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A war they can win?

Obama pledges to help Calderon in the war against drug cartels.

In the first three months of 2009 there have been 1,960 drug-related slayings — a slight decrease compared to the tragic last quarter of 2008 but still an astounding body count.

Now almost two and a half years after taking office, Calderon used the joint press conference with Obama to reiterate the same objective as when he began his presidency.

“We are aiming to recuperate the security and tranquility above all in those zones that have been most hit, most affected by the criminals,” he said. “It is not an easy task and the time frame can be varied.”

The Mexican president said this goal was the first of a three-part strategy — with the second part being to get the army off the street and replace it with an honest police force and the third part being the radical overhaul of the entire justice system.

However, with almost half of his six-year term gone, many question whether the Calderon administration will ever see the soldiers back in the barracks.

Obama added his own terms to define victory.

“What is a realistic effort is to reduce it so significantly, so drastically that it becomes once again a localized criminal problem as opposed to a major structural problem that threatens stability, that increases corruption and threatens the rule of law,” he said.

With the Mexican cartel armies still having tens of thousands of men at arms and making an estimated $30 billion trafficking drugs into the United States, such a goal could prove very tough for Obama to achieve in his time in office.

One oft-quoted story in the Mexican news magazine Proceso said the drug war had become “Calderon’s Iraq” — a conflict that the president cannot win but cannot pull out of either.

Obama is rapidly making this his own war to win or lose as well.

More GlobalPost dispatches on Mexico:

Sizing up Mexico's war on drugs

Trouble on the US-Mexico border