Monograph, The Trafficking/Terrorism Nexus: Mapping Security Threats and State Responses in Central Asia
Mariya Y. Omelicheva & Lawrence P. Markowitz

The convergence of terrorist and criminal milieus, exemplified in the illicit activities of the major terrorist organizations, represents an emerging challenge to international peace and security. While this convergence may take different forms, several broad patterns are clearly evident. The disruption of global networks of terrorist financing has led a number of well-known terrorist groups to turn to illegal means for financing their operations. At the same time, transnational criminal groups seeking security for their illicit enterprises have deployed political violence against governments or supported their terrorist counterparts with funds. Drug trafficking is considered to be the main facilitator of crime-terror interactions, rivaled only by the looting of diamonds and other valuable natural resources. It is as “a kind of plow,” which value induces criminal and terrorist groups to cut trafficking routes that can later be converted in smuggling routes for other commodities and people. Despite its multifaceted role in contemporary world politics, the terrorism/trafficking nexus remains insufficiently mapped out and inadequately explained by much of the academic literature. Several recent global surveys have gone far in staking out the widespread existence of intersections of trafficking, crime and terrorism, but their broad scope have made them less successful in specifying the causes of this phenomenon. Alongside these cross-national studies, several works have focused on these problems in Post-Communist Eurasia or parts of Central Asia. Although these have examined key aspects of the nexus and include a focus on the state, these regional studies do not provide a systematic and comprehensive explanatory model of the nexus. By contributing to these works, this book seeks to bridge the global and regional divide in this literature, bring greater theoretical focus to the study of the nexus, place the state at the center of explanatory models, and add to a deeper understanding of Central Asia as an important site where trafficking, terrorism, and crime intersect. The book employs a carefully structured three-part research design. First, drawing on the comparative study of terrorism, trafficking, and organized crime, it stakes out a comprehensive typology of trafficking/terrorism linkages and presents a clear model of the causal factors driving the trafficking/terrorism nexus. Second, the book applies GIS-enabled tools to map terrorist-criminal connections and presents a series of maps visualizing locational patterns and interactive effects of trafficking and terrorism in Central Asia. Third, utilizing a series of in-depth expert interviews conducted in Central Asia, it specifies the critical role of the state and the causal mechanisms by which state involvement forges particular relationships between terrorism and trafficking within the nexus (and then tests these findings against sub-national socio-economic and topographic data).

The Argument

This book explains the emergence and nature of a terrorism/trafficking nexus as a consequence of certain geospatial and socioeconomic factors and the critical involvement of the state. As the book argues, while socioeconomic and geospatial factors do matter in explaining the intersections of organized criminal activity, drug trafficking, and terrorism, it is the state – specifically its collusion in the drug trade – that fosters the terrorism/trafficking nexus. The more the state is involved in crime, the more sophisticated forms the nexus is likely to take. This combination of factors – specific socioeconomic and geospatial conditions coupled with key mechanisms of state involvement – provide the basis of our model explaining the presence and nature of trafficking/terrorism connections.