By Major Laura J. Perazzola, U.S. Marine Corps

Editor's Note:  Major Perazzola's thesis won the FAO Association writing award at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.  The Journal is pleased to bring you this outstanding scholarship.

Disclaimer:  The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of either the marine corps command and staff college or any other governmental agency.  

Executive Summary and Conclusion

Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) is an effective tool that enhances U.S. strategic counter-narcotic objectives as well as other partner nation security concerns even if those two objectives do not necessarily align.  This study evaluates the space in which TSC can effectively address multiple security objectives by evaluating the counter-narcotics programs at US Africa Command.  Security objectives between the US and partners can overlap despite varying prioritization.  Additionally, the nature of illicit markets and networks operate on similar principles that allow security officials to leverage skills of counter narcotics trafficking to counter other illicit markets threats to West African states.  This paper argues that illicit traffickers follow similar patterns and have common trends, which can work to the benefit of both the US and partner nations in combating these threats.  Using examples of US AFRICOM’s counter- illicit trafficking programs in Ghana and Senegal, this paper  illustrates that while the funding and legal authorities for TSC in both countries are focused on countering narcotics, the training and engagements provide transferable skills that can be used to enhance other security priorities important to the Ghanaian and Senegalese government.

Despite differing security priorities, TSC engagements can successfully address both US and partner nation objectives   Narco-trafficking is a direct threat to West African states along with other illicit trafficking.  Commonalities with the illicit markets and how they are trafficked provide US security cooperation engagements an opportunity to achieve multiple security objectives, for both the US and partners. 


In November 2018, Senegalese authorities arrested Ahmed Nawaz Shah, a major shipper of heroin to East Africa and the United States (US). Shah’s arrest was the first extradition of a non-US citizen to the US from Senegal.  This investigation involved collaboration between several countries to include the US, Senegal, Cabo Verde, The Maldives, and the US Department of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offices worldwide.  The cooperation with the Senegalese was a nexus of both operational assistance and training provided to the Senegalese Security Forces culminating in the apprehension of a notorious drug trafficker. The successful arrest of Shah is an example of how cooperation between the US and partner nations enhances US strategic objectives even when partner nation’s security objectives do not perfectly align.  It is possible for the US and its partners to become reciprocal partners while addressing different security concerns.  This paper analyzes security cooperation doctrine and implementation with a focus on counter-illicit trafficking programs coordinated by USAFRICOM’s Counter-narcotics and Transnational Threats branch against the back drop of Africa’s security concerns and narco-trafficking threats. Specifically, this paper evaluates the use of Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) as an effective tool that enhances US strategic objectives and argues that it can help achieve US strategic objectives and address partner nation security concerns even if those two objectives do not necessarily align.

Developing partners and allies is a major objective within United States (US) military strategy.   In 2017, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, wrote an article titled “Allies and Partners Are Our Strategic Center of Gravity,” where he highlighted the strategic importance of United States allies and partners as a means to expand the reach of the US military.  Security cooperation is a mechanism the military uses to build on that center of gravity.  Since 2006, the US government has spent more than $200 billion on security assistance programs.  DoD activities do not make up the entire expenditure; however, with costs in the billions it is worth exploring what makes security cooperation effective even when partner nations and the US have divergent security objectives or priorities.  

One area in which the US seeks to enhance partner capacity is the ability to counter illicit trafficking, specifically in narcotics.  For the US, countering illicit drugs and Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) is a strategic objective outlined in the National Security Strategy (NSS).  Yet, among the various security concerns most African states face, illicit narcotics do not rank high on the list of priorities.  For many African partners, the funds and resources provided to their security forces are already limited.  TSC is a method to bridge that resource gap.  The question remains, how can TSC be successful when US and partner objectives do not necessarily align?     The ability to achieve success with TSC engagement is two-fold: first, security objectives between the US and African partners can overlap despite priority ranking. Second, the nature of illicit markets and networks operate on similar principles that allow security officials to leverage skills of counter narcotics trafficking to counter other illicit markets.

This thesis looks at the conditions that make TSC successful when US and partner nations’ security objectives are not perfectly aligned. The methodology of a case study of the USAFRICOM Counter-narcotics and Transnational Threats programs will be used. The following chapter provides an overview of the illicit trafficking threat in Africa.   Using academic literature, it examines how the narcotics trade threatens governance and stability in West Africa.  It will also examine other security threats to West African states, and demonstrates that illicit traffickers follow similar patterns and have common trends, which can work to the benefit of both the US and partner nations in combating these threats.  Chapter Three provides an analysis of the Security Cooperation framework.  This section will explore Security Cooperation doctrine and analyze how its implementation is tied directly to US strategic objectives.  This section details how TSC is designed to enhance US security objectives by assisting partners with their own security concerns.   Chapter Four provides examples of US AFRICOM’s counter- illicit trafficking programs in Ghana and Senegal.  This chapter shows that while the funding streams and legal authorizations for both countries are focused on countering narcotics, the training and TSC engagements provide transferable skills that can be used to enhance other security priorities important to the Ghanaian and Senegalese government.  

The Illicit Trafficking Threat out of Africa

West Africa faces many security challenges to include economic security, terrorism, separatist movements, and illicit trade.  When prioritizing resources, countering narcotics does not rank as high as other threats.   As seen in the introduction, the US places assisting partner nations to counter transnational criminal organizations and narcotics as a strategic priority.  US security objectives and partners’ security concerns do not always line up.   This study shows that even though this is true, both the US and its partners can mutually benefit from TSC.  This chapter analyzes areas where countering illicit narcotics align with other security objectives.   First, exploring the historical context of the African drug trade and its evolution builds an understanding of the nuanced view of the region.  Next, an examination of the threat of the drug trade in West Africa demonstrates that illicit narcotics networks are a direct threat to the state.  The third part of this chapter argues that illicit traffickers follow similar patterns and have common trends, which can work to the benefit of both the US and partner nations in combating these threats. The commonalities between illicit traffickers make training, advising, and assisting partners to counter drug trafficking pertinent in combating other illicit networks.   For example, the skills required by security forces to combat drug traffickers is not that different from combating human traffickers, because the offenders operate in a similar manner. This section concludes by arguing that US strategic interests can align with partner nations under the auspices of countering illicit trafficking even if they are not necessarily aligned.

A Brief History of Narcotics Trade in Africa  

The narcotics trade is not a 21st century anomaly in Africa.   As Neil Carrier and Gernont Klantschin assert in their book African and the War on Drugs, it is important to note historical context of today’s heroin and cocaine trades in Africa; they not only reveal the roots of today’s trading routes, but also disprove the notion prevalent in official discourse that Africa’s drug trade is a new phenomenon. Historians can trace the trade of kola, a light stimulant, back to the 13th century by merchants of the Malian empire. The movement of alcohol, spices, and drugs from Africa to Europe is a centuries’ old practice.  While European colonization accentuated maritime trade routes, the establishment of colonial state borders led to shifts in interior trading channels, affecting both the kola production in west Africa and the khat production in east Africa. Long distance kola trade all but disappeared as the newly imposed borders forced trade to occur locally.  The opposite is true of the khat trade in east Africa.  Because khat remains fresh for a limited time, extensive trade infrastructure was put in place during the 1940s – 1950s by the Italians as it became a major export of Ethiopia and eastern Africa   Likewise, the emergence of heroin and cocaine are linked to roots of ancient trade routes and illustrates that the African drug trade is not a new concept.

Carrier and Klantschnig explain that the increase of heroin and cocaine trade throughout Africa is a result of shifts in global markets and domestic circumstances that made illicit trade appealing.   The worldwide demand for these narcotics increased significantly throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  Consumer nations like the US developed policies to crackdown on key producing countries, such as Columbia.  Giving smaller smuggling operations a comparative advantage, as the US focused on cartels in South America, a window of opportunity appeared for African illicit markets.  These early traffickers took advantage of the fact that European and American authorities focused very little on West Africa. 

While the demand for heroin and cocaine grew across the globe, Africa struggled economically in the 1970s-80s.  This economic crisis was largely attributed to the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) implemented by the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).   The first narcotics smugglers came from groups most affected by these policies, such as students and international traders.  The illicit market became an attractive alternative to the suffering economies of Africa.   Traffickers found fertile grounds to conduct illicit operations due to the poverty, corruption, weak governance, and poor rule of law, with Guinea Bissau and Ghana becoming established transit hubs., while similar conditions in Nigeria allowed for organized criminal elements flourish. 

In the 1980s, the production and distribution of cannabis provided the road map for incorporating heroin and cocaine into the West African drug trade.  By utilizing old trading routes and moving newer product, African drug smugglers entered the illicit market, competing with more mature illicit networks.  While international authorities focused on notorious networks in South America and South East Asia, West African smugglers and criminal organizations seized the opportunity to increase their market share of illicit activities and expand from producing cannabis to trafficking cocaine, heroine and crystal meth.  For example, Nigerian and Ghanaian narcotics organizations recently expanded into the trafficking of crystalline methamphetamines via other West African nations like Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Senegal.  This pattern shows that the drug traffickers are willing to diversify their trade and move into new markets if opportunity presents itself.  With such continued expansion, West Africa has grown from a minor trafficking route to a major export hub for cocaine and other illicit narcotics.  For example, 50 percent of all non-US bound cocaine flows through West African, accounting for 13% of the global market.  Today, cocaine shipments are the most valuable illicit commodity in West Africa, comparable only to stolen crude oil.

The Narcotics Threat to West Africa

Illicit activity, to include the illegal drug trade, contributes to a host of security issues in West Africa.  The illicit drug trade, in conjunction with other illicit markets, exacerbates internal conflicts in the region, erodes already fragile institutions to include the rule of law.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (ONDC) states that the increase in the demand for cocaine in Europe has made Africa especially vulnerable to exploitation, particularly West Africa, a poor region recovering from several protracted civil conflicts.  James Fearon argues that civil conflicts last significantly longer when rebel or insurgent groups have access to contraband such as opium or cocaine.   The movement of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and cannabis exacerbate civil conflicts.   These illegal crops became a means to fuel these conflict, in which the illicit item(s) becomes the “prize”.   Senegal provides an example of how the illicit drug trade can prolong a civil conflict.  The Senegalese government has been struggling with a low intensity conflict in the southern region of the Casamance, which borders The Gambia and Guinea Bissau.  The rebellion relies on illicit trade such as timber and cannabis, among smaller black-market items to finance their insurgency.  Senegal, also, contends with its neighbor Guinea Bissau, which commonly referred to as Africa’s first narco-state.  More than $ 1 Billion worth of drugs are trafficked through Guinea Bissau, which is more than the country’s entire gross domestic product (GDP).   Smugglers cross into Senegal, where they receive safe passage through the Casamance region trading drugs for arms or money.   As seen in Senegal and other conflicts throughout West Africa, foreign drug traffickers make alliances with agents that challenge the state, such as insurgents or rebels.  Of the ten insurgencies identified in West Africa, most acquire their arms illegally through illicit activities like the drug trade, and though these groups may not achieve their political goals, their criminal activities are likely to continue if they are profitable.

In addition to exacerbating internal conflict, the drug trade has a negative impact on the rule of law.   As Felbab-Brown and Forest describe, many West African countries do focus on the institutional well-being of the military and law enforcement.  Particularly in post conflict areas, where leaders are so fearful of coups and uprisings that they organize police units to be their personal protection rather than upholding public safety.   These institutions are often underfunded, under-trained, and rife with corruption.  Introducing illicit organizations to an already fragile system increases the government’s struggle to maintain order and the rule of law.  Organized crime, like narco-trafficking, often emerges in areas under-served by the state because criminals can exploit the limited presence of government authority and services.   As law enforcement and other security forces struggle for funding and in projecting state authority, illegal organizations prosper.  ONDC estimates that over half a billion dollars goes to organizations which have interests that undermined the state. The drug trade further destabilizes the state’s authority and its ability to enforce its laws. 

The drug trade also negatively impacts a state’s economy.  The lack of a functioning legal economy will drive away licit foreign investors. As seen in Guinea Bissau, the illicit economy is greater than its GDP, making it a narco-state.  The narcotics trafficking and the flow of drug money can threaten developing economies as the population becomes reliant on the proceeds of drug money.  Also, without a strong formal economy, informal mechanisms can replace the state’s authority.  As seen in the certain areas of Cote d’Ivoire or poverty-stricken areas of Accra, Ghana, drug traffickers provide services to the population, rather than the government.   Profits generated by cocaine alone can be larger than some smaller West African countries’ entire security budget.   Better paid and resourced traffickers not only out pace local authorities with technology, they also have the means to bribe authorities.  For example, Ghanaian and Nigerian members of parliament as well as police officials and ministers have been implicated in aiding smugglers.   In addition to undermining development and exacerbating corruption, the flow of drugs through a local area increases the number addicts, which can overwhelm already struggling health care systems and services. These local transit regions suffer from economic and social deterioration. 

Other Illicit Markets in West Africa

As discussed above, the drug trade contributes to instability; however, other illicit markets pose a threat to West African states as well.   Illicit trafficking involves the movement and exchange of prohibited items and services to include narcotics, endangered wildlife, stolen goods, weapons, and humans.  This illicit trade is estimated to be worth $850 Billion per year, or 1.5% of the global GDP.  Like the illicit narcotics trade, illicit trafficking writ large threatens both regional and global security.  These activities are of grave concern for the countries they affect, yet they often receive less international attention or assistance than other threats.  This section will explore the threats that illicit economies pose in West Africa and will examine some of the modus operandi that criminal organizations use to traffic illicit goods.   

There are additional security threats that challenge the state and that use patterns of operations similar to those of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). Vanda Felbab-Brown breaks down West African transnational crime into five groups: 1) drug and human trafficking 2) smuggling various items to include arms 3) terrorism and violent crime 4) maritime piracy 5) money laundering.  Like that of the drug trade, illicit trade is not new to West Africa; the region has been characterized by a variety of illicit economies and their deep integration into socio-economic and political structures.  

Wildlife trafficking includes the illegal trading, exploitation, processing, or killing of animals or plants in contravention of international or national laws.  Illicit wildlife trafficking includes illegal timber trade and illegal fishing, also known as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  In a 2010 study compiled for the US Navy, Alison Vernon and Margaux Hoar conducted interviews with Ghanaian officials to discuss perceived maritime threats.  Based on these interviews, energy insecurity was the top concern for Ghana.  Ghanaian officials listed IUU fishing as its second most important maritime security concern, though narcotics trafficking was a high priority. For Ghana, IUU fishing contributes directly to the loss of food, employment, and revenue to the illicit trade.   Developing countries are disproportionately affected by IUU due to their inability to counter these illicit activities with less resources than more developed governments.   African countries lose up to $1 billion a year in IUU activities.  Most of the impacts of IUU are economic, such as loss of value, loss to the Gross National Product (GNP) and loss of tax revenue to the state.    The consequences for IUU to smaller developing countries such as Ghana are detrimental and pose a threat to the authority of the state by eroding the legitimate economy and removing revenue from tax base.    

Another form of wildlife trafficking rarely addressed by US policy is the illegal timber trade.  As with the narcotics trade, the movement of illicit items is a means for anti-government forces to finance rebellions.   The Casamance conflict, in the south of Senegal, exemplifies how the illicit trade funds rebels’ war economy using illegal timber.  In some instances, the profits from illegal timber operations are more lucrative than moving drugs.  When rebellions have access to an illicit economy, conflicts are prolonged. 

Oftentimes, criminal organizations do not only trade in one illicit market, but diversify into several illicit trades.   Fishing vessels are also associated with the traffic in other types of illicit drugs, including heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines.  For instance, IUU fishing vessels are becoming increasingly involved in other illegal activities, such as drugs.  Don Liddick states, “Significant link exists between IUU fishing and other forms of transnational organized crime, including trafficking in persons for forced labor on fishing boats—a practice that includes the exploitation of women and children. De facto slavery in the fishing industry occurs across the world’s oceans, but is especially prevalent off the coasts of West Africa and Southeast Asia.”  TCOs and local groups have learned how to manage resources such as shipping vessels to maximize their profits., as the use of one vessel to move these items consolidates the overhead costs of doing business. Thus, illicit markets intersect and mutually support each other. 

There is also evidence links between terror organization and the West African drug trade. Groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Hezbollah,  and Iran have been named as part of the terrorist-drug nexus.   While the emergence of criminal organizations do not automatically give rise to terror organizations, it vastly increases the staying power of terror networks by strengthening their physical capability and political capital. Both groups benefit from weak states, exploiting the inability of states to project power and address socio-economic challenges.  Illicit activities like drug trafficking undermines governance and fosters corruption, and provides the financing to insurgent or terror organizations.

Common Traits Within Illicit Markets 

Illicit markets and individuals operating within them have similar operating characteristics. Gautam Basu, in his study on illicit supply chains, discusses the enormous cost illicit actors pay to avoid detection, conceal activities, and evade authorities.   Basu’s study draws commonalities from sourcing items through bringing the illicit good to the market.   This section will focus on the transportation and movement of illicit goods.  

Whether the illicit goods are drugs, wildlife, or weapons, the items must be transported clandestinely.    The first common trait traffickers use is concealment.  Concealment is the ability to avoid detection.   This aspect of trafficking is central to any illicit operation.  A common concealment technique for wildlife traffickers is to transport illicit items among legal goods.  Also, traffickers use false documents to hide the identity of the items crossing through customs.

The second commonality among illicit trafficking comes in the form of evasion.  Evasion is defined as efforts to avoid arrest and prosecution.   Trafficker will go through great lengths to evade authorities.   The utilization of mules is an example of a method used by transnational smugglers to move items.  Mules are the individuals who carry illicit items to a desired destination.  By using a third parties distances the traffickers from the transport of items and increases their ability to evade detection. 

The third common modus operandi for transporting illicit goods is corruption.   Globally, customs related corruption costs add up to $2 Billion each year.   Smugglers and traffickers must rely on bribes and lack inspections to pass goods through customs or border authorities.  Traffickers often pay for safe passage through protected routes.  Tameshnie Deane describes that human traffickers rely heavily on these developed networks and structures to move trafficked persons.  The ability to pay for the authorities to look the other way has two benefits.  First, it is an efficient method to transport items.  Second, it can weed out competition as other smugglers and traffickers are using routes that are patrolled by the authorities. 

Traffickers often utilize the same ports of entry or transportation method to move illicit items. In the case of IUU, smugglers use ports of convenience, or free ports that have little or no standardized method to ensure that only legal fish are landed.   Additionally, IUUs tend to operate out of high traffic ports with quick access to transportation where risk of inspection is low and the goods can be moved speedily before detections.  Neil Carrier and Gernot Klantschnig describe similar traits in the drug traffickers of West Africa: adaptable, small in scale, and fluid routes make them difficult to detect.   Illicit economies are highly complex and interact with government and non-government actors; however, a key aspect to profiting from illicit trade is the ability to move and distribute the prohibited item.   

As discussed in the previous section, porous borders are problematic for governments to counter the flow of illicit goods.   An example of this is Senegal’s struggle to quell illegal logging and drug trafficking; smugglers and traffickers are able to transport items in and out of Guinea Bissau with ease.  Guinea Bissau often times acts as a safe haven for traffickers from the Senegalese authorities.   In Deane Tameshnie’s analysis of trafficking in persons (TIP) argues that a key element for traffickers is the ability to manage borders, by passing or bribing authorities.   This trend is also reiterated in Basu’s study of illicit supply chains; a key component to transporting illicit items to the market is the ability to navigate transnational borders.    Whether traffickers move items by land, air, or sea they must negotiate through obstacles of border authorities and ports of entry. 

As seen throughout this chapter, illicit economies, whether drugs, human or wildlife trafficking, are a threat to West African states, by challenging the legitimate economy, prolonging civil conflict, financing anti-government organizations, and eroding the authority of the state.   Other illicit markets, like IUU and terrorism, share links with narco-traffickers.  Those who operate in various types of illicit trade, both local organized criminal or TCOs, utilize similar methods to avoid authorities and must be able to transport illegal eventually to a consumer.  This commonality can be leveraged by the US when executing TSC to maximize the benefit to the partner nation and achieve US strategic goals.

U.S. Africa Command Security Cooperation

The previous chapter highlighted the threat of narcotics in West Africa and how they intersect with various other security threats.   It also provided similar operating necessities of illicit traffickers, which can be leveraged by US security cooperation.  This chapter will focus first on the broad construct of Security Cooperation (SC) and analyze how US strategic objectives and goals are implemented.  Through the analysis of security cooperation doctrine and implementation, it becomes clear that TSC is designed to enhance both US strategic objectives and partner nations goals.  The final section examines the various authorities and methods that can be used to bridge the gap between US security objectives and Africa partner security concerns.  This chapter explores the space where those objects do not align or have the same level of priority.  I argue that TSC can be effective within that space.   

Theater Security Cooperation Implementation  

An analysis of current security cooperation doctrine and processes illustrates that it is designed to align and enhance US and partner security interests. The National Defense Strategy identifies strengthening allies and attracting new partners as a major line of effort.  The purpose of security cooperation is to assist partner nations as they support aligned US strategic goals.  As Joint Publication 3-20 states, security cooperation is used to achieve US goals.   At the same time, the US attempts to address other countries’ security dilemmas and crisis by engaging in security cooperation. 

Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) engagement planning is a complex process that involves both Department of Defense and Department of State integration at several levels. It also includes partner nation inputs.  Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCC) use the theater campaign plan (TCP) to plan, organize, integrate, and execute the TSC activities within that area of responsibility (AOR).   The TCP has several components including programs, resources, and funding.  Another guiding document that must be take into consideration when developing TSC events is the Integrated Country Strategies (ICS), which are developed by the State Department Chief of Mission for each country.  In addition to the ICS and TCP, COCOMs often develop country specific plans called Country Support Plans (CSPs) for individual countries. Doctrinally, the TCP and CSPs work in coordination with the ICS.  The ICS is the link between partner nation goals to US objectives.  

AFRICOM provides an example of how this process works through the implementation of its counter-narcotics and transnational threats programs.  The 2017 National Security Strategy specifically calls out transnational criminal organizations and their ties to the drug trade as a threat to the United States, partners, and allies.  Using the concepts above, the COCOM narrows in on that objective.  The AFRICOM Campaign plan incorporates an intermediate military objective (IMO) that states, “Counter illicit trafficking: Campaign partners are capable of detecting, interdicting, degrading, and prosecuting and neutralizing illicit activities, including those of TCOs, that threaten US interests or regional stability.”  The AFRICOM IMO exemplifies how a COCOM TCP ties its planned activities to national objective outlined in the NSS. 

AFRICOM Counter-narcotics and Transnational Threats Program

The AFRICOM Counter Illicit Trafficking (CIT) branch, J-59, covers all AFRICOM counter-narcotics and transnational threat engagements.  As outlined above, TSC programs are a means to strengthen partner capacity or capability that align with US strategic objectives.   The AFRICOM J-59 utilizes two major authorities to plan and execute TSC events in Africa, Title 10 of the US code sections 284 and 333.  These authorities are tied to the NSS strategic objectives of countering TCOs and illicit narcotics.  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017 provides flexible authorities through both Section 284 and 333. The J-59 can leverage the broader authorities to address both US security concerns such as countering narcotics, but also permits resourcing towards counter illicit wildlife trafficking and other illicit markets that affect partner nations. 

Section 284 allows for the  Secretary of Defense to provide support for the counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime.  This support includes providing training, construction, or equipment to foreign agencies who have responsibility for the counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime.  As seen in the previous chapter, drug traffickers and criminal networks share common trends to transport illicit items, whether it is drugs, humans, weapons, or wildlife.  With these authorities, it would be possible to train an African police unit on crime scene investigation or various drug interdiction methods.   That same police unit could use that same training to identify other traffickers or preserve a crime scene that involved the trafficking of humans or wildlife along with any narcotics.    Because criminals must conceal and evade during transportation of illicit items, section 284 authorities can affect more than just narcotics networks. 

  Section 333 authorizes the Secretary of Defense to conduct or support programs that provide training and equipment to foreign security forces who conduct counter terrorism, counter-weapons of mass destruction, counter-illicit drug trafficking, counter-transnational organized crime, maritime or border security, or military intelligence operations.   Section 333 authorities specifically mention both border and maritime security.   As seen in the previous chapter, there is a link between IUU fishing and drug trafficking.   Section 333 has the flexibility to train and equip agencies that work at ports of entry that are vulnerable to IUU boats.   Using this authority to train customs or border agents, can accomplish the US objective of countering drug traffic, but also the partner nation’s concern of illegal fisheries.    

The security cooperation process is designed to take objectives of the National Security Strategy and develop them into implementable actions by the COCOM.  While, the framework is designed to achieve US and partner nations’ shared security objectives, they can work even if those objectives do not align.  The process involves various levels of planning and coordination, to include partner nation desires.  I argue that capacity building should allow for partner nations to address their own security concerns along with US strategic objectives. In the case of Africa, US AFRICOM oversees several programs and funding authorities that have the ability to address multiple illicit threats across the continent that can address both partner-nation concerns and US security objectives. 

Ghana and Senegal Counter-Narcotics Examples

Chapter Two provided an overview of the narcotics threat in West Africa and how that threat connected to other security threats in the region.  Additionally, it exposed similarities in how illicit markets operate, specifically the distribution and transportation of prohibited items.  Chapter Three outlined the doctrinal framework and constructs in which TSC is successful in achieving US strategic objectives.  It argues that the security cooperation model can work even when US and partner objectives to not perfectly align.  The US government has conducted numerous bilateral and multilateral initiatives to help West Africa nations respond to security challenges.  This chapter examines two cases in the AFRICOM counter-narcotics programs, one in Ghana and the other in Senegal.  This section argues that the AFRICOM counter-narcotics TSC programs are able to leverage the similarities between narcotics trafficking and other security threats to address both US and partner nation objectives.   

As discussed in Chapter Three, Ghana is one of the two major hubs for West African drug trafficking, specifically it is the primary point of distribution for cocaine leaving the continent.  The US has identified the number one threat to Ghana as narco-trafficking.  While the Ghanaians acknowledge the threat of narco-trafficking, it is not that nation’s top security concern.  When discussing Ghanaian leadership’s view on the threat of drug trafficking, Kwesi Aning states “the perception by Ghanaian leaders that organised criminal networks poses far less security risk in a sub-region engulfed in civil war.” As discussed in Chapter Two, Ghanaian officials identify energy security and IUU as more of a threat to maritime security than drug trafficking.  While the US acknowledges the IUU threat to Ghana, it does not see illegal fishing activities as a threat to US interests or security. 

As seen in Chapter Three, through broad use of authorities, security cooperation can work when US security objectives and partner nation objectives do not fully align.  AFRICOM J-59 uses both 284 and 333 authorities to leverage the similarity IUU and narco-trafficking.  In fiscal year (FY) 2017, AFRICOM using DEA training to provide the following courses:  Advanced Narcotics Investigations Course on Threat Finance, Counter Narcotics Intelligence Collection and Analysis, Counter Narcotics Investigations Seminar, and Chemical Diversion Investigations with concentration in Precursor Chemicals and Synthetic Drugs.  The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center conducted Seaport Security/Anti-Terrorism Training.  And Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa executed Ghana Border Patrol and Cadre Development.  None of the events specifically addressed IUU; however, their objectives support Ghanaian officials in combating illegal fisheries.   For example, an after-action report following the advanced counter-narcotics course stated the objective of the training was to, “Provide participants with basic understanding of how to conduct a financial investigations and how criminal organizations launder money.”  Another advanced narcotics investigations seminar claims to “provide participants with basic understanding [of] … case initiation and development, surveillance, confidential source handling, interview techniques, raid planning, officer survival, controlled deliveries, report writing, undercover operations, operational planning, and raid operations.”  In addition to identifying drugs and field testing, these courses train Ghanaian security forces on investigative tactics and skills that are transferable to other illicit markets.  As seen in Chapter Two, illicit markets follow similar operating trends, particularly in the transfer and distribution of prohibited items.  

Another example of using TSC to address multiple security concerns can be found in the Ghana Border Patrol and Cadre Development.   This Marine-led event is designed to train members of the Ghanaian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Finance to counter illicit trafficking.  The engagement focuses on developing an instructor cadre to facilitate future joint border management integration efforts, and on facilitating marksmanship and skill training for 133 students from Ghana Revenue Authority Customs Division, Ghana Immigration Service, Narcotics Control Board, and Police units from across Ghana.  As discussed in the second chapter, illicit traffickers use porous borders and similar methods of concealment and evasion to transport items.  These newly-trained security service professionals can utilize their skills against various illicit threats. The trainees in this engagement may encounter narco-trafficking or IUUs as they conduct their duties.  The training provides transferable skills to combat both illicit markets.   AFRICOM security cooperation planners meet both Ghanaian and US objectives, even though the two objectives do not align.   Because illicit operations and CTOs follow similar patterns, training targeted to counter narcotics trafficking can also be leveraged to counter IUU.   The nature of the illicit threats allows AFRICOM to maximize the effectiveness of TSC events.  

Senegal is another example of how TSC can be effective in addressing multiple threats and enhancing both US and partner objectives.  Senegal is known as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.  The country boasts high scores in both civil liberties and freedom, receiving a fully free rating from Freedom House.  Yet Senegal, like many West African countries, has a series of security concerns that range from the to the terrorist and includes a low-level separatist conflict that is entering its 37th year.   Senegal in its 2014 Plan Senegal Emergent references economic growth and poverty reduction as primary objects for the country.  Additionally, the current president, Macky Sall, specifically requested the Senegalese Armed Forces pay special attention to the Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terror threat from northern Mali.  Another security objective proposed by President Macky Sall is to find resolution to the conflict in the Casamance region.  Of the stated security objectives countering narcotics is not in the forefront. Senegal also has issues with illicit wildlife trafficking.  The Casamance rebellion relies on illicit trade such as timber, among other smaller black-market items to finance their insurgency.   Like the UUI fisheries in Ghana, there is little international attention for the trafficking of illegal timber.  However, as seen above, AFRICOM using the broader authorities of 333 and 284 funds, can use TSC to address multiple US and Senegalese concerns to include countering narcotics. 

Security objectives can be mutually beneficial, is seen with the Marine Corps training provided by the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response- Africa (SPMAGTF-AF).   In September 2018, SPAGTF-AF conducted small unit tactics training with the Senegalese Company Fusilier Marin Commando (COFUMACO) and the Gendarmerie.   The COFUMACO training covered squad and team attacks, cordons, and tactical site exploitation.  The COFUMACO deploys units regularly to the Casamance Region, the site of a low intensity separatist movement.  The rebels finance their movement through illicit trade of timber, drugs, and arms.  The COFUMACO units may encounter not only rebel fighters, but also traffickers moving across the borders of The Gambia or Guinea Bissau.  The ability to cordon off any area or exploit a site after it has been cleared can be useful when dealing with an enemy attack, timber traffickers, or drug traffickers.  

  • The Marines also trained individuals of the Gendarmerie.  One area of the training event was establishing Entry Control Point(ECP)/Vehicle Control Point (VCP).   While these skill sets are applicable in countering narcotics traffic, such as vehicle searches, cordons, and site exploitation, they are also transferable in countering other illicit markets, like timber or weapons trafficking.   As smugglers and illicit traffickers attempt to conceal or evade the transport of items, understanding how to properly search a person or vehicle can prevent the illicit goods from making it to the market.  This training event and other SPMAGTF engagements in Senegal provide skillsets that can be used to address various security threats, covering priorities set by both the US and Senegal. 


The US has stated through strategic guidance that countering illicit trafficking is important to US security.   Many West African countries have other competing security concerns, in which countering narcotics is a strategic priority.   Despite differing security priorities, TSC engagements can successfully address both US and partner nation objectives   Narco-trafficking is a direct threat to West African states; it prolongs civil conflict, erodes government institutions and rule of law, and threatens economic development.   Other illicit markets threaten the state structures the same manner, such as illicit wildlife trafficking which also threatens economies and can be used to fuel conflict, as seen in Ghana and Senegal.   The nature of illicit markets and economies share the need for clandestine movement and distribution of prohibited goods to avoid authorities and detection.   These commonalities provide US security cooperation engagements an opportunity to achieve multiple security objectives, for both the US and partners.  By examining the TSC activities in Ghana, it is evident that training designed to counter narcotics can be used by security forces to counter IUU or another illicit trade that are a priority the state.  And by exploring the SPMAGTF training in Senegal, the Senegalese security forces are trained in tactics and procedures that can be used to counter both narcotics flow and other illegal markets that pose a threat to the state.  It is possible for the US and partner nations to use prescribed TSC constructs when security objectives are not perfectly synched.  The pattern of threats and illicit operators can be a point of synchronization for the US and its partners. 

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