US Takes Drug War to Africa

Critics say United States just playing 'Whac-A-Mole,' risks blowback
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2012 7:45 AM CDT
US Takes Drug War to Africa
In this May 12, 2010 photo, a US Special Forces soldier trains troops from Senegal combat techniques in Kati, Mali, during a joint training exercise with units from several African armies.    (AP Photo/Alfred de Montesquiou)

(Newser) – Latin America has long been the United States' focus on the war on drugs. But increasingly that war is reaching Africa, too, as US forces are training counternarcotic squads in Ghana and are looking to start similar programs in Nigeria and Kenya, reports the New York Times. In addition, the DEA has opened an office in Senegal and the US military is working with Cape Verde to create a regional center for detecting smuggling ships. American assistance for counternarcotic programs in West Africa reached $50 million in each of the last two years, well up from $7.5 million in 2009.

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"West Africa is now facing a situation analogous to the Caribbean in the 1980s, where small, developing, vulnerable countries along major drug-trafficking routes are vastly under-resourced to deal with the wave of dirty money coming their way," says the US' top counternarcotics official. US officials say they want to bring Central America's latest anti-smuggling enforcement techniques to Africa, which they say is about three years behind. But skeptics point out that America's anti-drug efforts are little more than a game of "Whac-A-Mole," with smugglers just moving to new weak points. "And there is always blowback to this," notes one expert. "You start killing people in foreign countries—whether criminals or not—and there is going to be fallout." (Read more counternarcotics stories.)

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