Cocaine Trafficking Through West Africa: The Hybridized Illicit Network as an Emerging Transnational Threat
AIR WAR COLL MAXWELL AFB AL MAXWELL AFB United States
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Traditionally, the primary cocaine trafficking routes from South America started at coca farms and laboratories in Colombia, traversed Mexico and the Caribbean, and ended with dealers and users in the US. In the last decade, a significant shift has occurred, with increasing amounts of cocaine travelling through West Africa to Europe. This shift developed in response to increased cocaine demand in Europe, successful interdiction of traditional trafficking routes in the Western Hemisphere, and weak governance in West Africa. However, the significance of this shift in narcotrafficking patterns goes far beyond opening a new front in the War on Drugs. The hybridization of profit-motivated transnational organized criminal groups with ideologically-driven international terrorist networks threatens to accelerate the destabilization of the nations of West Africa while generating significant funding for terrorist groups. This paper will explore the implications of the West African drug trade as an example of the broader phenomena of the emergence of hybridized illicit networks. The development of successful strategies to disrupt West African drug traffic has broader application in the effort to dismantle other destabilizing transnational illicit trade networks for example, human trafficking, money laundering and weapons smuggling. To illustrate this dangerous new phenomenon, the paper will describe the changes in narcotrafficking patterns, explore the causes of these changes, assess the implications, and recommend actions. Combating hybridized transnational networks will require a multilateral approach, with extensive cooperation between the US and other global and regional actors.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Sociology and Law
- Military Forces and Organizations