Drug trafficking continues to be one of the main sources of finance for terrorism

For the western world, one of the main modern-day threats in terms of security is terrorism, a global phenomenon that cannot be controlled solely at national level, as it requires the cooperation of those governments and security forces affected. One of the greatest threats is drug trafficking, which, like the former, requires a high level of collaboration to establish policies and common legislation.

Both threats are closely related. Traditionally, drug trafficking has been one of the main sources of finance for non-state armed groups and terrorist groups. This is confirmed by the recent study World Atlas of Illicit Flows(2018),the result of collaboration between Interpol, the RHIPTO and Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. As the study indicates, 4% of the illegal flow ends up in the hands of terrorist information.

According to the document, although crimes against the environment (the trafficking of coal and petroleum, the illegal exploitation of minerals, illegal forest exploitation and animal trafficking) have come to represent the primary source of finance for terrorist groups(38% of the total), trafficking continues to be the main source if we consider environmental initiatives to be independent activities. It is estimated that the income of the seven principal terrorist groups and rebel groups of the Democratic Republic of Congo are about 1,160 million dollars, 28% of which (330 million dollars) comes from activities related to drugs. The two organisations that have traditionally profited from trafficking are the Taliban, with the cultivation of opium and heroin trafficking, and the FARC, with cocaine.

In the case of the Taliban, operational in Afghanistan, the cultivation of opium has traditionally been an important source of finance. According to current data, they have average revenue of between 75 and 95 million dollars, approximately 22.9 million dollars of which, comes from activities related to the cultivation of opium, from which morphine is abstracted and from which heroin is produced. Heroin produced in Afghanistan represents about three quarters of the total production and serves to supply the entire world market. In Europe, the heroin market is the second most important drug-related market considering the amount of money it turns over, about 6.8 billion Euros a year.

Since its inception, the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, regarded the cultivation of drugs (cocaine and cannabis) a counter revolutionary activity. In 1981, however, its policy changed due to the fear of alienating agricultural workers and the evident increase in finance that drug-trafficking would involve, managing to control up to 70% of the areas where cocaine was produced and therefore becoming the main actor in cocaine trafficking in the country. According to InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organised crime in the Caribbean and Latin America, the FARC had, in 2015-2016, assets to the value of 580 million dollars, most of which (267 million dollars) came from activities related to drugs and illegal mining. Although in 2017 peace agreements began between the government and the FARC, some of its members didn’t accept these and organised themselves into dissident groups. One of these, the so-called East Block (or Oriental), has gone on to control an important part of the country’s cocaine trafficking.

According to the World Atlas, since 2015 a growth in the use two drugs has been noticed by some members of Islamic State: tramadol and phenethylamines. The first is an opioid with an analgesic function and the second a psycho-stimulant. These drugs are located especially in Syria and Iraq, but with an added presence in the Trans-Saharan area (Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Libya). Islamic State takes charge of the trafficking and selling of these two substances, both to combatants and those who are not.


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