Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Eight Steps to Counter the Drug Trade in West Africa *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Eight Steps to Counter the Drug Trade in West Africa *

Article excerpt

U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California, Chairman



TOM UDALL, New Mexico




Letter of Transmittal

Dear Colleague:

In recent years, West Africa has played an increasing role in the global drug trade. In the early 2000s, drug traffickers searching for new routes and markets began shipping South American cocaine to Europe through West Africa. Criminal groups have now expanded their operations in the region to include heroin trafficking and methamphetamine production.

While cocaine trafficked through West Africa typically reaches Europe rather than the United States, illicit activities surrounding the West African drug trade jeopardize U.S. goals in the region. The drug trade destabilizes governments and funds terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb.

In 2011, State Department launched the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative to coordinate the U.S. response to these threats. This has been a positive start, but the Caucus believes more must be done. This report provides eight recommendations on how the United States can better assist our partners in West Africa. We look forward to hearing your response to the report.


Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman

Senator Charles Grassley, Co-Chairman

Senator Charles Schumer

Senator James E. Risch

Senator Tom Udall

Senator John Cornyn

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Findings and Recommendations

Map the Drug Trafficking/Terror Nexus in West and North Africa

1.Finding: Terrorist organizations in West and North Africa benefit from the region's illegal drug trade. While briefings received by Caucus staff indicate that terrorist groups are not the primary actors involved, these groups are financed in part by drug proceeds. Indeed, Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups reportedly profit from taxing the transit of illegal drugs. Below are four key examples of the connections between terrorist organizations and the drug trade in this region:

* In March 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested two Colombians in Algeria - including an alleged member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - along with three individuals affiliated with AQIM, on charges that the Colombians were delivering cocaine in exchange for cash and arms that were acquired in Libya following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.1

* In 2010, Mauritanian authorities reported that members of AQIM provided security for a convoy of cocaine and marijuana.2

* In December 2009, three West African Al Qaeda associates were arrested on drug and terrorism charges in Ghana and extradited to the United States. The individuals allegedly agreed to transport cocaine from Mali through North Africa into Spain with the intent to support Al Qaeda.3

In February 2011, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against the Lebanese Canadian Bank for its "role in facilitating the money laundering activities of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network." 4 In a complex scheme, Hezbollah operatives bought used cars in the United States and then shipped them to West Africa for resale. Once the cars were sold in West Africa, the profits from these sales were comingled with Hezbollah's proceeds from cocaine trafficking in Africa and Europe. These funds were then deposited into Lebanese financial institutions, with a portion going to Hezbollah.5

The role of terrorist organizations in the West African drug trade may well be limited at present. Nonetheless, in other parts of the world, terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and the FARC have emerged as major players in the international drug trade. …

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