Monday, October 17, 2016

Applying the Crime-Terror Nexus to the Sahel - Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor 

Proposed Topic: Applying the Crime-Terror Nexus to the Sahel


Social network analysis would be incredibly useful and illuminating for my capstone, which seeks to categorize the relationship between terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations in the Sahel region of Africa. In order to categorize the relationship, I applied the theoretical framework developed Tamara Makarenko known as the Crime-Terror Continuum (see below for an in-depth description).
Terrorist and other non-state armed groups have been a major cause in the political instability of the region since decolonization. Marginalization of the ethnic Tuareg communities and the appeal of the jihadist ideology of Al-Qaeda have allowed such groups to thrive. One element I looked at was the tangible support these groups received from connections with organized crime.

The Crime-Terror Continuum

The Continuum’s visual and conceptual representation has evolved since its introduction in 2003. The first iteration included a “basic linear model”[1] with two distinct types of groups (criminal and terrorist) on a single plane. This model included a sliding scale where groups could be placed into four different categories: (1) Alliances, (2) Appropriation of Tactics/Operational Motivations (3) Convergence (of political or criminal interests), and (4) Black Hole.[2]

Figure 1: The Original Crime-Terror Continuum, 2004.[3]

The Continuum was modified “to account for the various linkages between OC and terrorism as they have emerged and evolved in a number of different regions, while highlighting a more sophisticated phenomenon which operates within a series of planes.”[4] The spectrum now includes a gradual progression with additional points where integration occurs and the organizations becomes a hybrid. There are three different planes: operational, organizational, and evolutionary. On the operational level (first plane), the first entails a tactical alliance between the two distinct groups for “mutual operational benefits,”[5] and the second node denotes the group’s appropriation of tactics from the ‘other’.[6]
It is on the second plane where the criminal or terrorist group goes beyond mimicking the tactics of the other. From the terrorist perspective, an example of this would occur if the group incorporates “criminal capabilities into their logistical and support structures.” [7] In the following node, “a hybrid entity emerges and simultaneously displays ideological and economic motivations by perpetrating acts of politically motivated terrorism and engaging in OC for profit maximization.”[8]
At the third plane of Evolution/Transformation, the group in question transcends the nexus between a criminal or terrorist group, and has fully changed its tactics and motivations.[9] Makarenko finds no contemporary evidence which shows that such a radical change has occurred in an organized criminal or terrorist group.[10]

Figure 2: The Refined Crime-Terror Continuum, 2013.[11]

Another more recent version of the Continuum accentuates the distinct nature of each group through separate strands that transcend their respective planes and intersect.

Figure 3: The Refined Crime-Terror Continuum, 2014.[12]


If I were to complete this project, I would use the data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START) Organized and/or Transnational Crime/Drug Cartel Nexus with Illicit Radiological/Nuclear Trade, Smuggling and/or Terrorism in Europe and North, Sahelian and West Africa.[13] I have reached out to some of the researchers as well as some contacts I developed from my internship there, but have yet to get a response.

            The coding process for this study would be quite tedious, but still possible. I have interned with START before and seen firsthand the lengthy process. Some pieces of data may be easy to code. For example, a confirmed case where a Terrorist Organization (TO) granted passage for smugglers would be marked as an “alliance.” The aforementioned study identified 143 TO’s and 381 TCO’s[14], which would serve in this case as individual nodes and connections could be made from there. There are plenty of possible variables, but below are some of the most useful in identifying the nexus:

·      Type of event (attack, flow of goods)
·      Actor/type of actor
·      Name and number of TCO’s
·      Name and number of TO’s
·      Number of known “links” between organizations, which can include:
o   Geographic overlap (can use the TransIT Tool and Global Terrorism database to find overlap between smuggling routes and terrorist attacks). The START research identified certain choke points, which could show if there is a strong correlation between TCO and TO activity.
o   Individuals with connections between TCO’s and TO’s
o   Events where both TCO and TO were present (e.g., joint assault or operation).
·      Number and nature of interactions between TCO’s and TO’s:
o   Alliance (basic cooperation/interaction between TCO and TO)
o   Appropriation of Tactics (e.g., kidnapping for ransom, assault with small arms)
o   Integration (an example is the Taliban using opium profits to fund operations)
o   Hybrid (e.g., media analysis of public statements as well as studying events) An example is Mokhtar Belmokhtar who is a known jihadist but also known as Mr. Marlboro, a prolific cigarette trafficker. Many question whether his loyalty lies with the ideological cause or if he is simply out to make a profit – perhaps both!

            There are plenty of other variables and aspects that could be studied in this case, but the criteria listed above would be a very good starting point. Putting a value together that is based in empirical evidence, rather than anecdotal or speculative evidence, would provide a much stronger backing for policies that would be implemented to counter terrorist or organized crime.

[1] Makarenko, Tamara. "A Model of Terrorist-Criminal Relations." Janes intelligence review 15, no. 8 (2003): 6-11.
[2] Tamara Makarenko (2004) The Crime-Terror Continuum: Tracing the Interplay between Transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism, Global Crime, 6:1, 129-145, DOI: 10.1080/1744057042000297025
[3] Makarenko, Tamara. "A Model of Terrorist-Criminal Relations." Janes intelligence review 15, no. 8 (2003): 6-11.
[4] Tamara Makarenko & Michael Mesquita (2014) Categorising the crime–terror nexus in the European Union, Global Crime, 15:3-4, 259-274, DOI: 10.1080/17440572.2014.931227
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Makarenko, Tamara. Europe’s Crime-Terror Nexus: Links between Terrorist and Organised Crime Groups in the European Union. Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, European Parliament, 2012.
[8] Makarenko ,“Europe’s Crime-Terror Nexus: Links between Terrorist and Organised Crime Groups in the European Union”
[9] Ibid
[10] Ibid, p. 12
[11] Ibid, p. 17
[12] Makarenko & Mesquita, p. 260

1 comment:

Christopher Tunnard said...

Tedious coding, yes, but a really interesting project. The Continuum is a great place to start, but the difficulty is finding the right networks to study and making the case for SNA. I wish you had speculated on that a bit more, as I know that there are others interested in developing a network approach to looking at OC and terror to look as leadership and other issues, ands they could benefit from fresh thinking by someone who's just taken the course.. Among those interested is Irina Chindea, who just received her PhD from Fletcher earlier this year.

If you're ever interested in taking this further, let me know.