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Multi-level strategy to counter narcotrafficking

Jul 30,2023 - Last updated at Jul 30,2023

The ongoing issue of drug trafficking continues to represent a threat to the countries of the region. In efforts to counter these risks, a Jordanian security delegation has met with its Syrian counterpart to discuss cooperation to counter the smuggling operations and networks. While it is unlikely the illegal trade will end in the short term, as the criminal networks that are funded and supported through it have deep links into communities and some authorities, it is still critical to adopt a multi-level strategy to begin the process of dismantling these networks. This strategy needs to ensure that it does not exclude any option, all approaches should be on the table.

Bilateral meetings with Syria are necessary for Jordan. Even if there is no real concrete impact on the countering of these threats, it is important to maintain engagement and work through the process. It is also important to maintain the option of targeted operations in certain areas in Syria to drain the sources of risks. These should be agreed bilaterally, using the open channels of communication, in order to ensure they are not considered a violation of the sovereignty of Syria.

This kind of regular bilateral engagement should also extend to Saudi Arabia, as the Saudis are facing huge challenges and risks in this area. Jordan needs to enhance its security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a critical step that will help both countries in monitoring, understanding and dismantling the widespread drug networks. The traditional drug trafficking routes are being changed and their tactics and techniques are evolving, so it is important for security cooperation and coordination in countering these networks.

The security doctrine of regional militaries and the capabilities of intelligence services are facing a critical challenge to adapt to the new challenges as they are geared for counter terrorism rather than addressing a highly sophisticated criminal network. The drug trafficking networks are a tool for infiltration down into communities, through economic benefit to impact social and security issues as well. Taking a long-term view, the threats posed by this illegal trade infiltration could exceed the risks of terrorism that the region has been dealing with for the past several decades.

There is a clear need to bring international expertise to form a coalition to address this threat. The capatagon produced in the region is already reaching European countries through the Mediterranean channels. This is a product known as “cocaine for the poor” and is being produced in huge amounts at low cost. Smuggling into Europe and further will continue, so interventions need to target the sources of production, and the international community has a direct interest in being a part of the solution.

The experience that many countries have in facing these threats would be essential to help understanding and targeting the narcotrafficking, as well as the technology and logistics needed to target these groups effectively. A multi-faceted strategy is needed, from opening direct channels with Syria, to vital cooperation with regional actors, and most importantly an international coalition similar to the anti-ISIS global coalition should be also considered as one of the most effective ways to make a real impact on the ground.

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