Trans-African Security: Combating Illicit Trafficking Along the Crime-Terror Continuum

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from remarks by David Luna at AFSEC 14. The complete remarks are available here.

From: US Department of State


David M. Luna Director for Anticrime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Casablanca, Morocco
February 26, 2014

Good morning.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honor to join you today at this important security conference.

I would like to thank IQPC, DefenseIQ, and the conference organizers for their kind invitation to discuss the U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts to confront the major security threats affecting West Africa, the Sahel, and the Maghreb.

I would especially like to thank the Government of Morocco and the Royal Moroccan Navy for their hospitality and for their leadership in working with the international community to combat the security challenges faced by many countries in this part of the world.

Let me also thank all of the representatives from governments, international organizations, and the private sector who are here in Casablanca today.

The United States applauds your continued commitment to defend your collective homeland security and safeguard communities against the threats posed by illicit trafficking networks.

Triple Threat: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism Pave Illicit Trafficking Corridor

Today’s reality is one in which we live in a world where there is no region, no country and no people who remain untouched by the destabilizing effects and corruptive influence of transnational organized crime and violent terrorism.


On the governance front, the proceeds of drug trafficking and illicit trade are fueling a dramatic increase in corruption among the very institutions responsible for fighting crime. The collusion and complicity of some government officials have helped carve out a corridor of illicit trafficking that stretches from the West African coast to the Horn of Africa, from North Africa south to the Gulf of Guinea.

Illicit networks continue to move people and products along these routes. From the coca and opium poppy fields of Colombia and Southeast Asia to the coasts of West Africa and its hashish plantations, drug cartels and other criminal networks navigate an illicit superhighway that serves illicit markets across the continent and around the globe. They use commercial jets, fishing vessels, and container ships to move drugs, people, small arms, crude oil, cigarettes, counterfeit medicine, and toxic waste through the region, generating massive profits.

At a time when many are heralding the rise of some of the world’s fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, these criminal entrepreneurs are undermining that growth by financing booming illicit markets, turning many vulnerable communities into a corridor of insecurity and instability. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that terrorist financing, trafficking in arms, drugs, and people, and other transnational forms of organized crime generate approximately $3.34 billion per year.

Cocaine trafficking is among the most lucrative illicit activities. UNODC estimates that approximately 13 percent of the global cocaine traffic moves through West Africa. In the past several years, West Africa has become a key transit route for drug trafficking from the Americas. Large seizures of drugs have been made in and along the coasts of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Togo, Liberia, Benin, Senegal, and Nigeria. Smugglers and traffickers then transport these drugs through caravans, couriers, and maritime routes to destination markets in Europe and elsewhere.

West Africa is a transit point for heroin destined for the United States. In recent years, the United States disrupted and prosecuted an international cartel that moved heroin from Ghana to Dulles International Airport.

Illicit markets are growing across Africa to meet global demand for arms, counterfeits, cigarettes, diamonds and other precious minerals, wildlife, stolen luxury cars, and other illegal goods. Terrorists also engage in criminal activities, principally kidnapping for ransom and other crimes to fund their violent campaigns such as those that we are witnessing today by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and others.


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