U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Mexico Thursday, the first leg of a trip that will take him to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with western hemisphere leaders.  In Mexico, Mr. Obama's talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon are expected to be dominated by border security and Mexico's escalating drug war. The Obama administration has taken several steps to boost cooperation on both sides of the border.

Mexican troops and drug lords are engaged in a high-stakes battle for control of towns along the U.S. border.

President Felipe Calderon told ABC News it's a war whose outcome cannot be in doubt.

"As long as I'm the president of Mexico, the cartels - the criminals will never take control of the country," he said.

As President Obama makes his first official visit to America's neighbor to the south, the stakes are also high for the United States.

Drug war is major problem
Drug-related violence in Mexico has left thousands of people dead since the beginning of last year, with violence spilling across the border into U.S. communities.

President Obama acknowledges the demand for drugs in the U.S. is helping fuel the drug trade. And he has responded to Mexican complaints about halting the flow of guns and cash smuggled into Mexico from the U.S.

On Wednesday, U.S. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano named former U.S. prosecutor Alan  Bersin to coordinate efforts to fight the drug violence,  and slow the tide of illegal immigration. 

" I think the important decision we have made is that the rest of the United States has a stake in this too," she said. "That the drugs that come across an unsecured border infiltrate our neighborhoods and communities across this country."

In addition to placing three Mexican drug cartels on a U.S. list of suspected international drug kingpins, the Obama administration has also boosted the number of its federal agents along the border, in an effort to curb drug trafficking and violence.