Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Along the Border

For the second time in less than a year, there are reports of an ISIS presence along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The latest claims come from Judicial Watch, which cited information from a Mexican Army officer and a police inspector in an on-line report, stating that the terror group is operating a camp near Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso:

The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

Law enforcement and intelligence sources report the area around Anapra is dominated by the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Cartel (“Juárez Cartel”), La Línea (the enforcement arm of the cartel) and the Barrio Azteca (a gang originally formed in the jails of El Paso). Cartel control of the Anapra area make it an extremely dangerous and hostile operating environment for Mexican Army and Federal Police operations.

The same officials also claim that "coyotes"--working for the Mexican cartels--have been smuggling ISIS operatives across the border into southern New Mexico, and across the Rio Grande east of El Paso, establishing transit corridors in areas where drug smuggling typically goes unchecked. 

So far, there has been no confirmation of the Judicial Watch report.  But last August, the group issued similar warnings, citing a Texas law enforcement bulletin which claimed Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers were eying the southern border as a possible infiltration route.  At the time, federal officials said they were "unaware" of any "specific, credible threat to the homeland" from the Islamic State.  

But local actions suggested otherwise.  The sheriff of Midland County, Texas told Fox News late last summer that local authorities had been told to "keep a lookout" for ISIS terrorists coming across the Mexican border.  

And, during that same period, there was a flurry of security activity at Fort Bliss, the sprawling Army post in El Paso that lies less than 30 miles from the reported ISIS camp.  As we reported last fall:

Major General Stephen Twitty took command of the post and its largest unit (the 1st Armored Division) in August, and has devoted much of his time to improving post security.  While General Twitty said there was no indication of an immediate ISIS threat, he also promised changes in base security procedures:

When it comes to security measures at Fort Bliss gates, everyone should “expect the unexpected,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, at a press conference Tuesday.

“If you come here every week, you’re going to see something different, because that’s just the way I am,” Twitty said before 16 media representatives at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center. “I like mixing it up.”


Twitty said he knew when he started his job that the installation, due to the large expansion beginning in 2006, had outgrown its access control points, and that they needed to be brought into Army and Department of Defense compliance in some areas.

A week after he took command, assessment teams from the Army and the DOD visited Fort Bliss, and members of those teams noted needed improvements, Twitty said.

For example, the installation is out of compliance at Cassidy gate, because there are not prescribed lanes for civilian traffic and for performing searches, Twitty said.     

There was a certain irony in General Twitty's actions.  He served a previous tour as Deputy Commanding General at Fort Bliss before moving (briefly) to a Pentagon post, then returning to El Paso.  During his previous tour, Twitty certainly had the ear of his CG, but there's no evidence he pushed for a heightened security posture. And, given the billions poured into Fort Bliss over the past decade, there was plenty of money to upgrade entry checkpoints and other security measures.  Yet, there appeared to be little interest in making those improvements until last year.

What changed?  The answer apparently lies along the border.  We can't say definitively that ISIS is operating in the El Paso region, but that possibility cannot be ruled out.  General Twitty did the right thing when he beefed up security at Fort Bliss.  If only the same thing could be said for the rest of our southern border. 

The Texas Department of Public Safety has rebuked claims of the ISIS camp near El Paso, saying it has "no credible evidence" that such a facility exists.  But there seems to be little doubt about the terrorist group's apparent interest in our southern border, and the renewed emphasis on security at Fort Bliss.  

And, barely 24 hours after the Texas DPS tried to assure everyone that Islamic terrorists are not operating in the El Paso region, Judicial Watch posted a new report, which ups the ante a bit more.  According to the watchdog group, the FBI held a meeting at the U.S. consulate in Juarez early in the week, shortly after the new Judicial Watch report appeared.  An intelligence source tells the group the meeting was convened to develop a press strategy to counter claims of an ISIS camp near El Paso.  Oddly enough, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security were not invited to attend, suggesting the FBI believes DHS agents are providing information to Judicial Watch.  Stay tuned.            


1 comment:

CT Guy said...

There is an easy remedy for this. Allow military personnel to carry weapons on base when on duty. The civilian leadership trusts you enough to work on billion dollar equipment and nuclear weapons,but won't allow to to carry a gun on base or get a drink at the NCO club until you are 21 .