Argentina's Moves Against Terror Groups Highlight Border Security Threat

By Jason Peña on August 8, 2019

Large numbers of migrants provide ample opportunity for terrorists to embed themselves in the migrant travel routes to infiltrate the U.S. southern border. The national security risks have become even more apparent after the reported discovery of four suspected ISIS terrorists from Iraq and Egypt who traveled through Panama and Costa Rica before being picked up in Nicaragua on their way to the U.S. border; my colleague Todd Bensman provides a report here on the incident.

We were reminded yet again of the potential dangers of those traveling to our border when Argentina recently became the first Latin American country to designate Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist group, as a terrorist organization. ISIS and Hezbollah are the two most significant groups involved in the war in Syria, which the US recognizes as a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Argentine President Mauricio Marci's decision to label Hezbollah as a terror group comes as the catalyst for a string of other decisions made to combat terrorism in the South American country. President Marci's national security team and administration created a program entitled National Registry of Persons and Suspected Organizations of Terrorism (RENAPOST) to track organizations and individuals with possible ties to terrorism. A revival of the Tripartite Command of the Triple Frontier has allowed Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to dismantle organized crime and terrorist organizations in their shared border region. The Triple Frontier or "Tri-Border Area" region in South America has been a notorious hub for foreign crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism emanating from Middle Eastern influences since the 1960s. Terrorist groups from Lebanon and Iran have established networks to the rest of Latin America.

Increasing national security concerns over Middle Eastern terrorist activity in Latin America has prompted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton to assist in combating Iran's growing influence in the Western Hemisphere. With the flood of migrants at our southern border and the catch-and-release policies that allow them to enter the country, terrorist infiltration resulting from the flow of migrants from Latin America and the Middle East remains a real possibility.