Gates Says US Helping Mexico Fight Drug Cartels

ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates described drug cartel violence in Mexico as a "serious problem" and acknowledged that the United States is currently assisting the Mexican government in fighting cartels along the U.S. border.

Gates, in a Sunday interview with NBC's "Meet the Press", said the U.S. is providing Mexico with reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, training and resources.

"I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans move," said Gates.

The war on drug cartels has cost 1000 lives in Mexico so far this year, according to reports. Cocaine and other drugs are smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and attempts to fight the trafficking are hindered by corruption.

The secretary praised the Mexican president for getting tough with the drug cartels.

"President Calderon of Mexico, perhaps for the first time, has taken on the battle against these cartels. And because of corruption in the police and so on, he sent the federal army of Mexico into the fight. The cartel are retaliating." he said.

On the subject of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Gates said that the 30,000 to 50,000 troops that will remain in Iraq after 2010 will not face as great a risk as the combat forces there today.

"The way Gen. (Ray) Odierno plans this, the risk to our troops will be substantially less than certainly it was last year -and it has gradually declined," he said.

Odierno is the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Though some military commanders preferred that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq continue through 2010, Gates called it unlikely that President Obama might adjust the withdrawal timetable or send troops back into the country if the situation there worsens.

"I would characterize the likelihood of significant adjustments to this plan as fairly remote," he said.

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