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CMRJ 526 American Public University Week 5 Coca Cultivation Discussion Response

CMRJ 526

American Public University System

CMRJ

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In: Current Politics and Economics of Africa ISSN: 1098-4070 Volume 4, Number 2 © 2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. ILLEGAL DRUG TRADE IN AFRICA: TRENDS AND U.S. POLICY Liana Sun Wyler and Nicolas Cook ABSTRACT Africa has historically held a peripheral role in the transnational illicit drug trade, but in recent years has increasingly become a locus for drug trafficking, particularly of cocaine. Recent estimates suggest that in recent years, apart from late 2008 and 2009, between 46 and 300 metric tons of South American cocaine may have transited West Africa en route to Europe. Recent cocaine seizure levels are sharply higher than those in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which in all of Africa rarely exceeded 1 metric ton a year. Africa‘s emergence as a trafficking nexus appears to have resulted from structural shifts in international drug trafficking patterns, including heighted European demand for cocaine, international counternarcotics pressure driving drug traffickers away from traditional trafficking routes, and the operational allure for traffickers of low levels of law enforcement capacity and high rates of corruption in many African countries. The growth of drug trafficking through Africa poses new challenges to international counternarcotics efforts, as well as a variety of emergent threats to the United States. Novel strategies and adaptations of existing efforts may be required to track emergent drug flow patterns, dismantle major criminal syndicates involved in such trafficking, and prevent future hotspots from emerging. While most of the cocaine transiting Africa is destined for Europe, and little of it enters the United States, other illicit substances trafficked through the region, notably heroin and illegally traded chemical precursors used to produce illicit drugs, do enter the United States. The growing drug  This is an edited, reformatted and augmented version of CRS Report R40838, dated February 26, 2010. 266 Liana Sun Wyler and Nicolas Cook trade in Africa also poses other threats to U.S. interests. These include the reported involvement of Latin American criminal groups, including elements of at least one U.S.-designated terrorist organization, which are targets of U.S. counternarcotics or military operations. Other challenges include threats to U.S. policy interests and assistance programs in Africa, such as efforts to advance good governance, political stability, rule of law, and human rights, and programs to build African law enforcement and counternarcotics capacities. U.S. counternarcotics policy responses to the rise in trans-Africa drug trafficking are in the formative stages. Several U.S. agencies are evaluating the scope of the problem and identifying short-term remedies, such as efforts to expand drug monitoring and interdiction in Africa, and long-term efforts designed to strengthen local capacity to combat drugs in the region. In recent years, U.S. agencies have begun to devote greater resources to combating the drug trade in Africa. The State Department requested $7.5 million for counternarcotics assistance in Africa in FY2010, up from about $0.5 million in FY2006, while the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to allocate $19.3 million in FY2009 and $28 million in FY2010 to counternarcotics programs in Africa. The threat of drug trafficking in Africa has drawn attention in recent Congresses. P.L. 110-417, for instance, required that DOD submit a report to Congress laying out a counternarcotics strategy for the region. On June 23, 2009, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled Confronting Drug Trafficking in West Africa. In responding to recent and ongoing executive branch efforts to devote increased resources and attention to this problem, Congress may choose to review existing authorities and funding levels for counternarcotics programs in Africa. Key policy questions that may arise in this respect include how best to reduce gaps in intelligence and data collection relating to the drug trade in Africa, how to balance short-term and long-term counternarcotics goals and strategies, how various U.S. civilian and military and international agency counternarcotics roles and responsibilities in Africa should be defined, and what types and levels of resources these efforts may require. INTRODUCTION: THE RISING DRUG TRAFFICKING THREAT A rise in illicit drug trafficking in Africa in recent years has drawn the attention of U.S. policy makers. The 110th Congress, for instance, passed P.L. 110-417, requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to author a report to Illegal Drug Trade in Africa 267 Congress laying out a counternarcotics strategy for the region, among other related goals. The issue has also arisen in the 111th Congress. On June 23, 2009, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing entitled Confronting Drug Trafficking in West Africa, and other recent hearings, such as a late 2009 SFRC hearing on U.S. counterterrorism activities in Africa‘s Sahel region, have also referenced this issue. President Barack Obama has also highlighted the challenge posed by drug trafficking in Africa, which he has stated ―threatens stability‖ throughout West Africa [1] Africans have been involved in the global illicit drug trade for several decades, both in Africa and elsewhere, but as a region, sub-Saharan Africa played a generally peripheral role in large-scale global drug trafficking prior to the mid-2000s. This was due, in part, to its geographic distance from traditional key centers of non-cannabis illicit drug production and consumption and from primary transit routes between them. While commercially significant amounts of some drugs, particularly heroin, reportedly transited the region in the 1980s and 1990s, the amounts trafficked were generally much smaller than those in most other global regions. With the exception of cannabis, local drug demand and supply incentives also remained low by global standards for several reasons. These included a relative lack of purchasing power as a result of low average household incomes across much of sub-Saharan Africa (―Africa‖ hereafter, except where otherwise noted), along with widespread cultural unfamiliarity with and exposure to the main non-cannabis, illicit narcotics common in other parts of the world. Africa‘s historically relative peripheral status vis-à-vis the global trade in non-cannabis illicit narcotic drugs appears, however, to be ending. Hotspots of illegal drug activity have emerged in West Africa and East Africa, as well as in Southern Africa. Diverse signs of drug trafficking activity in West Africa during the past five years indicate that this sub-region is emerging as a key warehousing and transshipment hub for large-scale consignments of South American cocaine being smuggled en route to Europe [2]. In recent years— albeit not in late 2008 or 2009, an anomaly discussed below—the region has witnessed a sharp rise in record-sized multi-ton cocaine seizures and a rise in reported cocaine criminal cases involving diverse foreign and African individuals, including African state officials and Latin American drug syndicate members. According to analyses by government and multilateral agencies, Kenya and Ethiopia are notable transshipment hubs for heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan. East Africa is the primary smuggling conduit for moving heroin from Southwest Asia to Africa for further transshipment around the globe, 268 Liana Sun Wyler and Nicolas Cook according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) [3] South Africa has become a source and transshipment point for synthetic drugs, like methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type drugs, for both domestic consumption and foreign destinations in Europe and South Asia. There are also reports that multiple countries in Africa are being used as hubs for the illicit diversion of chemical precursors used to manufacture illegal drugs. According to the INCB, Africa ―has emerged as a major area‖ for the diversion to the Americas and elsewhere of the key methamphetamine precursor chemicals ephedrine and pseudoephedrine [4] Local drug consumption trends are generally not well documented because of a paucity of data on illicit drug usage rates [5] Cannabis use rates in Africa, however, are reportedly among the highest worldwide, while available data indicate that use of other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines, is generally below the use rates of other world regions but is growing in some African countries [6] Recent Developments On December 18, 2009, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the extradition from Ghana and arrest of three West Africans on narco-terrorism charges. The indictees allegedly agreed to transport cocaine for the Colombian drug trafficking and terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), from West Africa to Europe with the assistance and protection of regional affiliates of the Al Qaeda terrorist group. These arrests and other reports and congressional testimony suggest that there may be collaboration between drug traffickers and terrorist organizations in the region, as well as linkages between drug smuggling and other types of illicit trafficking and criminal activities. (See ―Potential Links Between Drug Trafficking and Terrorist Groups,‖ below.) On December 8, 2009, the U.N. Security Council held a special session on drug trafficking as a threat to international peace and security with a focus on Africa. The meeting focused on the ―numerous security risks caused by drug trafficking ... in Africa,‖ among other world regions, including ―serious threats posed‖ by linkages between transnational organized crime and the ―increasing link, in some cases, between drug trafficking and the financing of terrorism.‖ [7] (See ―Multilateral and Regional Efforts to Combat Drug Trafficking in Africa,‖ below.) Illegal Drug Trade in Africa 269 In 2009, U.S. government agencies continued to formulate and refine Africa-specific counternarcotics programs and assistance plans. Notable in this regard was the completion of several interagency country assessments, which are used to evaluate needs and program counternarcotics assistance for countries and regions in Africa. In addition, in September 2009, the Department of Defense produced a congressionally mandated counternarcotics strategy for the region. Notwithstanding such efforts, P.L. 111-117 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010) did not explicitly allocate funds for Africa-specific counternarcotics efforts, as it did for some other countries and regions, although the bill does fund a variety of global programs that are likely to support such ends in Africa. (See ―U.S. Policy,‖ below.) There was a decline in reported cocaine seizures in West Africa in the latter half of 2008 and in 2009, following a rapid rise in such seizures in recent prior years. The decline in such reports has spurred analysts to debate whether there has been a corresponding actual decline in volumes of trafficked through the region, and if so what its duration may be―or whether there was no such decline and whether other factors, such as changes in trafficking patterns or a lack of law enforcement intelligence or capacities, may explain the dearth of reported seizures. The discovery in Mali in November 2009 of a wrecked Boeing 727 believed to have been used to transport cocaine, along with other reports indicating the increased use of air-based methods to traffic cocaine in the region, suggests that smuggling methods may have changed, but that volumes at issue may not be declining. (See coverage of cocaine in ―Drug Trafficking Trends in Africa‖ section, below.) Some reports in 2009 suggested that traffickers may be seeking to transform Africa into a drug- processing and production hub where unrefined illegal base drugs may be converted into finished products, although there is reason to believe that such efforts are embryonic. (See ―Implications for U.S. Interests‖, below, and coverage of heroin and synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals in ―Drug Trafficking Trends in Africa,‖ below.) IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. INTERESTS Historically, U.S. and international policy makers directed relatively little attention to counternarcotics issues in Africa, largely because the potential consequences for the United States and other non-African countries arising from drug trafficking in the region were typically viewed as limited. The perception that such activity may indeed threaten U.S. and other international 270 Liana Sun Wyler and Nicolas Cook interests has grown, however, as Africa‘s role in global trafficking has expanded. Some U.S. observers now argue that the rise in drug trafficking in Africa has been so rapid and large—an indication that international drug trafficking patterns are in flux—that it must now be given heightened consideration within the context of global U.S. counternarcotics goals and strategies [8]. The extent of this rise also suggests that such activities have the potential to threaten diverse U.S. security, foreign policy, and economic interests within Africa. Confluence of Transnational Drug Syndicates and Other Security Threats The growth of drug trafficking through Africa poses new challenges to international counternarcotics efforts, as well as a variety of emergent threats to the United States. These trends suggest that novel strategies or adaptations of existing ones may be required to track emergent drug flow patterns, dismantle major criminal syndicates involved in such trafficking, and prevent future hotspots from emerging. Many observers have raised concerns about potentially growing operational linkages between Latin American, West African, and Southwest Asian drug syndicates and European criminal elements [9]. The increased trade suggests that such organizations are growing in capacity, strength, and global reach [10]. There are signs that Latin American trafficking syndicates have expanded into the region. Several Latin American individuals from countries such as Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Mexico, some with known or suspected ties to cocaine syndicates, have been arrested in cocaine cases in West Africa in recent years. DEA also reports that since 2007, ―DEA has identified at least nine top-tier South American and Mexican DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] that have established operations in Africa‖ [11] Numerous Latin American persons, some suspected of having drug links, have reportedly established residences and businesses in Africa, particularly in West Africa [12] Many of the same transnational Latin American drug trafficking organizations that supply U.S. drug markets and engage in other, often violent, crimes targeting U.S. citizens, interests, or jurisdictions are believed to be playing a key role in the rapid growth of drug trafficking in Africa [13]. In this respect, the threat to U.S. interests posed by this trend is direct, because these actors‘ expansion into Africa increases their global reach and provides them additional profits and organizational linkages, making them more financially Illegal Drug Trade in Africa 271 and operationally diversified, robust, and versatile—and thus more difficult to track and halt. For West African criminal groups, growing involvement with Latin American cocaine traffickers signifies their expansion beyond heroin trafficking, their traditional niche in the drug trade. Potential Links between Drug Trafficking and Terrorist Groups Drug trafficking in Africa may also facilitate collaboration or other synergies between drug trafficking organizations and the activities or interests of other entities that are adversarial to U.S. interests [14]. These may include non-drug-related transnational organized crime networks and, potentially, U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, including the leftist rebel group from Colombia, the FARC, and Hezbollah. Both of these groups are reportedly involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in regions other than Africa, and Hezbollah supporters are reportedly common among West Africa‘s Lebanese commercial diaspora. These or similar entities, potentially including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), could earn money directly from participation in the African drug trade [15]. Such entities could also derive indirect benefits from the African drug trade (e.g., sources of financing for non-drug operations, increased international ties with other illicit actors, or access to barter deals involving drugs and other illicit goods, such as black market arms) [16] The strongest known link between drug trafficking and international terrorist groups in West Africa involves the FARC, which has been linked to cocaine trafficking into Venezuela, from where much of the cocaine now transiting West Africa is believed to be exported [17] Hezbollah, which reportedly has financial and business ties and a network of supporters in West Africa and in Europe, among other world regions, has been linked to cocaine traffic originating in or transiting Venezuela, as well as in other countries, including the United States. Although there are no substantiated public reports of Hezbollah involvement in trans-African cocaine traffic originating in Venezuela, given the group‘s reported involvement in cocaine trafficking in other countries and its links in Africa, some analysts believe that Hezbollah may be involved in Africa-related trafficking trade, particularly with regard to the laundering of trafficking earnings between Europe and Africa [18]. Some analysts believe that a portion of earnings from the trade are laundered through a process in which cash earnings are illicitly exported to African countries, where the funds are then legally wired to banks in the Middle East in which 272 Liana Sun Wyler and Nicolas Cook Hezbollah may play a role. Little known evidence, however, indicates that either Hezbollah or AQIM are playing a significant role in drug flows through the region—with the possible exception of hashish in the case of AQIM [19] In late December 2009, the DEA announced the extradition from Ghana and arrest of three West African individuals on narco-terrorism charges. The indictees, reportedly self-described associates of Al Qaeda, allegedly agreed to transport cocaine for purported representatives of the Colombian drug trafficking and terrorist organization, the FARC, from Mali through North Africa into Spain with the assistance and protection of Al Qaeda. A key charge in the indictment is the allegation that the indictees‘ actions would have provided pecuniary benefits to Al Qaeda and AQIM, which, like the FARC, are designated as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) by the State Department. [20] The indictment is believed to be the first publicly known use of 21 U.S.C. 960a to prosecute crimes related to drug trafficking in support of terrorism alleged to have been committed in sub-Saharan Africa [21]. It also marks the first prosecution of associates of Al Qaeda for narco-terrorism offenses [22]. These arrests reinforce claims that drug traffickers and terrorist organizations in the region may collaborate [23]. In the absence of verifiable proof, some have suggested that a burnt Boeing 727 discovered in Mali (see below) may have had links to Islamic militants or Tuareg rebels known to have operated in the region of Mali where the airplane was found [24]. Firm evidence documenting a verifiable drug-terrorism linkage in West Africa has not been documented in detail in publicly available sources. However, UNODC‘s Costa stated in February 2010 that ―there is more than just spotty evidence‖ of drug trafficker-terrorist links, and multiple media articles have outlined the possible dynamics of and rationales for the existence of such r ...
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