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Drawn by its vast coastline, limited law enforcement capacity and weak governance, Latin American drug traffickers in recent years have turned West Africa into a major transshipment point for cocaine and other illegal drugs. It's estimated that 60% of the cocaine sold in Europe now passes through nations such as Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Ghana and Senegal.
That's an alarming trend for both international counternarcotics efforts and the stability of the countries affected. The United States is coordinating the work of 3 government departments to work with nations in the region and other international partners to confront the problem, which in the near term is expected to get worse before it gets better.
Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson told Congress recently that the U.S. State, Justice and Defense Departments are united in their understanding of the threat drug trafficking poses not only to the nations of West Africa, but to U.S. interests as well.
The problem is not isolated to West Africa alone. Kenya and Ethiopia have become major transshipment routes for heroin coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The impact this has is seen in crime and corruption in the affected countries and ultimately an increase in drug use by people in the transshipment points.
The U.S. is working with the European Commission and United Nations to help nations in the region, with intelligence gathering, maritime patrol and assistance in the criminal justice sector. Ghana, Togo, and Sierra Leone have already demonstrated willingness to working closely with the U.S. and other countries have expressed interest.