Date of Graduation

Spring 2011


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Christopher Harmon


cocaine, counternarcotics, crime-terror nexus, crop eradication, drug trafficking organizations, insurgents, opium, war on drugs, war on terror

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


This paper evaluates US counternarcotics strategies in two major source countries—Colombia and Afghanistan—and one major transit country for narcotics—Mexico. All three case studies present different blends of culture, history, US relations, and narcoterrorism. US counternarcotics strategies involve eradication, interdiction, alternative development, and integrating host nation law enforcement with military capabilities. All of these have been used at varying capacities in the three countries. Integrating counternarcotics strategies into counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Colombia contributed to counterinsurgency (COIN) success, but not counternarcotics where Afghan opium and Andean cocaine exports remain relatively stable. Integrating COIN into counternarcotics in Colombia has yielded more military-law enforcement cooperation than integrating counternarcotics into COIN in Afghanistan. US counternarcotics strategy in Mexico depends on border control and military training and equipment; monetary aid and alternative development remain scant compared to Colombia and Afghanistan. US drug imports partially stabilized but continue to flow through the US-Mexican border. This thesis delves further into the crime-terror nexus detailing the illegally armed groups involved, the metrics for success, and future strategy considerations and concludes that counternarcotics success depends on the strategic context and the cultures involved.


© Mark Edward Limbo

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