Drug trafficking threatens global security and requires international and regional cooperation, US Africa Command’s General William E. Ward told attendees from 66 nations at the start of a January the conference on counter-narcotics.
Nearly 100 distinguished participants from around the world came together in Garmisch, Germany to discuss global security challenges created by narcotics trafficking.
Among the multinational participants were civilian and military representatives from 14 African countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guina-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, and Togo.
The forum, co-sponsored by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and US European Command (EUCOM), was hosted by the George C. Marshall Center’s College of International and Security Studies, as part of its Senior Executive Seminar (SES). SES is a regularly-scheduled program bringing together government officials, senior diplomats, ambassadors, ministers, and parliamentarians to discuss topics related to international security.
Narcotics trafficking impacts regional and global security, creating intricate interdependencies and security challenges across the international community.
Providing opening remarks at the seminar, Ward, commander of US Africa Command, addressed the importance of counter-narcotics efforts to the security of African nations and also nations around the world.
“Drug trafficking is one of those destabilizing factors that must be addressed,” Ward said. “It is a threat to the United States and to the international security that no country can be safe from its harmful effects. That is why countering narcotics trafficking is a subject of increasing importance.”
Throughout the week, participants will listen to presentations by international counter-narcotics experts and participate in small-group discussions, analyzing the relationship between terrorism and drug trafficking and generating fresh approaches to the problem of international narcotics trafficking.
According to officials from US Africa Command’s Counter Narcotics division, the effects of narcotics trafficking on countries vary according to geographical regions, so the approach to countering this issue in Africa may be different from how it is dealt with in Asia, Europe, Afghanistan, Central America, and other regions. Even within Africa, narcotics trafficking varies from region to region.
One similarity that has recently become evident worldwide is the link between narcotics trafficking, crime, and terrorism, according to the United Nations Security Council’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In a statement delivered on December 8, 2009, Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UNODC, warned that widespread drug trafficking across Africa will have serious consequences for African nations, in terms of health, development, and security.
“In the past, Africa, already suffering from other tragedies, never had a drug problem,” said Costa. “Today, under attack from several sides, the continent is facing a severe and complex drug problem: not only drug trafficking, but also production and consumption.”
Costa said that 50-60 tons of cocaine are trafficked every year across West Africa, while another 25-30 tons of Afghan heroin is trafficked into East Africa every year.
“We have acquired evidence that the two streams of illicit drugs–heroin into Eastern Africa and Cocaine into West Africa are now meeting in the Sahara, creating new trafficking routes across Chad, Niger, and Mali,” Costa said. “Repercussions in neighbouring countries are inevitable.”
US Africa Command works with African nations to counter illicit trafficking, with a particular focus on maritime trafficking along their coasts. This is accomplished through programs such as the African Maritime Law Enforcement Program (AMLEP) and the Africa Partnership Station (APS).
AMPLEP is a combined law enforcement program designed to build partner maritime law enforcement capacity and help detect illicit activities within exclusive economic zones of participating nations. In 2010, this program is scheduled to be conducted off the coasts of Morocco, Cape Verde, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
APS, supported by many international and African partners, is an ongoing program of at-sea training deployments in East and West Africa, which provides assistance to coastal nations with the goal of increasing maritime security and domain awareness.
Ward emphasized that since terrorism and drug trafficking are transnational challenges, they should be addressed through regional cooperation, which is why collaborative events such as the SES are so important.
“The topics that will be covered during this seminar, such as examining regional and international cooperation between governments to confront the narcotics trafficking, are central to understanding how much of a challenge countering narcotics trafficking can be,” Ward said. “It will also be evident that illicit trafficking can only be dealt with successfully if we all work together to confront it.”
George C. Marshall Centre officials said the goal of SES is for participants to return home with a deeper awareness of key issues that influence national, regional, and international security.
The George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies is a German-American defense and security studies institute located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It offers graduate-level resident programs, as well as conferences and other outreach programs, to military and civilian government officials from Europe, Eurasia, North America, and beyond.
The next Senior Executive Seminar, “Deepening Cooperation on Counter-Terrorism,” is scheduled for September 2010.
Pic: US Africa Commands General E.Ward
The complete transcript of General Ward’s speech is available at http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=3900&lang=0.