President Trump on Wednesday announced a new "counternarcotics operation" in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea to "combat the flow of illicit drugs into the United States."
"We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives," Trump said. "In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts, which are going on right now at a record pace."
The package includes Navy destroyers, Air Force surveillance planes and helicopters, and 10 Coast Guard cutter ships, according to Trump.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said that the U.S. had received intelligence that drug cartels are planning to "take advantage" of the pandemic in the U.S. and use it to smuggle drugs. Trump called the intelligence strong, but declined to discuss details.
"We came upon some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of COVID-19 were gonna try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country," Milley said. "As we know, 70,000 Americans die on an average annual basis to drugs. That's unacceptable. We're at war with COVID-19, we're at war with terrorists, and we are at war with the drug cartels, as well."