Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics
This report provides an overview of U.S. international drug control policy. It describes major international counternarcotics initiatives and evaluates the broad array of U.S. drug control policy tools currently in use. The report also considers alternative counterdrug policy approaches to current initiatives and raises several counterdrug policy issues and considerations for policy makers.
Illegal drugs refer to narcotic, psychotropic, and related substances whose production, sale, and use are restricted by domestic law and international drug control agreements. Common illegal drugs include cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs. International trade in these drugs represents a lucrative and what at times seems to be an intractable criminal enterprise, affecting countries worldwide and generating between $100 billion and $1 trillion in illicit profits per year. Revenue from the illegal drug industry provides international drug trafficking organizations with the resources to evade and compete with law enforcement officials; penetrate legitimate economic structures through money laundering; and, in some instances, challenge the authority of national governments. Despite apparent national resolve to address international narcotics trafficking, tensions appear at times between U.S. international drug control policy and other U.S. foreign policy goals and concerns. Pursuit of international drug control policies can sometimes negatively affect national interests by exacerbating political instability and economic dislocation in countries where narcotics production is entrenched economically and socially. Drug supply interdiction programs and U.S. systems to facilitate the international movement of legitimate goods, people, and wealth also are often at odds. The high priority of terrorism in U.S. foreign policy has resulted in increased attention to links between drug and terrorism groups; a challenge facing policy makers, however, is how to avoid diverting counterdrug resources for anti-terrorism ends in areas of potentially low payoff.
Congress is involved in all aspects of U.S. international drug control policy, regularly appropriating funds for counterdrug initiatives, conducting oversight activities on federal counterdrug programs, and legislating changes to agency authorities and other counterdrug policies. Major U.S. programs to combat drug production and trafficking exist in the Andean region of South America, Afghanistan, and Mexico. The U.S. government is also involved in developing several new counternarcotics programs, including in West Africa, the Caribbean (Caribbean Basin Security Initiative), and Central America (Central America Regional Security Initiative). Through its appropriations and federal oversight responsibilities, the 111th Congress may chose to continue tackling several emerging policy issues concerning U.S. international drug control policy, including the role of the Department of Defense in counterdrug foreign assistance; the balance between alternative development and eradication programs; and how to address the vast array of cross-cutting and transnational dimensions of the international drug trade, ranging from police corruption to drug-related violence to links between drug trafficking organization and terrorist groups.
Date of Report: March 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 46
Order Number: RL34543
Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 301-253-0881.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Liana Sun Wyler