Terrorism and organised crime are intricately linked – and this is a fact that governments cannot ignore.
According to Guy Vinet, Head of the Strategic Police Matters Unit at the Transnational Threats Department, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), terrorist organisations like the Taliban are profiteering off of drug trafficking and other types of organised crime to keep their organisation running.
Vinet tells GovInsider that as technology advances, cybercrime has become “a new and trendy topic” – but governments have to keep in mind that “this is just a new way to commit crime”.
He shares how international cooperation is one way to address terrorism, organised crime and other transnational threats that are constantly evolving and changing.
Organised crime networks are “like multi-national companies”, according to Vinet, and they often operate in various areas – human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime, and even goods such as tobacco. “They work today in this area, and tomorrow if another area is more profitable, they will move from this to that,” Vinet says.
And much like multi-national companies, these crime groups have to work with connections outside of their country of origin to finance their operations. “For example, in South Eastern Europe, an organised group working in a small country such as Albania cannot be profitable without trafficking in another country,” Vinet explains, adding that this is the same logic behind business and economics.
It’s easier in today’s world for organised crime networks to expand beyond borders. “Before the proliferation of this new technology, the criminal groups had to deal with borders,” Vinet says. “But now with cyberspace, you can use it to communicate from one country to another; in fact, in cyberspace there is no border.”
Terrorist networks are closely linked with organised crime, as “terrorism needs money to work”, Vinet says. The Taliban, for example, profits from the trafficking of drugs, he explains. In 2014, a bust by Afghan forces led to the seizing of a metric ton of opium and various weapons, and the arrest of the Taliban shadow governor of Nimruz province, The New York Times reported. The report noted how “drug trafficking has become, by far, the Taliban’s most important and steady revenue source”.
“Terrorism needs money to work.”
In the report, an intelligence official was quoted as saying how this high-level Taliban commander “started as an idealist but became a professional smuggler”, and that “when he became the shadow governor, the trade became so lucrative, he could not give it up”.
Further, the United Nations’ Security Council Committee estimates that half of the overall annual $400 million income of the Taliban is “likely to be derived from the illicit narcotics economy”.
For governments to address the problem of organised crime, they must remember that it is often linked to terrorism, according to Vinet. “At the end of the day, everything is linked.”
Fighting back together
To act against this complex issue, international cooperation is key, Vinet believes. “You cannot fight transnational organised crime if you are not able to cooperate with somebody else,” he says.
Cooperation first begins with a discussion of the problem. Vinet’s organisation conducts conferences and workshops in its 57 participating countries all over the world to kickstart these conversations with each country’s neighbours.
“You cannot fight transnational organised crime if you are not able to cooperate with somebody else.”
The current theme is centred around “the nexus between trafficking illicit drugs, terrorism and organised crime”, he says. “I try to promote more cooperation between our participating states in order to make the work between police, law enforcement and judiciary systems more efficient,” he adds.
From previous experience, Vinet shares that in regions such as South Eastern Europe or Central Asia, discussions around cooperation are “not so well-implemented”, and he hopes to promote greater communication there. “Most of them they already know about this issue, but some of them are not well-aware,” he explains. “Some countries are more concerned, for example, just by terrorism.”
OSCE works with policing and border management agencies, and conducts training sessions and forums on various security-related concerns, including arms control, policing strategies, and counter-terrorism. The organisation also carries out “field operations, meaning that we have some missions which are deployed in some countries,” explains Vinet. Through these missions, the organisation assists host countries and helps them put their OSCE commitments into practice. Currently, OSCE has a presence in parts of Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
Vinet also has a focus on “police development and reform”, he says. An OSCE report on police reform in Kosovo states that the purpose of reform is “democratic policing”. By depoliticising policing departments and agencies, reform will help to improve on “the direct relationship between public confidence in and expectations of the police and police performance standards”. After all, the report notes, “a police organisation cannot perform effectively without the trust and support of the public”.
The report goes on to add that political and policing leaders of the country must be convinced of the need to reform, not simply because the European Union or wider international community believe that it is “necessary”, but because these leaders know that it is “the right thing”.
The world is changing, and organised crime is changing along with it. To keep up, Vinet says, countries need to collaborate, and start changing from within – through training, workshops and police reform.
Organised crime is not likely to be eradicated by the actions of any one country. But with cooperation across countries and regions, there is a fighting chance.
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