The Golden Crescent And The Economics Of Terrorism

By Nasurullah Brohi (Research Fellow in Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad, Pakistan)

It is a well known trend that without the external support and huge finances none of the terrorist organizations and their insurgent activates could ever survive. The terrorist organizations also receive money in the name of donations as mostly in our countries the donations are taken in the name of trusts and religious institutions.

We often see small transparent plastic boxes fixed with the stickers containing the names of some unfamiliar religious trusts are kept in the shops for the collection of charity and donations. And people blindly put their money for thinking about some good reasons without knowing where the money will actually go?

The financial support of the militant groups does not always come through the collection of such small donations or any online fund transfers by some wealthy persons, but in fact, the mighty agencies of powerful states create a framework for supporting the terrorist organizations and organized crime groups. The aim behind such types of support of terrorist organizations and separatist groups is to destabilize the internal situation and create chaos inside the opponent states.

The past role of intelligence agencies of various countries, especially the great powers further worsened the situation when they deeply became involved in the patronage of gigantic drug trafficking groups. These agencies through the illicit drug traffickers generated huge revenues and supported the militant groups as their proxies to fight for their interests.

During the Cold War, for the prevention of the Soviet influence in the Western parts of the Europe, the secret services of the Super Power intervened in the internal politics of almost all the states in the region. For instance, the Sicilian Mafia was facilitated through a mechanism of drug trafficking and generating revenues for the underworld Corsican gangsters to battle Communist strikers and to limit the political gains of the Italian Communist party.

Consequently, with the defeat of Communism and the end of the Cold War, the Sicilian Mafia and the Corsican underworld notably dominated the heroin trafficking not only in Europe, but most of the heroin smuggled into the United States for many years.

Following the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet troops, the United States supported the Afghan resistance and spent more than $2 billion. The mujahedin guerrillas gradually started gaining control over the territory inside the Afghanistan. The local peasants were encouraged to plant the poppy crops as a revolutionary tax and within a couple of years, hundreds of heroin laboratories were created across the border.

Today, despite the efforts of the Afghan government and the ISAF forces, over 200,000 hectares of Afghan fields grew poppies and remained at the highest level followed by Myanmar, which devoted more than 51,000 hectares for the poppy cultivation.

According to the World Economic Forum, the global trade of heroin and opium in 2013 worth more than $60 billion. And for sure it will grow following the withdrawal of ISAF forces by the end of 2014.

In the post Cold War era, the region where Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan are located became more vulnerable and termed as Golden Crescent because of the geographic location of these three states. The Golden Crescent countries are exceptionally facing the peril of illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs.

Each country has a diverged dilemma, in Afghanistan, the mighty warlords who exercise their power within the government and in the local population have the monopoly over the narcotic-drug trade. In Pakistan the so-called Sardars, Malaks and to some corrupt politicians have their share in the business. Unlike these two countries Iran’s case is quite diverse where the ordinary people mostly living in the slums of Sistan and Baluchistan are involved in drug trafficking and the narcotic business. These three states are also considered one of the biggest smuggling routes of illicit opium and narcotic drugs to the rest of the world.

Moreover, the drug traffickers, instead of using the Southern routes through Pakistan mostly rely on Northern routes via Central Asian States. Particularly, the route through Central Asian States has turned out to be very important in the global drug trade. This is mostly because of the poor border controls and large-scale migration among the former Soviet States.

Apart from that, normally there is also a natural nexus between terrorism and organized crime, including drug trafficking. Linkages between the terrorist organizations and the drug traffickers is multifaceted, providing each other with facilitation, protection, and hauling. This dirty connection between the drug traffickers and terrorist organizations benefit both sides. The drug traffickers benefit from the armed skills, weapons supply, and relationship to covert groups or mafia through the terrorist organizations. Both groups also exploit the services of corrupt officials who provide them greater access to fake passports and customs credentials.

Moreover, the terrorist organizations have more expertise and are conscious about the security agencies and they have very sound networks to mobilize the drugs and get real time intelligence and information. The outcomes of international drug traffic on society are very hazardous because the whole mechanism consequently yields in money laundering, creating internal instability and promoting corruption in the countries.

The illegal usage of drugs and its negative consequences are considered as universal issues since they have affected countries over the globe throughout the years. Most of the separatist movements and terrorist organizations either use drug trafficking or kidnapping for ransom as a source of their revenue generation.

Drugs and terror have a relationship that is much symbiotic because these both have commonly controlled networks which allow them to receive huge revenues to carry on their insurgency and pave a mode of means for non-state actors to free themselves from the influence of state sponsorship.

Illicit trafficking of narcotics and drug abuse is also a gargantuan challenge for Pakistan. The country is encountering the nuisance of drug traffickers due to its extraordinary geographic position of being at the gateway to the South Asia and the rest of the world and its location in the immediate neighborhood of the source of production.

Pakistan is one of the most victimized countries at the hands of terrorism and is still suffering from the curse. Realizing the fact and keeping in mind the nexus between the narcotic-drug traders and the terrorist organizations Pakistan’s Anti Narcotics Strategy has outstandingly proven successful and vigilantly checks up on and cracks down not only the trade and trafficking, but also the funding by the illicit drug traders to the terrorist organizations.

The complex relationship between the drug traffickers and terrorist groups demand further need of an analytic framework and counter-narcotic strategies by the agencies responsible for the enforcement of drug laws. Ultimately, the bottom-line of successful prevention of whether organized crime, terrorism and the drug trafficking lies in the accuracy of real time information, technological advancement and the willingness to stop the twofold menace. The collective effort by regional and global states is the need of the hour in countering this menace. It is the utmost responsibility of the regional states in particular and the international community in general to stop this hazard and its harmful consequences to reach the people.

About chainsoff.

Intelligence Media Service, Monitors and Analyzes Extremists’ activities, including and not limited to: The Muslim Brotherhood, Kurdish Terrorism, Syrian Politics, Jabhet Al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Cyber Crime, and Taliban activities in Syria. Well known for her deep knowledge on Terrorism. Open Source Exploitation expert in the discovery, collection, and assessment of foreign-based publicly available information, also known as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), HIMNT
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