Narco-terrorism, narco-jihadism, narco-insurgency, mafia-state, narco-state and even narco-terror state: many labels have been used in the past decades to describe the interlinkages between international phenomena such as the illicit drugs economy, transnational organized crime, conflict and terrorism. Professor Louise Shelly has called these ‘dirty entanglements.’ For example, Mexico’s dire situation has been described as a narco-conflict. Colombia’s FARC and Afghanistan’s Taliban have both been depicted as drug cartels in recent years. In Afghanistan, NATO has recently gone so far to bomb opium processing laboratories to combat what the Atlantic Alliance calls ‘Taliban’s narcotics financing.’

This course explores the linkages between crime, terrorism and conflict as key global governance challenges in the 21st century. It aims to help students develop a nuanced view about the extent to which such interlinkages are real or political fabrications to promote certain policies. Therefore, an important part of the course will relate these issues to the policy positions of states and international institutions. For example, in Afghanistan there has been quite a political push after 2005 by both the United Nations and NATO to increasingly link the Taliban to the illicit opium economy. What has been the effect of such ‘securitization moves’, using the concept of the Copenhagen School of security studies? Are politicians and military leaders able to frame conflicts and insecurity in a way that highlights the need to address certain transnational crimes? Or, vice versa, is the ‘fight’ against transnational crime used as a Trojan Horse to promote other policies?