The Threat Posed from the Convergence of
Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking, and Terrorism
Testimony of Frank J. Cilluffo
Deputy Director, Global Organized Crime Program
Director, Counterterrorism Task Force
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, D. C.
Before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Crime
December 13, 2000
Organized crime and terrorism have two differing goals. Organized crime's business is business. The less attention brought to their lucrative enterprises, the better. The goal of terrorism is quite the opposite. A wide-ranging public profile is often the desired effect. Despite this, the links between organized crime and terrorism are becoming stronger in regards to the drug trade. Organized crime groups often run the trafficking organizations while the terrorists and insurgent groups often control the territory where the drugs are cultivated and transported. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Both groups use funds garnered from the drug trade to finance their organizations and operations.the logistics are interesting.
Narco-terrorism is a worldwide threat. It knows no ideological or traditional territorial boundaries. Groups from the far right to the far left and every group in between is susceptible to the lure of drug money. In fact, the vast majority of major terrorist organizations rely, at least in part, on the drug trade as a source funding.
Turkey is strategically located between the lush poppy fields of Central Asia and the vast market of Europe. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has taken advantage of this fact and financed their separatist movement by "taxing" narcotic traffickers and engaging in the trade themselves. The PKK is heavily involved in the European drug trade, especially in Germany and France. French law enforcement estimates that the PKK smuggles 80 percent of the heroin in Paris.
During the NATO campaign against the former Yugoslavia in the Spring of 1999, the Allies looked to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to assist in efforts to eject the Serbian army from Kosovo. What was largely hidden from public view was the fact that the KLA raise part of their funds from the sale of narcotics. Albania and Kosovo lie at the heart of the "Balkan Route" that links the "Golden Crescent" of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the drug markets of Europe. This route is worth an estimated $400 billion a year and handles 80 percent of heroin destined for Europe.
It is also clear that Russian Organized Crime is using Israel and Cyprus as twin bases for its operations in Western Europe and the United States.
The countries most affected by the fall of the Soviet Union are the Central Asian Republics. The void left by the authority of the Communist Party has been replaced by organized crime syndicates, narcotics traffickers, and Islamic fundamentalists. Civil war and corruption are common. The proximity of the "Golden Crescent" of Pakistan and Afghanistan, make Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan the crossroads of the opiate trade to Europe and Russia, where narcotics consumption is increasing.Spurred by radical Islamic fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden, new cells of terrorists have spawned in the Central Asian Republics. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is one these groups. The IMU, using Tajikistan as a staging area, have made incursions into Kyrgyzstan on hostage-taking missions.
In the radical Islamist attempt to foment jihad in Chechnya, guerillas have also used Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan as logistical hubs for their attacks on the Russian military.
Evidence has also surfaced of cooperation between the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and Indian organized crime. Indian traffickers supply drugs and weapons to the LTTE, who in turn sell the drugs. The profit garnered from the drugs are then used to repay the Indians for the weapons.
The Russians built a arms pipeline to Colombia, bringing in thousands of weapons, and tons of other supplies to help FARC fight their war against the Colombian government. The weapons range from assault rifles and RPGs to military helicopters and, according to media reports, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. Evidence has surfaced regarding an arms-for-drugs deal between Russian organized crime groups and FARC. Russian cargo planes loaded with small arms, anti-aircraft missiles, and ammunition would take off from airstrips in Russia and Ukraine and fly to Colombia. The weapons and ammunition were unloaded and sold to FARC rebels. In return the planes were loaded with up to 40,000 kilograms of cocaine and shipped back to Russia, where the Russian mafia would distribute the drugs for profit. At the time the story broke, the operation had been on-going for two years.
The Taliban gets funding from taxing all aspects of the drug trade. Opium harvests are taxed at around 12 percent. Then the heroin manufacturing labs are taxed at $70 per kilogram of heroin. In the final stage, the Taliban gives transporters a permit for $250 per kilo of heroin to carry for presentation to Taliban checkpoints throughout the country. The Observatoire Geopolitique des Drouges estimates that this adds up to $75 million per year in taxes for the Taliban.
The unprecedented cooperation among drug traffickers, organized crime groups, and terrorists has exacerbated the threat of all three to the United States. The nature of the war has changed and the US reaction needs to change as well. It is a top national security problem.
in the russia/farc example, the arms are literally exchanged for drugs, with the russian mafioso managing the drug distribution themselves. in the india/tamil example, the 'terrorists' manage the drug wholesaling themselves, in order to pay for the arms.
i've always been a bit confused about the nexus of 'terrorism' and drugs. AFAIK there's no intrinsic reason why the two ought to be linked. drugs trafficking is about money, and 'terrorism' is usually about some state/sovereignty/separatist/occupation issue.
i can appreciate that 'terrorists' need funding, and i appreciate that drug trafficking can provide some high-margin opportunities - but that doesnt necessarily mean that 'terrorists' are good traffickers. a 'value-chain' analysis almost certainly would question why drug barons would even want 'terrorists' involved in the process. or, put another way, if there werent any terrorists, i'd expect that the drug distribution chain wouldn't be significantly different than it is today. i.e. there's no intrinsic reason why terrorists would provide a better drug distribution network than any another network that was purely motivated by money.
in fact, you could argue that a drug trafficker would run even higher risks by utilising a 'terror' network - because there's the chance that the network could be exposed by not-drug-related arrests (the flipside being that by using 'ideological' mules, they'd be less likely to 'flip' on the drug stuff - as it might undermine the ideological motivations)
so when we think about Narco-terrorism - my guess is that we need to think of it as Narco-funded-terrorism - and nothing more. as i said, there's good reason to understand why terrorists want funding, but the flipside - that druglords need terrorism - seems moot. the druglords simply need a wholesale (and retail) network- and there's sufficient profit motive for that to be provided by any non-terrorist.
and as i've argued before, 'terrorism' is really cheap. you don't need lots of money to finance specific attacks - or even training camps, or whatever the hell else. according to the above, the taliban got $75mill p.a. out of its 'taxes'. that sort of money will take you a long way. is that $75mill really "Narco-terrorism " money? or are these people just using this as a front gig while they siphon off money to their own personal bank accounts somewhere?
and yes, i understand that these people are probably also financing resistance movements in palestine and chechnya and iraq and other places- and they are probably very expensive to run. but still...
if i was on osama's media commitee and i'd just suckered the US into spending a trillion in iraq by spending just $500k attacking a building or two, i'd probably be looking to see if i could replicate that gig. them's nice odds if you can find em. you can even be afford to be wrong once or twice
as for the article above - which game do you think richard perle and doug feith are playing? i'd guess that they are giving osama secrets of some sort - and perhaps guns and some wmd. in return, osama probably gives them a pocket full of poppies.
where it ends up - nobody knows.