On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the creation of the Terrorism and Narcotics Trafficking Unit. The new unit, which will merge the experience and expertise of the Terrorism and National Security and the International Narcotics Trafficking units, is a significant step in modernizing American counter-terrorism programs.
The connection between terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers is nothing new. Both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and the United Self Defense Forces of Columbia (AUC) have funded their guerrilla war largely through kidnapping and cocaine production. Similarly, the Taliban has relied upon the opium trade and Hezbollah has relied upon drug trafficking to finance their violent acts. Late last year, the Justice Department announced the arrest and indictment of three men for agreeing to transport cocaine throughout West and North Africa with the intent to support three terrorist organizations—Al Qaida, Al Qaida in the Islamic Magreb, and the FARC.
Recognizing that Islamic terrorist organizations are increasingly turning to the drug trade to finance their violent acts, the new unit in Manhattan will be uniquely qualified to combat this growing trend. As U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained, its mission will be "the investigation and prosecution of transnational acts of terrorism, narco-terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and money laundering, which threatens U.S. national security." Undoubtedly, this new office will make it more difficult for terrorist groups to use narcotics trafficking to finance their terrorist operations.