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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

NARCO-TERRORISM CAN BE STOPPED...

Despite the controversy over the term, the phrase “narco-terrorism” is increasingly used to refer to known (and unknown) terrorist organisations that use the illicit drug trade to fund their operations, entice followers and buy expertise, weapons and explosives.

What initially started off as attacks against counter-narcotics agencies in South America – and particularly in Peru – has become a methodology used by illegal drug traders and traffickers to build up forces and attempt to influence the policies of governments and societies by means of violence, intimidation and terrorism.

Whereas the destruction of their crops is a good start, it cannot - and should not - end there. There are many other targets that can be attacked over a wide front to destroy this enemy and no stone should be left unturned in eradicating this scourge. Indeed, those who prefer this path should be attacked with aggression and cunning and given no moment of respite.

Yet the West seems to be afraid of infringing on the human rights of the drug traffickers, syndicates and cartels despite its calls for these activities to be stopped. Ironically, when drug traffickers/mules are sentenced to death in the East, European governments protest loudly and call for clemency, claiming the convicted suffer from some incurable mental disease. However, this “mental disease” seems to surface only once the perpetrators are caught. Will we witness a similar pattern when these governments are dealing with narco-terrorists? Do these traffickers and dealers have any mercy on those they have dragged into the murky world of drug addiction? When their ill-gotten gains are used to purchase weapons, explosives and know-how, do they for a moment stop to consider being merciful towards those they are about to kill? I doubt it.

That most basic law of economics – the law of supply and demand – needs to be readdressed, reanalysed and the situation re-appreciated. Part of this problem is that the purity, along with the demand, of many of these illegal substances has risen while the prices have dropped. This has widened the market and increased sales. This in turn empowers the criminal syndicates and cartels, damages the legitimate economy, creates additional strain on law enforcement agencies and adds to a climate that breeds terrorism.

According to Interpol, the illicit drug trade is a major source in funding terrorism. Apparently it is a US$ 400 billion business annually, taking about 8 percent of the world’s trade – and growing. This implies that the organisations running this global empire have sufficient funds to source and buy whatever they need to expand their empire. Stopping them will require more than simple crop-burning.

Narco-terrorism needs to be attacked over a wide front, utilising overt, clandestine and covert methods – with no regard to the human rights of these criminals. Failure to do so will simply increase the revenue stream to the terrorists. Additionally, the underlying issues of addiction and prevention should be addressed in order to reduce the market size and demand.

Taking the fight to the narco-terror networks should be Priority #1. This requires an intensified effort to infiltrate/penetrate the cartels and syndicates, direct hard action against the villas, haciendas and other hideouts and laboratories, intercept mail and telephone calls to identify and target accomplices, freeze bank accounts (these funds can be used against them), show no mercy when applying the law against them, sanction governments that provide succour to the narco-terrorists, disrupt them in their own areas, identify and attack High Value Targets and so forth.

The financial gains the narco-traders and narco-terrorists make from their crimes stem from the host of buyers, sellers, traders and traffickers. This grouping should be likewise targeted without mercy. Prison sentences in cushy jails should not even be a consideration. Instead, they should receive hard labour sentences where they are given no respite. Let them build roads with picks and shovels – even in areas where no roads are needed.

The west coast of Africa is increasingly becoming a hub for the illegal drugs trade and trafficking from especially South America. What was once known as the Gold Coast is rapidly becoming known the Coke Coast. If no action is taken, this volatile area may soon become a focal point from which not only increased drug trafficking is launched into Europe, but very possibly narco-terrorism. But, the longer this serious issue is ignored, the more time the narco-terrorists are given to entrench themselves and their followers, build their networks and wreak havoc. But this volatile area in Africa is also starting to produce its own drugs – the implications can be imagined. Likewise, East Africa is also becoming a hub for narco-terrorism.

Despite the noises made about narco-terrorism, it is unlikely that much real effort will go into stopping this very lucrative and dangerous criminal endeavour. Where efforts are made, they fall far short of denting the narco networks. Throwing money at a problem will not make it go away. Only a decent aggressive strategy will do that.

38 comments:

John said...

Mr. Barlow,
My name is John Gainer and I am currently working on a Masters degree in Public Administration in San Marcos, Texas at Texas State University. I have only recently discovered your blog; but there has been no shortage of very insightful and interesting reading material. Your most recent entry regarding narco-terrorism hit especially close to home, as the border violence caused by drug cartels has spilled over into Texas while also continuing to get worse. We are still a long ways from what those outside outside of the USA have to deal with on a daily basis; however, unless action is taken, the future will not be bright here, or any place where drug lords can operate without impediment.
In order to fulfill the requirements for my degree, I have elected to do a research project over private military companies, with the focus being on the range of services that are offered across the industry. The reason for this is two-fold. First, my undergraduate degree was in business and economics and I have always had an interest in government. In a way, the industry is at the crossroads of my interest and education. Second, as a student who has focused my attention on the international elements of business and government (after all the American bubble is a dangerous trap), I have come to a conclusion that essentially drives my perspective of the PMC industry. When the important decisions where lives hang in the balance at remote regions of the world are faced, it would be a major fallacy to believe that governments can be relied upon. In some cases they may get involved, in others they will not... which is the fundamental reason I believe the providers within the industry are not only credible, but 100% necessary for the sake of human lives. I can understand and respect the views of those who take an opposing position, but even as you have said, the industry isn't going anywhere, meaning unbiased, unpoliticized, and accurate research is as crucial as ever.
I have chosen to contact you because I was wanting to know if, during the course of my research, I could occasionally contact you (through any avenue you prefer: blog, email, etc.) when I inevitably have general questions about the industry. If so, I would like to be clear in that my primary interest is in the service side of the industry, as well as the strategic management aspects (ie how management at PMCs tries to effectively plan projects from entering into conflict following through the transition to peace, or managing the PR issue in light of government criticisms and false accusations, etc). I have no intention of quoting anything from our conversations (I would consider your information to be supplementary to my research and exploratory in nature) but if for some reason I wanted to, I would not quote anything without first gaining your explicit consent and allowing you to see the context of which a quote is used. The accountability (other than my own word) is also that my thesis will be uploaded on the second most widely downloaded e-commons in the United States (http://ecommons.txstate.edu/), so with a simple click this could be verified. I can only assume that you are incredibly busy and will make every effort to respect the importance of your time.
Finally, my grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by a mortar at the Ardennes in World War II and the only time that he ever discussed his time in the service with me was when the two of us would be in the mountains for family reunions and we’d walk off to go share a cigar. From hearing what I know is only the tip of the iceberg, I can say that the service to one’s country deserves the utmost thanks and regards. I have no doubt that like him, your service to your country and work with EO saved countless lives and for that I thank you. I’m sorry for the long letter, but thank you very much for you time and consideration. My email is jg1640@txstate.edu and I will get back to you as quickly as possible, should you contact me.
Sincerely,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I decided to publish your comment John, as there are many folks who visit this site who may be able to help you in your research and I am sure would gladly do so.

I agree fully on your comment that “it would be a major fallacy to believe that governments can be relied upon”. I have very sadly witnessed this in numerous countries in Africa where foreign governments have made promises and undertakings, simply to break them when it suited them. The resultant chaos and distrust does not disappear overnight. Hence my belief in the private military industry – IF they get their act sorted out and live up to their promises and undertakings.

Your grandfather, like my father – and many, many others answered the call of their countries. They did it not for money but for what they believed in. At that time, they felt that they were trying to stop a common enemy from changing their way of life. Today, we face a much more dangerous enemy yet there seems to be a lack of strategy, planning and cohesive action to stop it. This is an enemy that can be stopped – yet there seems to be a lack of international will to do so.

I will try to assist you where I can but I must advise you that my answers will be mainly subjective and I also do not have all the answers.

Good luck with your research.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Narco-terrorism is an interesting one. It is a hybrid of two non-state actor activities that are extremely effective against states these days, and so you are right to bring it to attention Eeben.
For me personally, I continue to look at the war against drug cartels and islamic extremists and pirates, from several perspectives. I look at them from the state's point of view, I look at them from a private military and classic military view, and I look at them as if I was in their shoes. Out of all these perspectives, the least covered view in the media is from that of the private military perspective on how to combat non-state actors.
With that said, I should certainly hope that these articles and calls to action you have assembled and produced, are read by as many folks as possible with the idea that there are 'other' options available out there.
Now for John. Bravo sir for having the courage to do a thesis on PMC's. If you need any input as well, I am more than game. I am also a current security contractor, have worked for a multitude of PMC's, and have explored many models of warfare that involve PMC's throughout the history of war.
I would also suggest not taking the bland or boring route of discussion about PMC's, that most authors and students have taken. So with that said, let me suggest some areas of exploration.
The PMC versus PMC would be an interesting topic, and Eeben covered that earlier on the blog. I have discussed this as well. Both historical references and what a modern day version of that would look like. Eeben hinted and a Chinese PMC fighting a western PMC over resource wars. With a world stretched thin over the current war commitments, and a constant threat to limited resources like oil, the possibility is there for such a thing.
The other one that I think is interesting, is the Letter of Marque and Reprisal. It is a US law in the constitution which allows the congress to basically grant war powers to individuals. These letters were issued in the hundreds back during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and the privateers back then turned defeating the British commerce and warships on the high seas into an entire industry. It was extremely effective. So much so, that the US is 'not' a signatory to the Declaration of Paris, which outlawed the practiced of privateering. The last Letter of Marque issued was during WW 2 to the Airship Resolute. Congressman Ron Paul has also introduce the concept of reinvigorating the LoM in congress for this war, twice.
So the exploration there, would be how to use the LoM to combat non-state actors, both on the sea and land. So there you go and good luck. Use the search feature here, and you will see all sorts of interesting ideas for your thesis. Cheers. -matt

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am very concerned at the dithering around that is being done to stop these actions, Matt. I also believe that by referring to these criminals as “non-state actors”, we gave them a certain amount of credibility and legitimacy. Why didn’t we just call them what they are: Criminals?? Again, new terms and phrases have been invented to act against us.

I am convinced that a PMC will be able to provide positive results in this fight, especially if it has a sponsor who is serious about stopping narco-terrorism. For a long time, I have been questioning strategies and policies. The failures to date are, in my opinion, simply a lack of defines polices and strategies – and the will to execute them aggressively and correctly. As they do not respect human rights, they should be given none. Prisons should also stop the “softly-softly” approach and make life so tough and difficult for them that they, once released (if ever) never want to go back there.

Thanks for being willing to help John as well as for the advice you gave him. That’s great. I am sure many others will also volunteer their assistance to him.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

This should be interesting as my libertarian side comes through,the only reason we have a problem with so called "illegal drugs" is the profit margin that is very attractive to drug lords and various other nefarious groups

Up to and until this fact is addressed there is no solution to the problem having said that even in a perfect "libertarian" world taking the profit margin away from illegal drugs by legalizing them won't stop "terrorist funding" they will just find another product that offers the same profit margins with no paper trail.

Not knowing what the exact profit there is in illegal drug trafficking it must be subtantial based on the risk vs reward matrix.

Drugs are not the problem the ideology of "terrorism" is.

PS Just checked the exchange rate between the dollar and rand a pack of cigarettes in NYC would today run you R73.80 I'm sure that the profit margin in cigarettes is fast approaching that of "illegal drugs" with less risk and they don't need to import anything.

Diamond Dallas Rage said...

I still think the phrase "narco-terrorism" is too little specific to actually use, but I am adopting your term 'the Coke Coast' instead of 'the Gold Coast'!Hehe...

The "new" exploding coke-trade occurring off the African west-coast is also a topic of great interest (with little detailed info available), if it should interest you to write about logistics, organisational background, and measurements available and easily implemented against this still fairly unknown threat?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is a matter of risk vs reward Robby but at present, and I look particularly at Africa, the risk is very low. Networks are being established and operate with almost impunity. Even South Africa is being targeted as a market. Many of the conflicts in Africa are funded by illegal drug money but the situation is rather dire and getting worse. The east coast of Africa is also entering the fray and unless it is not stopped soon, it will become increasingly difficult to do so.

Whereas I do not know what the profit margins are, I do know from what I read and am told, they are very high. But, as the supply-and-demand issue is left unchecked, the situation will simply escalate.

At R73 for a pack of smokes, I will be forced to give up!

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Please do not credit me with renaming the Gold Coast the Coke Coast, Diamond Dallas Rage. I actually read it somewhere a while ago in a report someone had done on the illicit drug trade.

I am planning to do something on the coke-trade in West Africa shortly. Thanks for also reminding me to get going with it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Here's the problem with the "war on drugs" no matter how well intentioned you can't legislate morality people will always seek ways of "getting the edge off" the ironic part in America anyway is more people die each year from legal prescribed drugs than they do from the illegal ones.

Willy Sutton was once asked why he robs banks he responded "that's where the money is" same deal with terrorist funding.. no secret that the IRA was big into drug smuggling proberly learnt it in the arms smuggling business the two go hand in hand.

Port swoop finds eight million cigs
RACKET: Haul worth over d3m
By Kevin Doyle

Saturday January 02 2010

EIGHT million cigarettes worth €3.1m have been recovered in Revenue's first major seizure of 2010.

They were discovered yesterday in a lorry marked 'heaters', that arrived in Dublin Port from the United Arab Emirates.

It represented a potential loss of €2.7m to the Exchequer.

The truck was seized and several people have been interviewed but no arrests have yet been made.

A Revenue spokesman said investigations were continuing into the seizure of Palace branded cigarettes.

http://www.herald.ie/national-news/city-news/port-swoop--finds-eight-million-cigs-1996584.html

simon said...

With American history involving the CIA and drug trade to fund black operations, it begs the question of motivation to shut these things down.
Im not advocating a position that all governments are tied to the drug trade but in many cases Im sure the benefactor of the drug trade will look the other way.
It also could become a question of untangling messes that might reveal too much. Just a thought and surely not apply to every situation.

Robby said...

At R73 for a pack of smokes, I will be forced to give up!

How much do you pay in SA for a pack I used to be a Gunston guy? I may have discovered a new source of income when I return :-)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct that one cannot legislate morality, Robby. However, when that morality attacks the fabric of society it exceeds the bounds of acceptable behaviour. When the proceeds of these crimes are used to buy weapons and expertise to “protect” those who are busy with these nefarious activities, or give them the ability to establish themselves as an armed gang/group/organisation to enforce their will on others, I believe it poses a grave danger to society as a whole.

I hear what you say re legal drug deaths vs illegal drug deaths. Many prescription drugs are equally habit-forming and abused and obviously cause death and other problems. But, in Africa, many so-called rebel forces (I see them as armed gangs intent on seizing power) press-gang/kidnap/force people to join their ranks, make them drug dependent and thus control their lives thereafter. The profits are used (as you rightly point out) to purchase more weapons in order to continue with their crimes.

Thanks for the cigarette link.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A valid point, Simon. But, I think that covert support to these cartels/syndicates gave them a sense of being “untouchable”. It is this belief that gave them a certain amount of operating freedom. Also, I think that initially there was a belief that these drug cartels could provide intelligence on other areas of interest but it eventually just got out of hand. In the process, they got stronger and now use that strength to attack anyone who does not agree with them.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Down at my local I pay R25 a pack, Robby. I have not heard of Gunston for years. I must check if they are still around but I somehow doubt it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Monkey Spawn said...

FYI

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6034L920100104

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for this very interesting link, Monkey Spawn. It does show that this is not merely something that could be happening but is indeed happening.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

Everything today to garner any media hype or funding somehow has to use some derivation of the word terror.
The U.S uses it now in the "War on Drugs" Its not a war on drugs from my eyes, its the creation of thousands of jobs. Columbia for instance, we have been playing this game for years. Afghanistan?, The worlds Heroin supply has increased since the U.S. became involved there. All those employed and all the logistical support has cost and will continue to cost Billions if not more.
I think Polictical Correctness is at its highest in this "war". As to Interpol, having been around that organization a bit, I put them on par with the U.N. as to usefullness.
I certainly dont know what the answer is to combat this, some have suggested give up and let it be legalized as this may be one way to take away the profit. What bothers me as an example is the Governments handling of Cigarettes. I quit many years ago when they were $3/Carton. I thought that was an insane price. Now they average $30 carton. The Government is making the profit and in the states the tobacco farmers are subsidized for thier crops. Now THAT is insanity.
Im from a different school as to drugs. I like to think that getting as violent as the bad guys may changes some minds, but I keep remembering an axiom from long ago. Never wrestle with a Pig. You get muddy and the Pig likes it.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It certainly appears that the word “terror” in some instances equates to “profit”, Gatvol.

Having been involved in a small way in the war on drugs in South America many years ago, I came away with the belief that there was no real interest to end it as it generated income for some and jobs for others. It was also viewed as something that was not really of national importance and therefore it was not taken too seriously. However, of late, there has been a lot of coordination/cooperation between some of the drug lords and those professing to follow a path of violence. Given the amount of money that has been thrown at the problem and the lack of real results certainly makes me question what is really happening.

Your comment on political correctness is quite spot-on. I believe that here starts the problem and when it is coupled to human rights of these people, we have no chance of winning because we start at a huge “moral disadvantage” and they hold the high ground. Added to this, they are no longer criminals but rather “non-state actors”. It’s as though they occupy part of the international political stage of the world – and although they do to some extent, it holds no good to continue giving them feel-good labels.

As for cigarettes: Government taxes are huge but as they are legal, it seems to be okay. I know that I ought to quit but I haven’t had to the time to do so yet.

As for drugs – we come from the same school. Again, I believe that the approach to stopping this is somewhat wrong. You cannot simply throw money at the problem and hope it will go away. It won’t. I also don’t think the narcos are better trained than the armed forces. But then again, that is what I believe. Some pigs don’t like the filth especially when they cannot wash it off.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and friends:

A bit off topic, but I thought relevant and meaty enough to pass along. Best to you in 2010.

Cheers, Alan

http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/AfghanIntel_Flynn_Jan2010_code507_voices.pdf

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks for the link, Alan. I am pleased to see that some thought is being given to this matter as my perception is that this was a “Charge into Afghanistan” without any intelligence. The end result is men die as the entire strategy was not intelligence driven.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Yes indeed. Invasions should require some very extensive mission and objected focused prior planning. Easily said from the 20/20 hindsight of an armchair, but following last week's sad event at FOB Chapman, we might wish to include source debriefings to the prior planning list as well.

"Are you interested in joining? The benefits are terrific. The trick is not to get killed. That's really the key to the benefit program." Vince Ricardo, 'The In-Laws' 1979.

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There are those who believe that I am critical of how these wars are currently being fought, Alan. Whereas that may be true, my criticism is actually at the lack of strategy that is sometimes very apparent. Ultimately, it is the “man on the ground” that puts his trust in those that ought to know better and subsequently pays the ultimate price for this lack of foresight and vision. I find that terribly sad.

After all, strategies are intelligence driven and to ensure that the correct intelligence reaches the correct people at the right time and place takes some planning and long-term vision. At present, it appears as though a lot of what we witness is merely trying to put out fires.

If we don’t up the game, the narco-traffickers will simply stay one step ahead of us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Why do we fail? We like to refer to it by a new, recently coined term which we refer to simply as... "Exuberant Incompetence." A clear example can be found at the link.

Regards, Alan

http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR-CIA_Climate_010510.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A most astonishing report, Alan.

I think I will use your term in future as it is a new one for me – and I do like it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Kaye said...

I get the impression that the cause behind the lack of decisive action from Western countries against Narco-Terrorism comes from the 'bubble'we live in.

We live in a relatively peaceful society with little poverty, violence and hardship. We, as a group, have little idea of what life is like in the countries that produce drugs. So we cannot understand the lenght to which people will go to improve their lot. To them producing, selling, trafficking drugs and maintaining the sort of organisation needed to do all that is a much smaller step than we imagine.

This is reflected in our approach to the people we catch, in our policies towards the producing countries and the legal background to our approach. We lack the toughness. Imprisonment in a European prison is an improvement over life in a Southern American, West African or Central Asian slum!

Our policies will not change untill we get a decent understanding of the motivation of the people we deal with!

Alan said...

Five operators in one very suspect vehicle? We've simply got to do better than this.

No joy, Alan

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115574&sectionid=351020401

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, Kaye. They are not put off by going to prison in the West as it is far cushier than what they are used to.

When they are caught in countries that boldly display the death penalty if they are caught, the West is quick to condemn that punishment as “in humane” and take pity on the perpetrators - even threatening the country exercising the punishment.

When dealing with motivated criminals, one needs to understand them before we can take decisive action. Too often, we fail to even have the most basic knowledge/intelligence to understand what makes them tick.

This is to our great detriment and their great advantage.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan.

Sometimes I just have to shake my head in wonderment. Were it not so tragic, it would be very funny indeed. Also, one has to ask what “knowledge” these operators actually have. When operating in a criminal infested area, surely one ought to know how they function. One of the principles of covert work is being the “gray man”. They seem to not even have been taught that.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Not that anyone here requires it, just passing it along.

Perfidious Albion defined:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8452393.stm

Regards, Alan

Alan said...

Eeben:

AFRICOM assists efforts to "harmonise expenditures" thru "regional army."

The "Military Industrial Complex" explained in musical terms?

Regards, Alan

http://allafrica.com/stories/201001111284.html?viewall=1

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks for your Perfidious Albion link, Alan. I always enjoy reading your links to us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think President Yoweri Museveni has a very valid point to make on this issue, Alan. But with respect, AFRICOM needs to start using normal language and not get itself caught up in catch phrases.

I believe that Africa faces threats that are not common to other theatres.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and readers:

Simply had to pass this one along. It is entitled:

"Why no one invades Switzerland."

http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/754.html

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very interesting piece, Alan. Many thanks.

Rgds,

Eeben

newy said...

Dear Eeben,

I am rather new to your blog and enjoy it thoroughly. What would your reaction be to my "crazy" and societally unacceptable notion of a conspiracy?

In my opinion Narco-terrorism and Islamic insurgency are all complicated and immensely cruel rouse fabricated to ensure societal control. It is well known that people only move and act for two reasons; pleasure or pain. Pain and fear however is an extremely powerful tool in getting people to support a government policy. Human beings are extremely resourceful and eve more so when it comes to survival. With all the technological advancements in war today it is extremely hard to believe that the US military cannot find Osama Bin Laden? This is quite strange unless you start thinking about the implications and loss of industry if Bin Laden is killed or captured. What then? What would the "face" of terror look like then? A nice back-up could be Iran. The propaganda machine is already on top of that.

After quite a broad context, my question is quite simple: Do you believe that 9/11, Bin Laden and Narco terrorism could all be tools to fuel fear and loyalty, which in the end could have one goal in mind; to keep military action socially acceptable.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t think that there is anything wrong if people deduce a conspiracy from a certain action or set of actions, Newy. As far as I am concerned, it shows that people are thinking about things.

However, as far as narco-terrorism and general terrorism is concerned, I can only speak for what I have seen and know of – and I conclude that it is very real. Of course, there are people in powerful positions who are covertly tied to some of these activities, but to me that does not imply it is an entire government.

Fear and pain are indeed very powerful tools. We see just how powerful they are when we look at oppressive governments. But they also indicate that people have lost all hope when they accept these negatives without any resistance. In such instances, people would rather flee a country than rise up. Likewise with narco terrorism and general terrorism. These organisations learnt from early times that they need to keep the people in line (this is where they move, hide and operate) and that they are semi-protected by a multitude of human rights laws and organisations. In other instances, these organisations give the people more hope than their governments and thus they get support from the locals.

Many times, the political will to fight them is lacking and thus they flourish.

To locate the leaders of these organisations, intelligence is needed. But, intelligence is a facet that has been neglected and replaced with technical substitutes. Technical intelligence gathering ought to compliment HUMINT and visa versa.

I believe what could be seen as a conspiracy is simply the result of bad planning, a lack of political will and a complete underestimation of the narcos and other terrorist groupings.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jesus said...

Mr. Barlow
I'm Jesús Herrera, I'm from Colombia.
Here, the politics made a simplification on the drugs question between two opposite ways: Legalization vs War.
The State has made incredible efforts in the war against drugs, we have improved our army from the lamentable status it had during the 90's and we reach closer to defeat the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) But the war arrives to a difficult point on what we are obtaining less advances from a higher cost.
Destruction of the main cartels and the de-mobilization of Paramilitar groups have "democratized" the narcotraffic cartels in a lot of minor gropus, with minor force and minor territorial control, easier to destroy, but also easier to replace. this fact has resulted in which while decreasing the lifetime of the "capos", the money earned from the business as a whole has increased. And although the first world remains the main consumer of coca, because a decriminalization in 1994, domestic consumption has been rising, and cities are suffering great insecurity caused by the empowerment of micro-trafficking(distribution and sales) networks.
¿What can we do?
We depend on the money help from USA and this money arrives with obligations imposed by them.
The less advances in the war is rising a thinking on academics and politics which says: With FARC, we need negotiation and with drugs, we need legalization. The FARC is recieving ideological, financial and militar support from Venezuela who is directing the group' international relations, and where many of the chiefs of FARC have their headquarters.
If the most of consumers are on high class, in Europe, USA and here in Colombia too, and they advocates for legalization in the politics.¿How can we win?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I fully understand your frustration, Jesus.

I have read about the different views ie legalise or war on drugs and really shake my head at it all. Your government has made massive efforts at stopping the narcos and the splintering of syndicates into smaller cells has certainly made it more difficult to fight. But it also leads to a situation for them of “high risk, high rewards”. This financial reward, along with empowerment can certainly create a problem where the lawless become a law unto themselves.

What I see is that the politics often overrides the legality of something – especially if it is aimed at winning votes. But then who knows just how much illegal funds are washed through so-called clean political channels. This also begs the question of how can the law triumph over political protection? But having to take funds from another power will always bring its own set of problems and agendas.

FARC, as I understand it (based on what I read) is aimed at overthrowing the political order in Columbia and replace it with its own form of Lenin-Marxism. Being supported by Venezuela and being anti-US to boot, makes it an organisation that poses immense danger to Columbia. This puts Columbia on a war footing on two fronts – drugs and FARC – and fighting on two fronts is not someone anyone wants to be doing.

Whereas I am not in an ideal position to answer your question, “What can we do?” I can only imagine that the political strategy and the military/law enforcement strategies need to be directed at achieving the same ultimate goals: destruction of FARC and narcos. I know I have harped on this a lot but it will require an intensive intelligence collection effort and using the intelligence to mount successful operations. But, as long as the demand for the drugs is there, the more difficult and problematic the approach to solving the problem. But this cannot be done in isolation and it requires a much larger (international) effort to make headway.

I know your military is well-capable of defeating FARC but I also understand the political constraints on them as well as the international constraints.

Rgds,

Eeben