Fifty-eight military and civilian officials from 32 countries received certificates for completing a four-day counternarcotics and transnational threats symposium on Feb. 16, 2012, at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Four U.S. Department of Defense academic centers—Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, and George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies—cohosted the seminar on countering transnational threats and the illegal narcotics trade. Besides the drug trade, speakers discussed threats posed by international terrorism, smuggling, and environmental and health problems within, between, and among the disparate regions dealing with trafficking.
ACSS Director Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, who offered participants some closing thoughts, said the intention of the event had been to share experiences, best practices, and contacts among security-sector colleagues working in different countries.
Through the symposium, it may be that, “as military officers, police, and public servants, all of you now have a clearer view of the dimensions of this threat—of narcotrafficking and other forms of illicit trafficking—than do your political leaders,” Bellamy said. “You are now aware of the threat this poses to governance. There is now much for you to do in terms of raising public awareness.”
Charlie Snyder, Senior Advisor to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Department of State, relayed to attendees stories about the drug trade’s development during his time, from the Vietnam War to smugglers’ construction of submarines capable of carrying 3,000 tons of cocaine.
Underlining the international nature of the problem, he said his State Department office alone runs a multibillion-dollar police-training program in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, and areas throughout the Western Hemisphere.
“It’s not just a counternarcotics problem, it’s a national security problem,” Snyder said.
Dr. Benjamin P. Nickels, ACSS Assistant Professor of Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism, reinforced the need for international cooperation in the last words of the seminar.
“We’ve considered in-depth the problem of cocaine trafficking from South America, through West Africa, and into Europe,” Nickels said. “We’ve discussed the need to build bridges to counter these threats. We all recognize the need for a unified front.”