Countering Illicit Networks in the Levant and the Gulf Workshop

The NESA Center, as part of its continuing series with CENTCOM, held its second “Countering Illicit Networks in the Levant and Gulf” workshop from 8-11 December, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The focus of the workshop was to build a deeper understanding of the methods and challenges of counter-narcotics interdiction in the Gulf and Levant region at both the inter and intra state level; to improve participants’ functional ability to use analytically based problem-mapping tools to improve counter-narcotics interdiction efforts; and to develop a series of specific recommendations on improving interdiction efforts to counter the trafficking of illicit goods in the region.

Participants were divided into targeted multi-country working groups to best develop recommendations to confront challenges in counter-narcotics. Participants’ recommendations included urging states to develop incentives for information sharing as well as a trans-border operations coordination center, and for states to develop infrastructure better allowing governments to track digital currency and thus have greater insight into online trafficking patterns and networks.

During the workshop, participants heard firsthand from a former Special Agent of the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on the strategic context of narcotics interdiction and the need to combat highly technical narcotics networks with agile, multi-level, and interdisciplinary taskforces. Other highlights included a panel conversation between a strategic advisor to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and a leader from the GCC Criminal Information Network, who led participants through inhibitors of interdiction along regional networks. Representatives from a leading U.S. think tank, Customs and Border Patrol, and a local anti-narcotics task force also shared successful methods of interdiction, noting particularly the importance of addressing the rule-of-law, networks, and financial crime.

The program was led by NESA Professor Jennifer Jefferis and was attended by participants from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

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