The federal government will expand training of local and state police in Mexico to combat transnational Mexican drug cartels, a State Department official has announced.

The expansion could include the establishment of training centers south of the border and the use of members of the National Guard and Webb County (Texas) Sheriff's Office as trainers of Mexican police. William Brownfield, assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, made the announcement Wednesday in a speech in Ciudad Juarez, reports the Associated Press.

Adding training centers in Mexico represents a shift in the U.S. diplomatic approach to Mexican drug cartels, Sylvia Longmire, author of "Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico's Drug Wars," tells POLICE Magazine.

"There's an interesting diplomatic subtext here," Longmire tells POLICE. "The centers, if and when they're created, are going to be in Mexico. U.S. agencies already train hundreds of Mexican LEOs in various cities, but American trainers not only publicly stepping foot in Mexico, but having offices there, is a big shift in thinking/perception on behalf of the Mexican government. I'm curious to see how the Mexican people respond to this once it gets going."

The training would be part of the Merida Initiative, which has provided $1.4 billion since 2008. The new focus will be on historically out-gunned and ill-prepared local forces.

"The logic is that when two federal governments begin to cooperate, they will initially work at the national level, because they are two federal governments," Brownfield told reporters. "Once this partnership is established, vehicles, equipment, training, education, exercises, sharing, et cetera. Once established at a national level, the logic is that cooperation should proceed to the next level, which is the level of states and municipalities."

Brownfield said sending law enforcement trainers to Mexico makes more sense from a cost standpoint than bringing hundreds of Mexican law enforcement officials to the U.S.

Mexico received $327 million for police training in fiscal 2009 from the U.S. State Department through Merida, reports AP. That amount placed Mexico third behind Afghanistan and Iraq in total funds received for police training from the departments of State or Defense.

Sources: Associated Press, State Department