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Terrorist, Insurgents, and Criminals--Growing Nexus?

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2008 Pages: 80-93
Chester G. Oehme III
Date Published
January 2008
14 pages
Using Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies, this article explores the scope of the relationship among criminal organizations, terrorists, and insurgents; how the transitional period between postconflict and reconstruction/nation-building created fertile ground for strengthening the criminal-terrorist-insurgent continuum; and what the United States and its Coalition allies can do to mitigate the security challenges posed by the criminal-terrorist-insurgent problem in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Security gaps created across much of Iraq and Afghanistan have become fertile grounds not only for the well-equipped insurgents, but also for the criminal networks with whom they have forged symbiotic alliances. The proliferation of criminal groups and their activities threaten U.S. national security interests in these countries, particularly as the links between criminal elements, insurgents, and terrorists become blurred. Together, these groups not only promote violent environments, but also become dominant actors in shadow economies. Research suggests that although the operations and objectives of criminal groups, insurgents, and terrorists may differ, there is mounting evidence that these groups interact for mutually beneficial reasons. They share the common goals of ensuring that postconflict countries have ineffective laws and law enforcement, porous borders, profitable corruption, and lucrative criminal opportunities. This article examines how the forces are playing out in distinctive ways in Afghanistan and Iraq. Current Coalition strategies have largely defined the threats in narrow, separate, and often ambiguous terms. In most cases, the organized crime component has been artificially separated from the activities of insurgents, jihadists, warlords, and terrorists. The convergence of organized criminal networks with the other nonstate actors requires a more sophisticated, interactive, and concerted response that takes into account the dynamics of the relationships and adapts to the shifting tactics used by the various hybrid networks. 52 notes