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Friday, 5 October 2012

1.5 – CONCLUSION: Assessing the links between terrorism and organized crime, and the impact of the narcotics industry on conflict and post-conflict situations.

By Daniel Mossop

Throughout this paper the relationships between terrorism, organized crime, and to an extent insurgency, have been assessed to gauge a better understanding of the links between them. The initial stages set out the factors promoting the formation of such links, where it was found that the acquisition of funds and operational support were the main contributors to convergence between the groups. The demise of state-sponsorship and the rise of globalization essentially closed one door whilst opening another. The decrease in state and individual funding of terrorism since the end of the Cold-War and even more so since the attacks of 9/11, forced groups to search elsewhere for financial and operational support.
The process of globalization made this search significantly easier as groups were able to establish links both nationally and internationally with other illegitimate actors, namely organized crime groups. The changing nature of warfare also drove terrorist groups to develop their operational capacities so that their attacks would gain them the attention they desired. In order to do this however, they required funding and logistical support, thus driving them to forge connections with groups or individuals operating outside of the law. Once more the prevalence of weak states and their poor security environments proved to be perfect breeding grounds for non-state groups such as terrorists, insurgents and organized crime groups, which in turn made the likelihood of convergence significantly more likely. 

It was established that criminal and terrorist groups hold separate operational and motivational goals, which some suggest would negate any sort of relationship between the two. However it was found that the acquisition of profit/funds and mutual gain were enough to set these differences aside. It was the convergence of groups which was of interest in this paper as opposed to those instances where groups would not form relationships due to their differences. Convergence between the groups may manifest itself in different ways, either by organized criminal groups utilizing terrorist tactics for the purposes of securing and/or maximizing profit and their operational environment, or by terrorist groups forming links with organized crime groups or developing their own ‘in-house’ criminal capabilities for the purposes of raising funds and support for the operations. The concept of ‘hybrid groups’ emerges here as this is where groups either mutate to incorporate the others’ characteristics, or mutate fully so that a complete motivational shift has taken place. It is these ‘hybrid groups’ that cause concern in relation to a future threat as they demonstrate the capacities enabling them to acquire the funds needed whilst at the same time being able to carry out vicious terrorist attacks.

Hutchingson and O’malley (2007) distinguished between two types of groups: ‘ephemeral-sporadic’ and ‘organized-enduring’, suggesting that a group’s organizational structure acts as a predictor for the type of criminal activity they will engage in. For example, ‘ephemeral-sporadic’ groups engage in less sophisticated activities requiring limited skill and resources compared with ‘organized-enduring’ groups, which are more likely to engage in more sophisticated activities for a longer period of time and thus require higher skill levels and resources.  These distinctions complemented Makarenko’s (2004) ‘Crime-terror Continuum’, which acted as an indicator of the likely points of convergence between groups. The CTC demonstrated the different degrees of convergence, showing the key point of concern to be the ‘black-hole’ situated at the fulcrum, which is the point at which groups meet in climates of poor security, namely weak states such as Afghanistan. Here it was suggested that groups take advantage of the weak security environment caused by on-going conflict and form links with each other or mutate so that they can benefit from the instability. This hypothesis is supported by looking at the relationship between the narcotics industry in areas such as Afghanistan and terrorists, insurgents and organized criminal groups, which all are rife, working in some cases together for the purposes of profit, whether that be for economic gain or for funding for their operations.

The impact of the narcotics industry upon conflict and post-conflict situations is a substantial one due to the large figures and range of actors involved. Unfortunately post-conflict reconstruction is hampered by as corruption levels are high throughout the government, de-legitimizing efforts from the outset. Furthermore the narcotics industry has been found to be a driving force for conflict at national and even global levels, for it is not only organized crime groups that utilize violence to sustain their operations, but terrorist and insurgent groups also use the trade to acquire the funds and operational support with which to continue their own violent struggles. The opium trade also indirectly fuels conflict at the local, community level. Counter-narcotics efforts in the form of eradication policies unfortunately offer no hope to ending narcotics-fueled conflict as they only increase conflict and impel the population to side with the insurgents instead of the government.

The narcotics industry has been proven to be one of the most lucrative sources of revenue for non-state actors and criminal groups. Again we can see how the process of globalization has enabled such a profitable trade as it involves groups working together right from crop cultivation through to distribution in countries far away from the source.  It is my contention that as long as instability and insecurity are present within countries such as Afghanistan, counter-narcotics programs will be counter-productive and the threat from terrorist groups with enhanced capabilities will exist. What is needed is for the state to be re-established with a legitimate government and for accountability to be a key element so that corruption can be addressed. Once this has happened, only then can counter-narcotics strategies be put in place to help decrease the industry.

As for the links between terrorism and organized crime, it becomes apparent that the two share many similarities which could be useful when designing successful counter-strategies of moving in and closing down criminal networks may prove to be effective in locating terrorist networks thus enabling further arrests. The crime-terror continuum may offer a useful tool in which to surmise the likely points of convergence which may aid law enforcement efforts. Unfortunately the formation of relationships and the mutation of groups to develop their own ‘in-house’ criminal capabilities is a phenomenon that I feel is only just beginning to take hold and thus we should expect to see much more sophisticated terrorist attacks over the coming decades as groups develop their operational capacities as well as their bank accounts. 

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