Counter-drug conference draws three DOD COCOMS, 28 countries
Three U.S. combatant commands and 48 alumni of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies gathered to develop a common understanding about security issues posed by drug smuggling and other illicit trafficking June 18-21.

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Three U.S. combatant commands and 48 alumni of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies gathered to develop a common understanding about security issues posed by drug smuggling and other illicit trafficking June 18-21.

The four-day “Counter Illicit Trafficking Alumni Community of Interest Workshop” brought together Marshall Center alumni from Europe, the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The Marshall Center’s alumni programs division sponsored the “first-time” event.

Goals were to develop common understanding of the security issues posed by trafficking humans, drugs, money, and cybercrime; improve international cooperation; share best practices; and strengthen the role of Marshall Center alumni across the various regions involved.

“My country is dealing with unsolved conflict and as a result, we have a lot of consequences to our economy and development. We should cooperate with all our partners and neighbors,” he said. “Exchange of experience with all participants from all points of view is crucial.”

Caryn Hollis, principal director for counternarcotics and global threats, office of the deputy assistant U.S. secretary of defense, served as keynote speaker. Attendees were also able to meet with members of U.S. Africa, Central, and European Commands and the Department of Homeland Security.

Brig. Gen. Mark Scraba, director of the Joint-Interagency Counter-Trafficking Center for EUCOM, summed up the importance of the Marshall Center alumni gathering.

“Counter-illicit trafficking has grown to be international and global in scope. It’s far-reaching. It’s a national security issue not only to our United States, but it’s a security issue to partner nations around the world,” Scraba said.

Superintendent Hakan Akdemir is assigned to a counter terrorism unit for the Turkish national police in Ankara. He tied his work in thwarting terrorists to stopping illicit trafficking.

“In countering terrorism, you must prevent their financing,” he said. “That financing begins [in a number of ways including] illicit and human trafficking. They are all ways to finance terrorism. That’s why this conference is important for us.”

Meanwhile, there’s the strength of the Marshall Center alumni network bolstering the counter-drug process, according to Dean Dwigans, chief of alumni programs. While 48 attended this week, better than 9,000 participants in Marshall Center programs will receive and share the information gained on counter-illicit trafficking during the conference.

Without workshops like these, despite resident course teachings, the worldwide network of Marshall Center graduates could wither and die, Dwigans said, and that’s an investment DOD doesn’t want to lose.

“If we end with a resident course and don’t continue to help these security professionals grow, then we’ve lost the potential of the graduates,” Dwigans said. “The idea of bringing them back this week is to keep forming that network of professionals – in this case, on counter-illicit trafficking – so they can use that in their professional duties to combat this problem.”

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