ibid.108 Ibid. 41
  • 41. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityFuentes that controls the center of the Mexico-US border corridor; the GolfoCartel, run by Osiel Cárdenas that controls the eastern side of the border in thestate of Tamaulipas and all drug access via the Gulf of Mexico; the SinaloaCartel, run by Joaquín Guzmán that competes in drug production and distributionwith the first three in the whole Mexico-US border; the Colima Cartel, run by theAmescua Contreras brothers, that controls drug production and distribution inseveral states in the central Mexico; the Pedro Díaz Parada Cartel, that controlsdrug production and distribution in some states in the south of the countryincluding in Oaxaca and Chiapas; the Milenio Cartel, run by Valencia brotherswhich while being the smallest of the MDC, controls drug distribution in fourstates.The main differences between MDC are their geographical location and theirprofits, making margins. The Tijuana, Juarez, Golfo and Sinaloa Cartels are themost important and violent ones since they control the most important traffickingroutes and distribution markets within the US.MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS CAPABILITIES  MDC Material CapabilitiesMoney & CorruptionMDC‟ main capabilities are their financial wealth. According with John Walters,US Director of National Control Drug Policy, MDC obtain US$13 800 millionannually for their sales on US soil109 where around 85% of the profits isdistributed between the main four while 15% goes for the other three of the bigseven. In this regard, an estimation calculates the Carillo‟s family fortune on morethan US$ 25 thousand million. Consequently these huge sums of money have109 „Ganancias por 13,800 mdd deja venta de drogas a EU: John Walters‟. La Cronica de hoy, 21de Febrero de 2008 42
  • 42. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityprovided MDC with means to continue defying both Mexico and the US either bykilling law enforcement officials or by corrupting them. Only the Golfo Cartel paysout around US$ 2 million per week in corruption on both sides of the border.WeaponryThe most common weapons used by MDC are machine guns that can penetratearmour cars, grenade launchers, and assault rifles as AR-15 and AK-47.According to the Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, in the last fiveyears the most dangerous weapons confiscated by the authorities were Barrettrifles caliber 50 millimeters (mm); M72 rocket launchers caliber 66 mm; grenadelaunchers 40 mm; Sub-machine guns FN Herstal Model PS90 caliber 5.7x28mm; pistols FN Herstal Model Five Seven caliber 5.7x28 mm, as well asfragmentation grenades caliber 40 and 37 mm.110 It is considered that theseweapons are extremely effective to succeed in a war against the Mexican militaryand law-enforcement officials as well against rival drug cartels.Additionally some statistics revealed that about 2000 illegal weapons comingfrom the US cross daily.111 These weapons are easily obtained in more thanseventeen thousand sell-points on the US frontier cities and smuggled intoMexico by air, sea or land.112 The US government has done little in helpingMexican authorities stop this problem, which allows MDC to continue acquiringthe ultimate weaponry available to maintain illegal activities.MembersMDC are formed by paid-members that work within the organization or externally—especially in law-enforcement agencies— and meet different roles in theorganization. These members vary in their background from those whodistributed drug in the streets through experienced lawyers and economists, tothe called „gatilleros‟ (trigger-pullers), groups who protect the organization andcarry out the assassinations; these groups are considered extremely important110 „Se arman los narcos por descuido del Gobierno‟, El Universal, 27 de Abril de 2008111 Ibid112 Ibid. 43
  • 43. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitywithin the organization because they carry the weapons. The gatilleros aremainly conformed by ex- police officers and/or ex-militaries, including manypolice and militaries working for drug cartels within law enforcement agencies.These groups of trigger-pullers are divided in cells formed by around 10 to 50members that work accordingly with specific instructions of their leaders and druglords. It is estimated that the four biggest cartels have around 1500 „gatilleros‟each, in addition to the many police and militaries working for them within law-enforcement agencies.„Los Zetas‟ are one of the most famous and dangerous „gatilleros‟ formed byaround 100 militaries that were hired by the Golfo Cartel in 2002. They deserted,from a rouge elite Mexican military unit that was trained in the US to combat drugcartels, to join the lines of the cartel. They are experts in explosives,communications, intelligence gathering, counter-intelligence operations, andadvanced technology weaponry manage.  Non Material Capabilities„The Know How‟Regardless of MDC‟ material capabilities, it is considered that they possesssomething which could be attractive for groups such as Al-Qaeda. This is „theknow how‟ of the operation in the Mexico-US border. Because of thier illegalactivities they know how corruption works in both the US and Mexico. Theycontrol sophisticated trafficking routes by air, land and sea; and they control thehuman-smuggling and the weapons trafficking business. This non-materialcapability increases the adversary‟s resources available in facilitating an attackon the US or Mexico.The importance of the Mexico-US border resides in two facts: 1) it is a door to theUS, and 2) it is the most dynamic border in the world where all along its 3200 km, 44
  • 44. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitymost of them vast an remote territory, daily legal crossings stand close to 12 000commercial trucks and 660 000 people113 either for business, holidays or for job,and illegally cross tons of drugs, thousands of weapons, hundreds of cars andbetween 650 to 1200 undocumented people. Most of these illegal and legalactivities are controlled by MDC.The „know how‟ is also important within the US territory. According to the 114DEA , Mexican cartels control the transportation and wholesale drugdistribution in every region of the US except the Northeast that are controlled byAsian Cartels (primarily Vietnamese) based in Canada. This allows them to movedrugs, arms and persons through the US, which would be really appealing for Al-Qaeda‟s intentions, with relative ease.OrganizationMDC are complex in their organization with highly defined command-and-controlstructures. They are hierarchical by nature, but since most of their leaders are inprison, they are now organized in a more decentralize form where the „gatilleros‟have a leading role but always following direct orders of the drug lords despite ofthese are in prison.In this regard, and according with some experts, currently MDC‟ organizationopens a door for the possible collaboration of terrorist groups and criminalgroups. Chris Dishman stated that international law enforcement pressure isforcing the breakdown of hierarchical structures in illicit organizations and 115creating new opportunities for criminals and terrorist to collaborate. Thisargument is based on the fact that „beheading‟ MDC by imprisoning drug lords orextraditing them to the US is weakening MDC. As a result, lower to mid-level113 Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, www.inegi.gob.mx114 „Drug Traficking Organizations‟, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), June 16 , 2008115 Dishman (2005). 45
  • 45. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitycriminals are taking advantage of their independence to form networks becausethey need to find funding sources to continue with their illegal activity.Nevertheless Mexican drug cartels are not decentralized at all even though itsmain leaders are in prison. It is true that Mexican law enforcement efforts arecornering some MDC causing many of their cells to have to work independentlyor to collaborate with other groups to survive. These networks are mainly relatedto drug production and distribution. However, the organization does not split up,because after drug lords are dead or in prison the „gatilleros‟ or the family of thedrug lord takes control of the organization since they possess both the „know-how‟ as well as the weapons. The four most important cartels continue beingmanaged by the same families, and have been doing so for the last two decades.Dishman argues that „like modern terrorists, law enforcement crackdowns ontransnational criminal organizations have forced criminals to expand their use ofnetworks.‟116 Following this argument some reports indicate that MDC havestarting to collaborate with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia(FARC).117 However these relationships are more related with comparativeadvantages in cocaine production in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia rather thanMexican efforts to eradicate drug production. Additionally MDC also collaboratewith Colombian cartels since the mid-nineties.MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS INTENTIONS.Mexican Drug cartels are not political motivated, quite the opposite, theirmembers are profit-oriented and in order to increase the income the organizationis managed with benefit versus cost operations. Even drug activity is not basedon political, social or religious ideology is constituted by three fundamentalintentions: a) it must benefit its own community (at local level and not even116 Dishman (2005), p. 240117 Rodriguez and Arroyo (2008). 46
  • 46. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitynecessary pro-Mexico); b) it must maintain a relative status-quo environmentbecause it is more convenient for business activities; c) it is pro-US, or at least isneutral, because it is their biggest and more important client.Nevertheless many commentators argue that MDC‟ intentions have beenchanging in recent years since levels of violence and constant threats to Mexicaninstitutions have increased. With regard to these new intentions, it is commentedthat even drug cartels that are not fully politically oriented are seeking tochallenge and influence the Mexican state in order to intimidate governmentefforts. This might be true, however a further analysis will suggest that thereason of this changes on their strategy, rather than being related to new MDC‟intentions, is a consequence of different events that have been happening inMexico in recent years.In this regard, as an effect of the democratic process in Mexico —that started inthe 90s, running through its peak point in 2000 but which continues to this date —this has resulted in the decentralization of responsibilities within the law-enforcement agencies where some of the old agreements between authoritiesand MDC ended. In this context MDC discovered that without protection of theauthorities, only the strongest would survive. Consequently each cartel started tohire small armies to defend their territories against rival cartels and authorities.They also continued buying local authorities‟ protection but now under the PabloEscobar‟s „silver or lead‟ principle.Consequently, an open war between MDC and law-enforcements officials startedimmediately. The disputed northern territories were transformed in battlefieldsand the levels of violence increased in strategic places in Mexico, US, and evenSouth and Central America where selective assassinations became commonoccurrences. In 2006 around 5000 deaths related with these disputes were 47
  • 47. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityregistered. In 2007 more than 2500 deaths occurred and in 2008 from January toJune 1500 deaths have been registered so far. 118Certainly, as conflict intensified the methods used by MDC have been changing;today it is not enough to kill an enemy in order to create and provoke terror anduncertainty to ones enemies. Applying kidnappings, tortures, mutilation anddecapitation as methods is essential for survival.These instances represent a clear and dangerous challenge to Mexicanauthorities in their „war on drugs‟. However, far from reflecting a mutation in MDC‟intentions, because there is no evidence of this, the purpose of this violent war isto inflict fear to rival cartels and inhibit Mexican state efforts to combat MDCtrafficking to the US. It is evident that MDC are changing their intimidationtechniques for more dangerous ones, but they are not seeking to destroyMexican state institutions or generate chaos within the territory because,assuming a rational behaviour, they realize that those conditions could causetheir own demise. As was observed by Mark Sedgwick [a] radical ideology is indisputably an essential ingredient in producing terrorism. To state the obvious, a terrorist without ideological (or religious, or religio- ideological) motivation would, by most definitions, be either an ordinary criminal or mentally ill. And an ideology that was not radical could hardly justify terrorism.119In this observation no religious or political motivations exist that fall under MDCintentions.  MDC‟ intentions in teaming with Al-QaedaCriminal and terrorist organizations are looking to establish relations according totheir own intentions and according with the aims and goals they have. In this118 „Ordenan a PGR dar cifra de victimas del narco desde 1970‟ El Universal July 16, 2008119 Sedgwick (2007), p. 99 48
  • 48. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitysense there is enough evidence about collaborations between terrorist andcriminal groups. Some insurgent groups, such as, Shining Path, in Peru and theFARC, have relations with local drug cartels.120 The process is simple tounderstand; drug-traffickers benefit from terrorists‟ military skills, weaponssupply, and access to secret organizations and terrorist get a source of incomeand expertise other activities such as money laundering. Normally, terroristgroups provide either protection or access to modern weapons, and drug cartelsshare the profits.However according to MDC‟ intentions and capabilities it seems that they are notlooking for modern weaponry, military skills or new drug markets. Possibly,protection provided by Al-Qaeda might be considered as an intention in teamingup with them, but it cannot be ignored that MDC are continuously being joined byex-militaries that are well-trained and possess knowledge of the Mexicanterritory. How effective will be a jihadi fighter in Mexico when compared to aMexican soldier trained specifically for this „war on drugs‟?So what can Al-Qaeda offer to MDC in return for their cooperation? Is theresomething useful Al-Qaeda can offer that can benefit MDC in their war?Apparently no, and in any event this collaboration might be prejudicial for drugcartels intentions; so why they would like to collaborate with Bin Laden?It is important to consider that MDC networks are based on their intentions andare guided by specific needs such as „risk reduction (joining with locals to exploitlocal conditions or access corrupt officials), market extension (new products oroutlets), or product exchange (such as guns for drugs).121 In this regard, Al-Qaeda cannot offer anything to MDC. Firstly, MDC have the best comparativeadvantages for drug production within the Mexican territory including in someSouth American countries because of their proximity to the US. Secondly,120 Williams (2005), p,124121 Sullivan and Bunker (2002), p. 41 49
  • 49. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitybesides Europe, why would any MDC want to extend its market if the US is themost important one? And thirdly, why would any MDC purchase any weaponry inelsewhere considering the US is the biggest weapon manufacturer in the world?With regard to the collaboration between criminal organizations and terrorists,Hutchinson and O‟malley pointed out that: the potential for convergence of two existing groups would seem to depend on the possibility that they would both gain from combined operations, yet at the same time be able to maintain their own operational security—and this seems unlikely over the long term. Organized criminal groups, for example, do not desire media, public, and government attention, where the opposite is true of most terrorist groups. Where terrorists seek political inclusion and legitimation (as in the case of some revolutionary movements) and/or political dominance (as in the case of most religious terrorist organizations), organized crime groups seek optimal “business environments.” Such distinctions curtail any cooperation between these groups at the sporadic level: the risks to security far outweigh the benefits of cooperation.122In this observation it is accepted that lacking a mutually beneficial relationship willlead MDC to reject cooperation with Al-Qaeda, and so far there is nothing thatBin Laden can offer MDC to gain their loyalty.  MDC‟ intentions to attack Mexican or US interestsRegardless of whether collaboration between MDC and Al-Qaeda materializes,another question is whether MDC hold the intent to attack Mexican or USinterests.According to MDCs‟ intentions, no obvious reasons exist to attack US interestssince MDC are not interested in changing the balance of power within the US.Most importantly the US is MDC best client, so any attack will be consideredprejudicial for their ends. Moreover, only one assassination case pends againstMDC in the US; that of a US law-enforcement official. This was the famous case122 Hutchinson and Omalley (2007), p.1100 50
  • 50. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityof Enrique Camarena an undercover agent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA) that was tortured and killed in 1985 by the extinct Cartel of Guadalajara.The immediate consequences of this assassination were the capture of threedrug lords that were extradited to the US; more DEA agents in Mexico and moreUS support to the Mexican government to carry out this „war on drugs‟.123 Afterthis incident, no DEA agent has been killed.MDC‟ intentions in attacking Mexican interest are different. Traditionally MDC‟war is against rival cartels and law enforcement officers who impede their trade.In this regard several police officers have been killed since the origins of drugtrafficking problems. Historically drug lords had been cautious and have avoidedattacking top-officials, politicians, civil society and any other target that mightcause media attention or a large scale retaliation by Mexican authorities.However, as a consequence of historical events described above, along with lawenforcement pressure over MDC, the level of violence has escalated significantly.This leads us to consider the possibility of MDC being interested in attackingcritical Mexican interests in response of this pressure. The failed terrorist attackof February 2008 in Mexico City against a top law-enforcement official is a firstwarning and demonstrates how far MDC are willing to go to maintain theirindependence.This attack may be more related to the imitation of a terrorist technique ratherthan as a means of demonstrating changes in MDC intentions. In this regard,Mark Sedgwick argues that terrorism may be „contagious‟ because in the contextof global waves of terrorism, some groups, regardless of whether they haveprevious terrorist activities, are influenced „by recent actual or apparent successof a terrorist or similar violent strategy anywhere in the world‟124 . He additionallycomment that123 Ibid124 Sedgwick (2007), p. 101 51
  • 51. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security “[c]ontagion” is possible at two levels, and can happen in two ways. On one level, a group might copy a particular terrorist technique, and on another level a group might copy a general terrorist strategy. Either of these might happen directly or indirectly. Direct contagion might occur when a member of one established terrorist group personally assists in training members of another group in a particular technique, or personally assists in establishing a distinct, new terrorist group. Alternatively, there might be no direct contact; contagion might be indirect, when a group observes the apparent success elsewhere of either a technique or a general strategy.125In this analysis, the possibility of collaboration between MDC and Al-Qaeda isunlikely to occur at this moment. Consequently the best explanation found for theFebruary attack was that MDC are copying terrorist techniques. This is extremelyworrying for Mexican intelligence agencies because it reinforce suspicions thatsuggest MDC are changing their intimidation techniques. Nonetheless, we mustconsider what Sedgwick concludes that „[a] particular terrorist technique in only ofinterest to a group that has already made the decision to adopt a terroriststrategy; [but] a technique cannot on its own cause a resort to terrorism‟126Finally, even though the so called „Colombianization of “Mexico”‟ is far fromcoming to pass, there are several security warnings Mexican intelligenceagencies must guard against because otherwise the country could plunge into anunprecedented escalation of violence.  MDC‟ intentions to facilitate an Al-Qaeda attack on Mexico or USEven though it is considered that MDC intentions in attacking US interests areimprobable, it could be feasible for them to facilitate, wittingly or unwittingly, anAl-Qaeda attack on Mexico or US.As was observed throughout this study, any collaboration with Al-Qaeda wouldbe prejudicial for MDC‟ own ends with immediate consequences. Unwittingly,125 Ibid, p. 102126 Sedgwick (2007). 52
  • 52. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securitycollaboration might be possible, though we cannot ignore that within MDC‟sorganization almost everything is controlled for their leaders.Nevertheless this statement relates more with concerns about undocumentedmigration to the US, where US intelligence authorities are worried about thepossibility of terrorist cells using migration routes to enter into the US.Despite US media alarms and disinformation, undocumented migration comingfrom Mexico is not related to terrorist activity so far. There is no single hardevidence that confirms the opposite. Furthermore, some experts have arguedthat the real US open corridor is Canada through where many of the 9/11attackers entered the US. 127In this regard, using a data base created from the biographical data of 373terrorist, Leiken and Brooke found out that [i]n light of the public attention to the specter of illegal terrorist entry through the U.S. southern border, we conducted an extensive search but found not a single entrant from Mexico. In contrast, we found 26 subjects with Canada as a host country, three of whom, including the Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam, entered or attempted to enter the U.S. Forty-six percent of those in Canada became naturalized Canadian citizens. Sixty two percent of the Canadian-hosted sample came originally from North Africa: 10 Algerians, three Moroccans, and three Tunisians. This high correlation between the Maghreb and Canada again echoes immigration channels. Many Maghrebis possess at least a working knowledge of French, and immigration networks bridge France and the Maghreb, as we have shown above. At least seven of the Canadian-hosted individuals in our chart, such as Ressam and other members of the „„Fateh Kamel network,‟‟ spent time in France before arriving in Canada, where they settled in and around French-speaking Montreal. Forty-two percent of the subjects hosted in Canada entered via asylum claims. Fifty-four percent of those claiming asylum saw their claim denied yet remained in the country. Canada‟s asylum system provides claimants with „„generous welfare and social assistance programs,‟‟ into which Ressam and his cohorts dipped while they plotted their attack. These conditions have attracted notice in jihadi circles. A senior FBI official says that Canada is the most worrisome127 Leiken and Brooke (2006), p. 511 53
  • 53. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Security terrorist point of entry, and Al Qaeda training manuals advise agents to enter the U.S. through Canada rather than through France.128Thus, though the Mexico-US border might still pose a terrorist threat to the US, itseems there is currently no direct relationship between migration and terrorism.Additionally any potential collaboration between MDC and Al-Qaeda analyzedthroughout this study leads us to conclude that for the moment such collaborationis unlikely to occur.128 Ibid, p.513 54
  • 54. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityCONCLUSIONSMexico and the US have a difficult history regarding of their common frontier. Inthe XXI century new problems have complicated even more the relationshipbetween both countries when terrorist issues and adversaries with intentions andcapabilities to hit interests in both sides of the border need to be faced.In this regard, it cannot be ignored some facts: a) Mexico has terrorist activitieswhere leftist guerrilla groups and Drug Cartels organizations, that currently havethe monopoly of the violence, are imitating terrorist techniques to defy the state;b) Mexico has previous experiences where the country was utilized byinternational terrorist groups to achieve objectives of its agenda against foreigncountries; c) MDC and Al-Qaeda have complementary capabilities that makesattractive any collaboration between both organizations; d) Al-Qaeda has a globalstrategy to hit US interests anywhere and everywhere, in this observe thepossibility of an Al-Qaeda attack specifically in Mexico is likely to occur.Nevertheless, those are not enough factors to consider a collaboration betweenboth groups to attack both Mexican or US interests, because when an attack orcollaboration with another group are planned, the group‟s intentions indicate howfar a group is willing to go in implementing its terrorist activities. Is in this regardthat the adversary‟ intentions required to be deeply studied and analyzed toprovide a close insight of his agenda and therefore be able to estimate the levelof threat posed by such adversary.Consequently at this moment it seems that some are exaggerating the linkbetween Mexican drug cartels and Al-Qaeda. Both have different aims, goals andits networks are originated by different motives. Nonetheless, even in the short-term this collaboration seems improbable, intelligence agencies must beprepared to monitor closely both groups‟ intentions because these may change 55
  • 55. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International Securityfrom time to time, and those things that today are considered unreasonable byintelligence analysts, could probably become the opposite in the near future. 56
  • 56. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityBIBLIOGRAPHYAsal, Victor, Nussbaum, Brian and Harrington, D. William (2007), Terrorism as Transnational Advocacy: An Organizational and Tactical Examination, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:1, 15 — 39. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008)Bari Atwan, Abdel (2006), The Secret History of Al-Qa‟ida, (London: SAQI).Breemer, Jan S. (1983), Offshore energy terrorism: Perspectives on a problem, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 6:3, 455 — 468. Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008).Burke, Jason (2004), Al-Qaeda. The True Story of Radical Islam, (London: Penguin Books).Cornell, Svante E. (2007) Narcotics and Armed Conflict: Interaction and Implications, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:3, 207 — 227. Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008).Curzio, Leonardo (2007), La Seguridad Nacional en México y la Relación con Estados Unidos, (México D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México y Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte).Dishman, Chris (2005), The Leaderless Nexus: When Crime and Terror Converge, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:3, 237 — 252. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008).Fernández, Jorge (2004), El Otro Poder: Las Redes del Narcotráfico, la Política y la Violencia en México, (Mexico: Punto de Lectura).Fernández, Jorge (2007), De los Maras a los Zetas: Los Secretos del Narcotráfico de Colombia a Chicago, (Mexico: Debolsillo)Ganor, Boaz (2008), Terrorist Organization Typologies and the Probability of a Boomerang Effect, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 31:4, 269 — 283. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008).Gunaratna, Rohan (2002), Inside Al-Qa‟eda, (New York: Columbia University Press). 57
  • 57. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityHandel, Michael I (2003), „Intelligence and the Problem of Strategic Surprise‟ in Betts, R. & Mahnken T.G. eds., Paradoxes of Strategic Intelligence (London: Frank Cass, 2003), pp. 1-58.Herman, Michael (2007) Intelligence Power in Peace and War, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Hudson, Rex (2003), Terrorist and Organized Crime in the Tri-Border area (TBA) of South America (Washington: The Library of Congress).Hutchinson, Steven and Omalley, Pat (2007), A Crime-Terror Nexus? Thinking on Some of the Links between Terrorism and Criminality, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:12, 1095 — 1107. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008).Jordan, Javier and Boix, Luisa (2004), Al-Qaeda and Western Islam, Terrorism and Political Violence, 16:1, 1 — 17. Stable URL: (accessed May 18, 2008).Kosal, Margaret E. (2006), Terrorism Targeting Industrial Chemical Facilities: Strategic Motivations and the Implications for U.S. Security, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:7, 719 — 751 Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008).Kosal, Margaret E. (2007), Terrorism Targeting Industrial Chemical Facilities: Strategic Motivations and the Implications for U.S. Security, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:1, 41 — 73. Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008).Leiken, Robert S. and Brooke, Steven (2006), The Quantitative Analysis of Terrorism and Immigration: An Initial Exploration, Terrorism and Political Violence, 18:4, 503 — 521. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008).Liddick Jr, Donald R (2004), The Global Underworld. Transnational Crime and the United States, (London: Praeger Publishers).Lowenthal, Mark M (2003), Intelligence From Secrets to Policy, (Washington DC; CQ Press).Magouirk, Justin, Atran, Scott and Sageman, Marc (2008), Connecting Terrorist Networks, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 31:1, 1 — 16. Stable URL: (accessed May 22, 2008).Mickolus, Edward F (1980), Transnational Terrorism. A chronology of Events 1968 -1979, ( London: Aldwych Press). 58
  • 58. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityMickolus, Edward F and Simons, Susan L (2002), Terrorism. 1996-2001 A Chronology, (London: Greenwood Press).Mickolus, Edward F and Simons, Susan L (2006), Terrorism 2002 - 2004 A Chronology, (London: Praeger Security International).Mickolus, Edward F, Sandler, Todd and Murdock, Jean M (1989), International Terrorism in the 1980s. A Chronology of Events Volume II, 1984-1987, (Iowa State University Press / Ames).Payan, Tony (2006), The Three U.S-Mexico Border wars. Drugs Immigration and Homeland Security, (London: Praeger Security International).Pimentel, Stanley A. (2000), „Los nexos entre política y crimen organizado en México‟ in Bailey, John and Godson, Roy eds., Crimen Organizado y Gobernabilidad Democrática. México y la zona fronteriza, (México: Grijalbo)Rodríguez, Gerardo and Arroyo, Mario (2008) Terrorismo, guerrilla y narcoterrorismo ¿Amenazas para México? In Foreign Affairs en Español Vol.8. Núm. 1.Sageman, Marc (2008), Leaderless Jihad. Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).Sedgwick, Mark (2007), Inspiration and the Origins of Global Waves of Terrorism, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:2, 97 — 112. Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008).Sullivan, John P. and Bunker, Robert J. (2002), Drug Cartels, Street Gangs, and Warlords, Small Wars & Insurgencies, 13:2, 40 — 53. Stable URL: (accessed July 10, 2008).Toro, María Celia (1995), Mexico‟s war on drugs. Causes and Consequences, (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers).Vázquez, Josefina and Meyer, Lorenzo (2001), „México Frente a Estados Unidos. Un ensayo histórico, 1776-2000‟, (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica).Wiedenhaefer, Robert M., Dastoor, Barbara Riederer, Balloun, Joseph and Sosa- Fey, Josephine (2007), Ethno-Psychological Characteristics and Terror- Producing Countries: Linking Uncertainty Avoidance to Terrorist Acts in the 1970s, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:9, 801 — 823. Stable URL: (accessed May 28, 2008). 59
  • 59. Francisco Franco MA. Intelligence and International SecurityWilliams, Paul L (2005), The Al Qaeda Connection. International Terrorism, Organized Crime, and the Coming Apocalypse, (New York: Prometheus Books) 60