The U.S. is launching counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to prevent drug cartels from exploiting the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's president said Wednesday.
Speaking at a White House press briefing, Donald Trump said cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors are posing a "growing threat" amid the global focus on the disease and are trying to take advantage of the pandemic.
"We will never let that happen. Today, the United States is launching enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics," Trump told reporters.
The U.S. must not let the drug cartels exploit the disease to threaten American lives, he said.
"In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, the U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts that are going on right now at a record pace," Trump added.
Washington is deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft.
During the press conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley issued a stark warning, saying the country is at war with the virus, terrorists and drug cartels
"This is the United States military. You will not penetrate this country. We will defend our country regardless of the cost," said Milley.