The Intelligence Review | volume 4 | issue 7 |


The volume is the product of a transatlantic collaboration between the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) and the European Intelligence Academy (EIA), a network of intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students, who are dedicated to promoting collaboration between Europe and the United States in intelligence scholarship and research. As always, the contents of this latest volume of The Intelligence Review are both timely and insightful. Analyst Ryan Lawrence examines a series of recent developments surrounding the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which is arguably Mexico’s most powerful. Tyra Bjorlo discusses the highly overlooked issue of the rising importance of women in Salafi-jihadist groups, with particular reference to the Islamic State. Kyle Brossard focuses on the ongoing war against maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. Morgan Clasgens brings us up to speed on the current state of the Pakistani Taliban, and considers their future prospects. Audrey Oien evaluates the current and projected status of relations between Russia and China. Joseph Cain focuses on the National Liberation Army, a Colombia-based armed militant group with an increasing presence in Venezuela. And Madison Scholar considers the national-security implications of marijuana legalization in the United States.

CJNG: The most powerful drug cartel in Mexico

Tracking female leadership in the Islamic State

Is the war against maritime piracy being won?

Pakistani Taliban: Current state and projections

The state of relations between Russia and China

The National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia

Marijuana legalization and US national security



CJNG: The most powerful drug cartel in Mexico

Tracking female leadership in the Islamic State

Is the war against maritime piracy being won?

Pakistani Taliban: Current state and projections

The state of relations between Russia and China

The National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia

Marijuana legalization and US national security







European Intelligence Academy

The European Intelligence Academy (EIA) was established in 2013 as an

international network of intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students,

who are dedicated to promoting research and scholarship across the European

Union (EU), as well as between the EU and other parts of the world,

particularly the United States. One of the primary aims of the EIA network

is to highlight the work of emerging graduate and undergraduate scholars

in the intelligence studies field, while encouraging cooperation in research

and scholarship between students of intelligence. The EIA is an initiative

of the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS).

Chanticleer Intelligence Brief

The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) was established in 2015 as a studentled

initiative supported by the Department of Politics at Coastal Carolina

University (CCU) in Conway, South Carolina, United States. It operates as

an ancillary practicum for students in the National Security and Intelligence

Studies program who wish to cultivate and refine their ability to gather, analyze

and present information in accordance with techniques used in the analytical

profession. The goal of the CIB is to train aspiring intelligence professionals in

the art of producing well-researched, impartial and factual analytical products.

The European Intelligence Academy

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Table of Contents

Foreword page 7

Dr. John Nomikos

Introduction page 11

Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis

CJNG: The Most Powerful Drug Cartel in Mexico page 15

Ryan Lawrence

Tracking Female Leadership in the Islamic State page 23

Tyra Bjorlo

Is the War Against Maritime Piracy Being Won? page 31

Kyle Brossard

The Pakistani Taliban: Current State and Projections page 37

Morgan Clasgens

The Current and Projected Status of Sino-Russian Relations page 45

Audrey Oien

The National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia page 55

Joseph Cain

Marijuana Legalization and US National Security page 63

Madison Scholar

Biographical Notes on Contributors page 69




In 2006, during the peak of the conflict in Iraq, and amidst the

carnage of the Israel-Hezbollah war, we created the Research

Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS). Our

goal was to promote cross-Atlantic research in international

affairs and security issues. From the beginning of our effort, we

devoted particular attention to issues such as the relationship

between the United States and its transatlantic partners,

intelligence and security studies, the integration of the European

Union on matters of security, and several pressing aspects of

global security. We have also worked systematically on Balkan and

Mediterranean studies, Turkish and Russian security policy, as

well as policy- and decision-making on national and international


To further-promote these goals, 2018, RIEAS launched a new

international scholarly publication, The Journal of European and

American Intelligence Studies (JEAIS). JEAIS is an academic-led

journal that focuses on the field of intelligence, but also touches

on several related areas of study and practice. Our emphasis is

on intelligence theory and practice, terrorism and counterterrorism,

homeland security, international security, international

relations, and geopolitics. The JEAIS has already published


three issues and has acquired a reputation as an all-inclusive

academic platform that enables established and emerging scholars

and practitioners of intelligence to share their perspectives. These

authors, who come from both the public and private sectors,

converge in JEAIS in order to share their knowledge, ideas and

—often innovative— approaches to intelligence studies.

The European Intelligence Academy is another project of RIEAS.

It was launched in 2013 with the goal of assisting and promoting the

growth of the field of intelligence studies in European academic

institutions, in cooperation with our American partners. The

EIA aims to advance the intelligence profession and intelligence

scholarship by helping set standards, build resources and share

knowledge within the intelligence field. It also aims to promote a

strong intelligence culture in the academic institutions of European

Union member-states. Furthermore, the EIA promotes crossborder

research and scholarship cooperation between intelligence

academics in the European Union and their colleagues in other

parts of the world, particularly the United States.

Another major aspect of the EIA’s effort is to highlight the work

of emerging postgraduate and undergraduate scholars in the

intelligence studies field, and to provide them with a forum to

pursue relevant research and exchange ideas. The ultimate goal of

this effort is to connect young scholars who focus their undergraduate

and post-graduate studies on intelligence in Europe

and the United States. We are therefore extremely pleased to

mark the publication of this issue of The Intelligence Review, Vol.4,

No.7, December 2019, edited by Professor Joseph Fitsanakis of

Coastal Carolina University’s Intelligence and National Security

Studies program, and published by the EIA in association with

the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief.

Indeed, the deep connections between RIEAS and Coastal Carolina

University’s Intelligence and National Security Studies program

epitomize the EIA’s efforts to promote transatlantic cooperation

among students and emerging scholars of intelligence. In the


summer of 2018, RIEAS hosted over 20 members of Coastal

Carolina University’s Intelligence and National Security Studies

program in Athens, Greece, where they attended the EIAsponsored

workshop entitled “Illicit Antiquities Smuggling and

Organized Crime”. The workshop was led by government officials

and leading experts from the police and security services. We

hope to have an opportunity to repeat this fruitful exchange in

the future.

The work of the young scholars at Coastal Carolina University’s

intelligence program is at the heart of RIEAS’ efforts, and

reflects the goals and mission of the EIA. We are therefore

honored to support the superb effort that has led to this latest

volume of The Intelligence Review.

Dr. John Nomikos

Director, European Intelligence Academy




Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis

Associate Professor, Intelligence and National Security Studies program,

Coastal Carolina University

Deputy Director, European Intelligence Academy

The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) reached out to the European

Intelligence Academy (EIA) in 2016 to explore possible paths

of collaboration. At that time, the CIB had been in operation

for just over a year, having been founded in January of 2015 as

a student-led extracurricular project of the Intelligence and

National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University.

The project drew its human capital, and its inspiration, from

some of the most determined and ambitious undergraduate

students in our growing intelligence program at Coastal Carolina

University. These students had received hundreds of hours on

in-class instruction on the fundamentals of intelligence collection

and analysis. They were eager to put those skills to the test

focusing on domestic and international problems developing in

real time. The CIB quickly became the platform that allowed

these ambitious students to put their knowledge to the test.


By the end of the first semester of the CIB’s operation, two

things were becoming clear: first that, in the process of applying

their intelligence-related skills to real-life problems, CIB analysts

were producing a significant amount of research output; and

second, that this output was both timely and worth distributing

to the outside world. We began to do just that, initially by

publicizing the CIB’s output through our website,

February of 2016 saw the first three analytical products appear

on the CIB website. There was an update on the of extradition

of the Sinaloa leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United

States, as well as a time-sensitive analysis of the North Atlantic

Treaty Organization’s military buildup in Eastern Europe.

Additionally, our domestic affairs desk evaluated the internal

rivalries between the volatile milieu of far-right-wing groups and

militias in the United States.

It was at that critical moment that the EIA contacted us to

propose the creation of a new publication that would share the

work of the CIB with the world. The first product of this

collaborative effort was published in July of 2016. It contained

reports from 11 CIB analysts on topics such as the Islamic State,

the Afghan Taliban, and the intricacies of North Korea’s

domestic political landscape. Other reports touched on the

political stability of Venezuela, the future of the European

Union, and the global oil market. Today, six issues of the journal

later, we can say that we have published over 50 examples of

intelligence products by CIB analysts, spanning just about every

major pressing security-related issue under the sun since 2016.

The process of selecting analytical products for publication has

remained the same since our first issue. All of the CIB’s output

is submitted for review by an expert panel of current intelligence

practitioners. The panel judges these submissions in accordance

with standard editorial procedures that follow the double-blind

standard. The selection process focuses heavily on effective

writing and precise argumentation from the point of view of the

intelligence practitioner. The final selection that makes it to

publication represents the very best that the CIB’s written output


has to offer. In addition to the impressive acumen of their authors,

these analyses showcase one of the unique attributes of the

Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal

Carolina University.

As always, the contents of our present volume are both timely and

insightful. CIB analyst Ryan Lawrence examines a series of recent

developments surrounding the Jalisco New Generation Cartel,

which is arguably Mexico’s most powerful. Tyra Bjorlo discusses

the highly overlooked issue of the rising importance of women

in Salafi-jihadist groups, with particular reference to the Islamic

State. Kyle Brossard focuses on the ongoing war against maritime

piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. Morgan

Clasgens brings us up to speed on the current state of the

Pakistani Taliban, and considers their future prospects. Audrey

Oien evaluates the current and projected status of relations

between Russia and China. Joseph Cain focuses on the National

Liberation Army, a Colombia-based armed militant group with an

increasing presence in Venezuela. And Madison Scholar considers

the national-security implications of marijuana legalization in the

United States.

This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive array of analysts

that the CIB has ever been able to showcase in The Intelligence

Review. In addition to the persistence and talent of our CIB

analysts, the quality of this publication continues to improve

thanks to the support of Coastal Carolina University faculty and

staff, the invaluable sponsorship of the EIA, and the continuous

input and encouragement we receive from current and former

members of the United States Intelligence Community. Their

support inspires us to continue our work in the future.



CJNG: The Most Powerful Drug Cartel

in Mexico

Ryan Lawrence

Contemporary cartel power structures are remarkably fluid, and

it is well established that the cartel landscape is today more

fragmented and competitive than ever before (Beittel 2018:24).

The sentencing of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El

Chapo” Guzmán Loera to life in a United States (US) prison, in

tandem with impending changes to law enforcement protocol,

may indicate yet another significant shift in Mexico’s cartel

landscape. Consequently, it can be stated with moderate confidence

that the Sinaloa cartel remains Mexico’s most powerful drug

cartel, with respect to cohesion of the leadership and personnel

apparatus, territorial control and overall operational capability.

However, the cartel has entered a state of decline. Therefore, it

can also be stated with moderate confidence that the Jalisco

New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is poised to become Mexico’s

most powerful drug cartel over the course of current Mexican

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s term.



In 2006, then-President Felipe Calderón deployed the Mexican

military into the streets to combat rising cartel violence and

militarization. The strategy employed by Calderón, and his

eventual successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, called for the removal

of “kingpins” and prominent leaders within the cartels. Its

aftermath saw increased cartel balkanization due to ensuing

power struggles (Lee et al. 2019). Fractures within several

prominent cartels and the resulting clashes among splinter

groups led to significantly higher levels of violence all across

Mexico. One of these fractures was responsible for the creation

of the CJNG, a splinter group of the now defunct Milenio cartel,

which at the time operated under the Sinaloa cartel. The CJNG

retained a working relationship with the Sinaloa cartel until the

summer of 2013, after which the organizations separated

(Beittel 2018:22). Notably, this dissociation occurred around the

same time Guzmán was a wanted fugitive and consequently

arrested for the second time. After his second escape, Guzmán

was rearrested for a third and final time on January 8, 2016,

following a shootout with Mexican marines. He was extradited

to the United States a year later, on January 19, 2017, to stand

trial (Beittel 2018:10).

All the while, the CJNG has focused its efforts on taking advantage

of a regional power vacuum, capitalizing on the disorder and

uncertainty within the Sinaloa and other rival cartels and rapidly

expanding its operations to a global scale. It is estimated that the

CJNG now boasts a presence in 23 of the 31 Mexican states

while also carrying out operations in the Americas, Asia and

Europe (Beittel 2018:23-24; Drug Enforcement Administration

2018:97). As recently as 2018, the CJNG was described as one of

the most territorially aggressive cartels in Mexico, as illustrated

by its efforts to seize control of key ports on the Pacific and

Gulf Coasts, which grant the group even greater control of the

narcotics supply chain (Beittel 2018:23). The CJNG’s aggressive

expansion efforts have contributed in large part to the epidemic

levels of violence that presently afflict contested cities such as


Tijuana, Juarez, Guanajuato and Mexico City (Stewart 2019).

Indeed, this aggression has caught the attention of both Mexican

and US authorities, and the cartel’s surging notoriety recently

prompted the US Department of Justice to rank it among the

five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the

world (Drug Enforcement Administration 2018).

Conviction of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera

Guzmán’s trial took place in Brooklyn, New York, and lasted

11 weeks, with a guilty verdict delivered on February 12, 2019.

The drug kingpin was convicted on several counts, including

distribution of cocaine and heroin, illegal firearms possession

and money laundering (Drug Enforcement Administration

2019). Guzmán’s removal prompted internal conflict and

speculation about the future of the Sinaloa cartel, though it is

widely believed that his longtime associate, Ismael “El Mayo”

Zambada García, has assumed leadership of the cartel (Beittel

2018:14). However, his leadership is not without contention;

Zambada is in poor health, and Guzmán’s two sons, Ivan

Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo, have thus far struggled to tame

internal power struggles in their father’s absence (Anon. 2018;

Agren 2017). Despite Zambada’s deteriorating health and his

lieutenants’ inability to quench dissent within the cartel’s ranks,

the Sinaloa retains international dominance and may still have

influence in the highest levels of the Mexican government

(Beittel 2018:14).

Possibility of Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) Designation

In an interview on March 12, 2019, US President Donald Trump

stated that his administration was seriously considering labeling

violent Mexican drug cartels, or factions of specific cartels, as

Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) following a February

20, 2019 letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by US

Representatives Chip Roy and Mark Green (Phillips 2019). In

their letter, the Congressmen requested that the administration

classify the CJNG and other particularly violent cartels as FTOs

so as to introduce sanctions on cartel members and their assets


and further-stigmatize the groups domestically and abroad (Roy

2019). Roy and Green argue that an FTO designation would

make entry into the US unlawful for cartel members and those

providing material support or resources, and would allow the

US Department of the Treasury to block cartel assets (Roy 2019).

President Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador’s New Strategy

The election of current Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopéz

Obrador spurred optimism in Mexico, as he pledged to make

significant changes to the country’s counter-cartel operations.

Citing the epidemic levels of violence and his predecessors’

failure with military intervention, López Obrador began his

reforms by declaring an end to the Mexican Drug War on

January 30, 2019 (Quackenbush 2019). In an attempt to reduce

cartel balkanization, the administration also pledged efforts to

cease the targeting of cartel kingpins, remove the military from

ongoing counter-narcotics operations, and prioritize the

development of a National Guard. These measures are planned

to accompany the possible decriminalization of marijuana and

amnesty for low-level criminals (Agren 2018). Despite these

repeated claims, López Obrador has continued to rely on the

military through the beginning months of his term, and violence

levels remain on pace to reach record highs in 2019, drawing

criticism from many observers about the efficacy of López

Obrador’s enforcement efforts (Agren 2018; Anon. 2019).

Moreover, despite López Obrador’s legislative success with the

creation of the National Guard, efforts to find new recruits have

been hampered in part by public protests by officers of the

Mexican federal police as recently as the beginning of July 2019

(Anon. 2019).


Despite the apparent instability and relative decline of the Sinaloa

cartel as a result of Guzmán’s removal, it should be noted that

the cartel continues to control numerous territories and critical

drug trafficking routes in Mexico. Moreover, it maintains the


most expansive influence of any cartel, both in Mexico and

internationally (Drug Enforcement Administration 2018:97; Knierim

2018:6). However, since the CJNG’s rise to prominence between

2013 and 2015, the group has extended its geographic reach

while maintaining high levels of internal cohesion, exploiting the

splintering of the Sinaloa cartel (Beittel 2018:23-24). Notably,

2018 and the first half of 2019 have proven to be a time of

relative stasis among the cartel conflict zones, with no cartel

gaining any significant territory (Stewart 2019). This may

indicate the slow decline of the Sinaloa cartel, allowing it to still

retain a tentative grasp on its status as Mexico’s most powerful

drug cartel in the near term.

Furthermore, FTO designations by President Trump’s administration

could signal a significant shift in the methods employed by US

law enforcement to pursue powerful cartels like the CJNG

(Phillips 2019). Worth noting, however, is that the CJNG has

been resistant to numerous enforcement efforts thus far,

including financial sanctions by the US Department of the

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Beittel 2018:24).

Meanwhile, López Obrador’s decision to declare an end to the

Mexican Drug War and cease the targeting of cartel leaders is

likely an attempt to curb epidemic levels of violence in Mexico,

including a record 33,341 intentional homicides in 2018 (Romo

2019). This indicates what is likely to be a decrease in instances

of confrontation between the military and the cartels, but could

also have the unintended result of solidifying the leadership

apparatuses of existing cartels, possibly enabling these groups

to further consolidate their power. Moreover, despite claims

from López Obrador that violence in Mexico had not risen, it

was recently reported that 8,493 people were murdered from

January 1 to March 31 of this year, amounting to a 9.6 percent

increase over the same period in 2018 (Anon. 2019). This signals

a probable continuation of the cartel-fueled violence that has

gripped Mexico for over a decade.



The Sinaloa cartel has been confirmed to be in a state of

deterioration, in light of Joaquín Guzmán’s conviction and the

splintering due to competition for leadership. Despite these

factors, the cartel retains significant influence and presence in

the international drug trade. However, as 2018 and the first half

of 2019 were marked by stagnations in cartel expansion, it can

be surmised that the Sinaloa’s decay will continue to be gradual.

Therefore, it can be stated with moderate confidence that the

Sinaloa cartel remains Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel, but

is in a state of decline. Additionally, taking into account the

CJNG’s meteoric rise to power and its ongoing stability despite

heightened enforcement efforts by US and Mexican authorities,

it can also be stated with moderate confidence that the CJNG

will definitively become Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel

during President López Obrador’s term.


Bibliography of References Cited

Agren, D. (2017) “Mexico After El Chapo: New Generation Fights for Control

of the Cartel”, The Guardian, 5 May

world/2017/may/05/el-chapo-sinaloa-drug-cartel-mexico>, accessed on

23 April 2019.

Agren, D. (2018) “Mexican President-elect’s New Plan to Fight Crime

Looks Like the Old Plan”, The Guardian, 21 November>,

accessed on 23 April 2019.

Anonymous (2018) “As El Chapo’s Day in Court Begins, El Mayo Fights

to Control the Sinaloa Cartel” Mexico News Daily, 5 November>, accessed

on 23 April 2019.

Anonymous (2019) “Mexican Police Protest Against Joining New National

Guard”, Reuters, 3 July

KCN1TZ07W?il=0>, accessed on 8 July 2019.

Anonymous (2019) “Mexico Murder Rate Rises in First Three Months of

2019”, BBC, 22 April

48012923>, accessed on 23 April 2019.

Beittel, J.S. (2018) Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,

Congressional Research Service, Washington, DC, United States.

Knierim, P.E. (2018) Narcos: Transnational Cartels and Border Security, United

States Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield, VA, United States.

Lee, B., Renwick, D., and Labrador, R.C. (2019) “Mexico’s Drug War”.

Council on Foreign Relations, New York, New York, United States <>, accessed on 22

April 2019.

Phillips, B.J. (2019) “Would Trump Label Mexican Cartels Terrorist

Organizations?”, The Washington Post, 26 March>,

accessed on 23

April 2019.

Quackenbush, C. (2019) “‘There Is Officially No More War.’ Mexico’s

President Declares an End to the Drug War Amid Skepticism”, Time, 31

January ,

accessed on 23 April 2019.

Romo, V. (2019) “Mexico Reports Highest Ever Homicide Rate In 2018,

Tops 33,000 Investigations”, National Public Radio, 23 January>,

accessed on 23 April


Roy, C. (2019) “Rep. Chip Roy Releases Bill Asking Sec. Pompeo To

Designate Cartels Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)”, Congressman


Chip Roy, 12 March ,

accessed on 23 April 2019.

Stewart, S. (2019) “Tracking Mexico’s Cartels in 2019”, Stratfor World

View, 29 January ,

accessed on 23 April 2019.

US Drug Enforcement Administration (2018) “Justice, Treasury, and

State Departments Announce Coordinated Enforcement Efforts Against

Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion”, United States Drug Enforcement

Administration, Springfield, VA, United States


accessed on 23 April 2019.

US Drug Enforcement Administration (2018) “National Drug Threat

Assessment”, United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield,

VA, United States.

US Drug Enforcement Administration (2019) “Joaquin “El Chapo”

Guzman, Sinaloa Cartel Leader, Convicted of Running a Continuing

Criminal Enterprise and Other Drug Related Charges”, United States

Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield, VA, United States


accessed on 23 April 2019.


Tracking Female Leadership in the

Islamic State

Tyra Bjorlo

It can be stated with moderate confidence that a female is likely to

openly lead a Salafi-jihadist group within the decade. Leadership

roles can be defined as leading a unit, such as propaganda or

domestic policing, or serving as an inspiring figurehead, or an

operational leader. The current wave of religious terrorism,

specifically Salafi-jihadism, has been present since approximately

1979. However, since 2014, there has been an unprecedented

gender evolution in Islamic fundamentalist groups. These have

historically been predominantly male, but are now encouraging

and even praising female participation in operational roles. This

transition from traditional to non-traditional gender roles has

encouraged women to join Salafi-jihadist groups, serving in

unacknowledged leadership positions, as well as on the frontline.


The year 2019 has marked a historic paradigm shift for Salafijihadist

groups with regard to the utilization of women. Women


are becoming increasingly involved in combat operations and

these groups are displaying mounting indicators of female

recruitment (Shipman 2019). It is important to note it is not just

Muslim women from local societies in the Middle East and

Southeast Asia that are joining Salafi-jihadist groups. Much of

these groups’ recruitment propaganda is communicated in

English, French, German, and other European languages,

indicating that Westerners are the primary target audience.

Foreign women are arguably the primary target of Salafi-jihadist

propaganda aimed at females. A primary example is the Islamic

State newspaper known as Dabiq. In 2017, women were pictured

in the pages of the magazine posing with AK-47s and headlines

called for women to “prepare for battle” (Mironova 2019).

The phenomenon of the combat roles that IS women are

partaking in has not been witnessed before in Salafi-jihadist

groups. There is a history of female fighters in secular groups;

however, with the exception of a small number of female suicide

bombers in the early 2000s, women in Islamist groups have

been exclusively used for spousal support, specifically the

provision of sexual favors (as sexual slaves) and as caretakers.

The main reason for the strict gender hierarchy that Salafijihadist

groups have historically practiced has to do with

traditions associated with silencing women, preventing them

from being educated, and considering them the property of men

in conservative Middle Eastern societies. Yet, existing Salafijihadist

groups are not just recruiting Muslim women, but also

large numbers of foreign women – particularly from the West.

The irony is that Salafi-jihadist groups, which originate from the

Middle East, are now recruiting from Muslim communities in

non-traditional Muslim regions, such as North America.

These women have nothing in common except for the way they

were recruited. Moreover, studies show women become

radicalized and join Salafi-jihadist groups for several reasons:

political grievances, feelings of social alienation, need for

acceptance, youthful rebellion, liberation from oppressive social

environments, and self-empowerment through leadership roles.


The uses of 21 st -century digital media innovations have

contributed to a shift in communication and recruitment

strategies (Nacos 2016). They also provide women and men

with an anonymous approach to joining Salafi-jihadist groups.

Digital media eliminates the risk of receiving criticism from

larger communities. For example, cultural courtesies, such as

looking into the eyes of one another or shaking hands, might

interfere with a foreign woman’s ability to communicate faceto-face

with a male militant. It also allows women to bypass the

need to travel to foreign countries, which was the only way to

connect with Salafi-jihadist groups prior to the dawn of digital

media, and increases the risk of being caught by authorities.

Women are indirectly lured into Salafi-jihadist groups through

the Internet via chat rooms and dating websites, as well as on

social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and

WhatsApp. The data on this topic is inconclusive, but case

studies show that an increasing number of women who marry

male militants subsequently become directly involved in the

groups. Many of these women serve as the brains behind

organized attacks, head propaganda units, and partake in

combat operations (Mironova 2019).

Recent Developments

Many female jihadists were defiant when leaving the last Islamic

State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stronghold in the city of Baghouz

in northeastern Syria. The women were evacuated to a refugee

camp run by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. When

interviewed by journalists, the women are typically angry and

persistent, vowing to continue fighting for Abu Bakr al-

Baghdadi (their self-proclaimed caliph prior to his death), in

hopes of re-establishing the Islamic caliphate. More specifically,

a BBC journalist, Jewan Abdi, was attacked with stones and

trash while some women shouted, “Go film the brothers, don’t

come here. Go. Leave. Go film them, we’re the women of the

Islamic State, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)”

(Abdi 2019). This indicates radicalization beyond defeat. IS


women engaged in support and operational roles are more radical

than believed.

One interesting case is that of Shamima Begum, an ISIS bride

hoping to return home to the United Kingdom (UK). She is

currently fighting for her citizenship to be reinstated after it was

revoked by the UK government in February 2019. Begum left

the UK in 2015 to join IS (Ensor and Mendick 2019). Amidst

the legal battle, several contradicting news reports were released,

which revealed Begum’s roles while she was affiliated with ISIS.

Recently, it was reported that Begum was not just a bride, but a

“cruel enforcer” of the all-female morality police squad within

ISIS, al-Hisba (Ensor and Mendick 2019). The mission of al-

Hisba is to enforce sharia, or religious law, in the areas that ISIS

controls. The local population that has been subjugated to ISIS

considers Al-Hisba as the group’s most notorious and feared

unit (Ensor and Mendick 2019). In fact, women receive an

elevated status for volunteering to be part of the force.

Another important case study involves Samantha Lewthwaite,

deemed the world’s most wanted female jihadist. She is a

member of al-Shabaab, a branch of IS located in Somalia (West

2019). She is also known as the “White Widow” and referred to

as the “intelligence mastermind” behind many attacks planned

and executed in Somalia, Kenya, and even Europe (West 2019).

She is a known senior female figure for al-Shabaab’s intelligence

wing, the Amniyat – the reason that IS in Somalia survives – and

has indirectly recruited more young women to the group

through her media campaign (Harper 2019). The Amniyat is

considered the heart of al-Shabaab because of its widespread

power and stealthiness. Success in enemy territories, such as

government-held areas, can be attributed to the Amniyat and its

intelligence operations – including the utilization of spies and

women to track down targets and attract recruits (Harper 2019).

Currently, Lewthwaite is on the run and suspected to be

planning more attacks in Europe. To evade capture from state

security forces, she is believed to have undergone a series of

plastic surgeries (West 2019).



Some Salafi-jihadist groups are coming to the conclusion that

they need women in order to survive. Women present

significant security concerns for governments and should be

viewed as militant assets rather than victims by counterterrorism

forces. Likewise, state security forces need to reevaluate their

own gender stereotypes if they want to preempt the activities of

Salafi-jihadist groups. Many state security forces, such as the

Iraqi Special Operations Forces, have adopted the same strict

gender hierarchy that is employed in conservative Middle

Eastern societies. Ironically, ISIS is arguably more inclusive of

women than state security forces combatting terrorism. State

security forces lack female soldiers and are, therefore, illprepared

to address this shift in terrorism strategies.

Male fighters can be physically protected from police if women

perform tasks that are usually carried out by their male

counterparts (Mironova 2019). Women can also evade scrutiny

at security checkpoints because they can disguise suicide vests

under their long black headdresses, store supplies on their back

where a child would typically be nestling, and use their niqabs to

cover additional materials – such as monetary funds – and

weaponry. The three aforementioned cases embody this rapidly

evolving paradigm shift. Women are valuable assets to groups

that need to prioritize stealth for survival. Territorial losses and

the inability to defeat state security forces has threated the selfproclaimed

ISIS caliphate and prevented IS from expanding in

the region. Their voluntary and willing participation in

operational roles indicates that women are persistent and eager

to help achieve the group’s objectives.

There is a dynamic of change from within Salafi-jihadist groups

and it is very likely that women will continue to pose significant

security threats. Although women are not formally recognized

as leaders within Salafi-jihadist groups, many already hold such

a status. Vera Mironova, a visiting fellow at Harvard University,

states, “[a]ccording to a survey a colleague and I conducted in

Mosul [Iraq] in December [2018], 85 percent of 400 responders


said that in the past, Islamic State women were as radical as men

and 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they played an

important role in the group; 82 percent said they agreed or

strongly agreed that [IS] women will be dangerous for Mosul in

the future” (Mironova 2019). Not only should counterterrorism

forces be cautious of women, but even the children of

radicalized parents are likely to adopt IS ideology and become a

future threat as well (Sputnik International2018).


It can be stated with moderate confidence that a female will

likely openly lead a Salafi-jihadist group within the decade. This

revolution in gender roles began with the establishment of ISIS,

but the conclusions of this article can be applied to cases

involving Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and

most recently, the National Thowheed Jamath in Sri Lanka.

Women are seen as critical to the survival of Salafi-jihadist

groups and are just as ideologically driven as males, which makes

women more of a threat than previously believed. The West has

completely misinterpreted these groups. Now, countering Salafijihadist

groups involves the need for gender-informed threat

assessments and counterterrorism strategies (Shipman 2019).


Bibliography of References Cited

Abdi, J. (2019) “Islamic State Women Defiant in Face of Lost Caliphate”,

BBC News, 13 March ,

accessed on 15 March 2019.

Ensor, J., and Mendick, R. (2019) “UK Teen Shamima Begum was in

ISIS’s ‘All-Female Police Squad”, Stuff, 14 April>,

accessed on 17 April 2019.

Harper, M. (2019) “Somalia’s Frightening Network of Islamist Spies”, BBC

News, 27 May ,

accessed on 26 June 2019.

Manisera, S. (2017) “‘I Came for the Jihad’: Women Tell of Life in the

Islamic State”, Syria Deeply, 29 September < https://www.newsdeeply.


accessed on 4 April 2019.

Mironova, V. (2019) “Is the Future of ISIS Female?”, The New York Times,

20 February ,

accessed on 4 April 2019.

Nacos, B.L. (2016) Mass-Mediated Terrorism: Mainstream and Digital Media in

Terrorism and Counterterrorism, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York,

United States.

Shipman, M. (2019) “Study Highlights How Little We Know About

Women Terrorists”, NC State University News, 29 April>,

accessed on 29 April 2019.

Sputnik International (2018) “Threat by Jihadist ‘Wives and Children’ and

How France, Britain Deal With It”, Sputnik News, 24 October, accessed

on 10 July 2019.

West, S. (2019) “Asset or Victims: A Portrait of Women Within Al-

Shabaab”, Jamestown Foundation, 25 March

asset-or-victims-a-portrait-of-women-within-al-shabaab>, accessed on 4

April 2019.

Williams, Z. (2014) “The Radicalisation of Samantha Lewthwaite, the

Aylesbury Schoolgirl Who Became ‘The White Widow”, The Guardian, 27


calised-samantha-lewthwaite-77-london-bombings>, accessed on 8 April




Is the War Against Maritime Piracy

Being Won?

Kyle Brossard

Maritime piracy has been a threat to seafarers for millennia.

Today, pirates target both private and commercial vessels, with

the goal of either hijacking the ship, stealing its cargo, or

kidnapping its crewmembers. The contemporary war against

piracy began in the mid-2000s and quickly became an

international issue of concern. Piracy has been highly

concentrated in two main areas: the Indian Ocean, including the

Gulf of Aden, and West Africa, specifically in the Gulf of

Guinea. Currently, it can be stated with moderate confidence

that the war against maritime piracy is being won in the Indian

Ocean. It can also be stated with high confidence that the war

is not being won in West Africa.


In the early to late 2000s, piracy was primarily a phenomenon

that concentrated in the Indian Ocean. Pirates came from a

variety of countries, with the majority hailing from Somalia.


Pirate attacks increased by 200 percent in the region between

2007 and 2008 (International Chamber of Commerce 2019).

These pirates focused on attempting to hijack ships and either

steal their goods or hold crewmembers for ransom. In 2008, the

Gulf of Aden became a high-risk area for ships to travel

through, since over 400 vessels were attacked within two years

(ICC International Maritime Bureau 2018:4). Because of the

growing number of violent attacks on cargo ships worldwide,

the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)

became involved. Interpol focused on three areas to combat

piracy in the region, first by improving evidence collection on

piracy incidents and networks. Secondly, it began increasing

information exchange between the governments of countries

battling the pirates. And lastly, it encouraged countries to build

up their regional capabilities in order to combat the proliferation

of the pirates’ home bases (International Criminal Police

Organization n.d.). In 2009, the United States (US) launched an

international campaign in order to combat the pirates,

specifically in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The force

included ships from over 20 countries, including the United

Kingdom and Canada. The campaign targeted pirate groups and

conducted routine patrols in the region. China conducted an

anti-piracy operation of its own in the area for six years. They

deployed a variety of navy ships and provided escorts for over

2,000 ships traveling through the region (Erickson and Strange

2015:ch3). Both operations concluded after piracy declined in

the region and was no longer a major threat for ships.

Piracy was relatively minimal from 2014 to 2016, with few

attacks happening in the Indian Ocean. However, in 2017

attacks in West Africa grew rapidly and have been increasing

ever since. It quickly became known as a high-risk area in the

Gulf of Guinea, with a new wave of pirates. Pirates mainly came

from Nigeria, and usually traveled over 170 nautical miles out

to sea to carry out attacks, which is a significantly longer journey

than that of previous pirates (Oladipo 2017). They are also more

violent and take extreme risks compared to pirates from

Somalia. They have been reported to have larger weapons and


faster boats. A detailed report from an attack in May, showed

that pirates were able to hijack a tug boat, which they equipped

with lager weapons on deck and used it to attack tanker ships.

(ICC International Maritime Bureau 2019). Their goal when

attacking a ship, is to take as many hostages as possible and then

hold them for ransom (Oladipo 2017).

Recent Developments

The Indian Ocean has seen a decrease in piracy in 2018 with no

successful hijacking of ships by pirates since 2013 (BIMCO et

al. 2018:3). In April 2019 there were a few reported attacks, but

they were low-level with no casualties or hostages taken. There

has only been one successful hijacking where pirates were able

to board and steal a medium-size fishing vessel off the central

coast of Somalia. They then used the vessel as a “mothership”

to get further out to sea, where they attacked two larger fishing

vessels. The pirates fled the vessels after armed guards shot at

them. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in

the region were able to intercept the pirate ship and detain the

pirates (Maritime Executive 2019). Other than the one

successful attack, piracy incidents are limited and remain small.

Currently, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden still remain

high-risk areas for piracy. But, according to the International

Maritime Bureau (IMB), the designated geographic area will be

cut in half in May 2019 given the decrease in incidents in the

region (International Chamber of Commerce 2019). Ships

traveling in the region are encouraged to take anti-piracy

measures, but they are now able to travel through the region

without escorts.

So far, piracy in West Africa in 2019 is on track to surpass the

200 incidents in 2018. In 2018, 130 of the 141 crewmembers

taken hostage were from the Gulf of Guinea (ICC International

Maritime Bureau 2018:5). This year there have been 45 attacks

in the region, with an estimated 75 people taken hostage (ICC

International Maritime Bureau 2019). In one particular incident,

pirates used two small vessels to attack a cargo vessel off the

coast of Nigeria. The cargo vessel had four armed Nigerian


Naval guards aboard, who engaged in combat with the pirates.

Two of the guards were shot and one was killed by the pirates,

as the latter eventually boarded the ship. After boarding the

ship, the pirates took five crew members hostage and have kept

them ever since. It has also been reported that around 90

percent of pirate attacks in Nigeria had some insider help from

the ship’s crew. The latter either provided information on the

ship’s whereabouts or even participated in the attack (Maritime

Executive 2019).

Currently, the main regional actor combating the pirates is the

Nigerian Navy. It is conducting patrols in the region and assigns

guards to some ships when sailing in the area. In March of this

year, the US conducted a multinational maritime security exercise

called OBANGAME Express 2019, based in Lagos, Nigeria

(Maritime Executive 2019). Its purpose was to provide training

to the Nigerian Navy on ship boardings and anti-piracy tactics.

The US also provided training on new combat ships and

weapons, in order to help the Nigerian Navy combat pirates. It

lasted five days and incorporated over 80 ships from 33 countries.

At the end of the operation, the Nigerian Navy expressed its

gratitude but emphasized the need for more operations and

assistance in combating pirates in the region (Maritime Executive

2019). Five days after the exercise, Nigerian pirates hijacked three

ships, took nine crewmembers hostage and killed one in the

process. Interpol is currently helping train the Nigerian

authorities on how to build a case and prosecute the pirates

(International Criminal Police Organization n.d.).


Even with the recent attack on two ships in the Indian Ocean,

pirates in the region are not a large threat. Their capabilities are

limited and they lack sufficient equipment in order to conduct

large-scale attacks. Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell (Spanish

Navy) said that “piracy in the region is by no means eradicated;

it is only suppressed” (Maritime Executive 2019). Even though

piracy groups remain, their operational capabilities are limited


by the efforts of actors in the region. The region is continuing

to be patrolled by NATO forces and private security

contractors. It is likely that these operations will continue to

combat pirates in the region and prevent groups from growing

to a large scale. That is why it can be stated with moderate

confidence that the war is being won in the Indian Ocean.

Piracy in West Africa is continuing to be on the rise. The pirate’s

operational capabilities have increased, and they are able to

target larger ships farther out at sea. Reported attacks have

shown they will conduct violent attacks on ships and

crewmembers. They are also gaining useful intelligence and help

prior to attacking the ships. The Nigerian Navy is the primary

actor in the region and has yet to be effective in combating the

pirates, even though they have received training on anti-piracy

practices. There are currently no large-scale international

operations tasked with combating pirates in the region. It is

likely that the pirates will continue to heavily attack ships

travelling in the region. Attacks are being reported weekly, with

many of them involving violent tactics made use of by the

pirates. That is why it can be stated with high confidence that

the war is not being won in West Africa.


Piracy hot spots are continually changing, with some areas

seeing a decrease in attacks and some showing sharp increases.

The Indian Ocean still has some incidents, but they remain low

level with no causalities. Actors in the region will likely suppress

any piracy groups that could possibly pose a threat. West Africa

has become the new high-risk area with violent attacks. Ships

are warned to stay out of the region due to the large number of

pirates equipped with large weapons. Given the evidence, it is

likely that piracy in the region will continue. The Nigerian Navy

is making strides to be able to respond to incidents quicker and

increase its patrol zones, but has not mitigated the threat. For

these reasons, it can be stated with high confidence that the war

against piracy in West Africa is not being won.


Bibliography of References Cited


BMP5: Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security

in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, Witherby

Publishing Group, Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Erickson, A.S., and Strange, A.M. (2015) Six Years at Sea…and Counting:

Gulf of Aden Anti-Piracy and China’s Maritime Commons Presence, The

Jamestown Foundation, Washington, DC, United States.

ICC International Maritime Bureau (2018) “Piracy and Armed Robbery

Against Ships 2018”, International Chamber of Commerce International

Maritime Bureau, London, United Kingdom.

International Chamber of Commerce (n.d.) “International Maritime

Bureau”, International Chamber of Commerce, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

, accessed on 29 April 2019.

International Criminal Police Organization (n.d.) “Maritime Piracy”,

International Criminal Police Organization, Lyon, France>, accessed on

29 April 2019.

International Maritime Organization (n.d.) “Maritime Security and

Piracy”, International Maritime Organization,

/OurWork/Security/Pages/Maritime Security.aspx>, accessed on 28

April 2019.

Maritime Executive (2019) “Pirates Attack Two Fishing Boats off

Somalia”, Maritime Executive, 23 April ,

accessed on 29 April 2019.

Maritime Executive (2019) “Pirates Kidnap Four Boxship Crewmembers

in Gulf of Guinea”, Maritime Executive, 2 April

-in-gulf-of-guinea>, accessed on 29 April 2019.

Oladipo, T. (2017) “Is Africa Facing a New Wave of Piracy?”, BBC, 15

May , accessed

on 29 April 2019.



The Pakistani Taliban: Current State

and Projections

Morgan Clasgens

It can be stated with moderate confidence that the Pakistani

Taliban will regain some control in the Federally Administered

Tribal Areas of Pakistan in the near term. In recent years, the

Pakistani Taliban lost control of all areas in Pakistan due to the

internal divisions and state-led counterinsurgency operations

against them. The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Noor

Wali Mehsud, has brought the power back to the organization’s

originating tribe and all previously split factions swore allegiance

to him.


The Pakistani Taliban has a history of committing terrorist acts

that threaten the United States and its allies. After the US

invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, many of the Taliban fighters

fled over the border into the Federally Administered Tribal

Areas of Pakistan. In 2002, Pakistan’s security forces began

counterinsurgency operations in the Federally Administered


Tribal Areas, in an attempt to drive out the militants that were

launching cross-border raids (National Counterterrorism

Center n.d). At this point, the main focus of the militants

switched from fighting with the Afghan Taliban against the

Western forces in Afghanistan to creating their own group and

fighting the Pakistani forces. At that time, the militants began

coordinating and building networks within Pakistan. In 2007,

the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was created to unify the

different factions with an executive council, led by Baitullah

Mehsud (National Counterterrorism Center n.d). The Pakistani

Taliban claimed responsibility for a series of attacks against US

personnel and buildings, including the 2009 bombing at Camp

Chapman that killed seven Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

personnel, the 2010 attack at the US Consulate in Peshawar, and

the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a bomb in New

York City Times Square. Following this series of attacks, in

September 2010 the US officially designated the TTP as a

terrorist organization (US Department of State 2010). The

Pakistani Taliban were strongest from 2009 to 2013. In 2013, the

group began losing its power due to the counterinsurgency

efforts by the Pakistani government and tribal infighting (US

Department of State 2015:6-7). The group is mostly comprised

of Mehsud tribesmen and in 2013 its tribal leader, Hakimullah

Mehsud, was killed in a US airstrike. Mullah Fazlullah was

appointed as the group’s first central leader from outside the

Mehsud tribe. This caused infighting due to the large number of

Mehsud tribesmen. Many of them broke ties with the Pakistani

Taliban and operated on their own, causing the Pakistani Taliban

to lose power (US Department of State 2015:6-7).

Recent Developments

In June 2018, the leader, Mullah Fazlullah, was killed in a US

drone strike in Afghanistan. After his death, the central council

appointed Noor Wali Mehsud to replace him in an effort to bring

the organization back to its roots by selecting a commander

from the Mehsud tribe. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman stated

after Mehsud’s appointment that all factions of the Pakistani


Taliban that had previously split from the group swore

allegiance to Mehsud (Roggio 2018). In September 2018, two

months after his appointment, Mehsud released a Code of

Conduct. It was divided into 67 points and outlined the

Pakistani Taliban’s overall strategy, organizational design,

policies regarding target selection, and the management of

prisoners and defectors. It expressed efforts to reunite the

differing factions under one central leader, in a clear attempt to

reinforce the group’s internal structure and minimize sources of

dispute and future divisions. The document also identifies as

legitimate targets those belonging institutions of the state and

mandates that civilian targets are not to be attacked in the future.

The final theme in the Code of Conduct discusses how to deal

with prisoners, spies, and defectors, advises members against

cruelty and vigilante justice, and suggests that all punishments

be decided by the central council (Jadoon and Mahmood 2018).

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for a number

of attacks since Mehsud’s appointment. Immediately following

his appointment, the group launched multiple attacks on the

political campaigns taking place in Pakistan. Its main target since

the new Code of Conduct was released has been the Pakistani

security forces, which were listed in the document as a hard

target (Jadoon and Mahmood 2018). The Pakistani Taliban has

carried out multiple attacks on the security forces, including an

attack on a security base (Mackenzie 2019), a police office where

800 candidates were present taking an entrance exam (Schuttler

and Osmond 2019), and a police vehicle (Mehsud 2019). The

group also targeted Taqi Usmani in an assassination attempt in

Karachi. Usmani is the head of one of the largest religious

seminaries in the country. This attack was unsuccessful but

killed the police officers that were guarding Usmani.

Although the Pakistani Taliban split from the Afghan Taliban

in 2002 to create their own group, the two continue to have

strong ties. The Pakistani Taliban have their own goals: namely

to remove the Pakistani government influence in the Federally

Administered Tribal Areas, implement strict sharia law, and


expel US forces from Afghanistan (Jadoon and Mahmood).

Similarly, the Afghan Taliban’s goals are to dismantle the

Afghan government and presumably to institute sharia law. The

Afghan Taliban are currently in negotiations with the US in an

attempt by Washington to strike a peace deal with the Afghan

Taliban. Terms of this peace deal have previously been

discussed between the two, with a main point of contention

being that the Taliban want the US has to remove all troops

from Afghanistan. However, the US refuses to do so until the

Taliban agree to not let any militant groups operate within

Afghanistan’s borders (Bacon 2019). The US has stated that this

peace treaty will need cooperation between all parties - the US,

Afghan Taliban, Pakistan, and the Afghan government. The

Afghan government has long accused the Pakistani government

of supporting the Taliban and believes Pakistan’s role in this

peace process has the most influence. At one point, the two

governments got in an argument on Twitter and Pakistan told

the US ambassador to Kabul that it would not be participating

in the peace talks that were scheduled for April 19-21, because

the Afghan government would be attending for the first time.

On April 19, the Afghan Taliban cancelled the peace talks due

to concerns of the parties attending and stating it had not agreed

to meet with the Afghan government (Nelson and Amiri 2019).

Following many attacks carried out by the Afghan Taliban, the

group agreed to stop attacks on places with large civilian activities.

This agreement came out of the Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference

on Peace in Doha, Qatar, held on July 8, 2019. The Taliban

continues to refuse direct peace talks with Afghan government

officials until the US officially announces a timetable for the

withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan (Mashal 2019).


As explained earlier, the appointment of Mehsud placed the

power of the Pakistani Taliban back into its originating tribe,

thus rekindling tribal ties. Following Mehsud’s appointment, all

previously split factions swore allegiance under the new leadership


(Roggio 2018). Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman stated,

“the killing of the terrorist Mullah Fazlullah, who has been

directing terrorism against Pakistan, is a significant development

in fighting terrorism” (Gul 2018). Since Mehsud’s appointment,

the Pakistani Taliban have been able to plan and carry out more

attacks than in previous years, which shows this was not truly a

positive development for the Pakistani government. The killing

of Fazlullah did not help the fight against the Pakistani Taliban

and instead gave it the opportunity to appoint a more powerful

leader that has allowed the Pakistani Taliban to reconnect and

become a stronger force in Pakistan. The new Code of Conduct

released by Mehsud is seen as an attempt to reorganize and

coordinate among the factions, while also establishing guidelines

for future attacks.

If the current peace negotiations between the US and the

Afghan Taliban result in a peace treaty and the Afghan Taliban

agree to not allow militants to operate within Afghanistan, it

could affect the Pakistani Taliban and its ability to operate

within Afghanistan. It has been stated that the Pakistani

government has been unsuccessful in combatting the Pakistani

Taliban recently because it is masterminding its attacks from

within Afghanistan (Rehman 2019). This peace treaty could

negatively impact the force of the Pakistani Taliban by affecting

its ability to operate from Afghanistan and organize attacks

there. However, the US and the Afghan Government have a

history of unsuccessful attempts at negotiating a peace treaty

with the Afghan Taliban in the past. Considering the complexity

of the current Afghan Taliban peace treaty process, the

likelihood of a deal being agreed upon in the near term is low.


The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Noor Wali Mehsud,

has brought the power back to its originating tribe and all

splintered factions pledged allegiance to him. This has allowed

the group to reorganize and coordinate plots and attacks.


Additionally, without the cooperation of the Pakistan government,

Afghan government, Afghan Taliban, and the US, it is unlikely

that a peace treaty will be agreed upon in the near term.

Therefore, it can be stated with moderate confidence that the

Pakistani Taliban will regain some control in the Federally

Administered Tribal Areas in the near term.


Bibliography of References Cited

Bacon, T. (2019) “Is the Taliban Making a Pledge It Cannot Keep?”,

Foreign Affairs, 21 February

afghanistan/2019-02-21/taliban-making-pledge-it-cannot-keep>, accessed

on 21 February 2019.

Jadoon, A., and Mahmood, S. (2018) “Fixing the Cracks in the Pakistani

Taliban’s Foundation: TTP’s Leadership Returns to the Mehsud Tribe”,

CTC Sentinel, 11(11), pp22-24

Mehsud, S. (2019) “Four Police Killed in Pakistan Ambush Claimed by

Taliban Splinter Group”, U.S News and World Report, 12 February

, accessed

on 19 April 2019.

Mackenzie, J. (2019) “Gunmen Attack Security Base in Pakistan’s

Balochistan Province”, Reuters, 1 January


accessed on 27 April 2019.

Mashal, M. (2019) Stressing War’s Toll, Taliban and Afghan Representatives

Agree to Peace Road Map”, The New York Times, 8 July>,

accessed on 10 July 2019.

National Counterterrorism Center (n.d.) “Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)”,

Director of National Intelligence, McLean, VA, United States>, accessed on 6 February 2019.

Nelson, C., and Amiri, E. (2019) “Talks Cancelled in Big Blow to Afghan

Peace Push”, The Wall Street Journal, April 18


accessed on 29 April 2019.

Schuettler, D., and Osmond, E. (2019) “Gunmen Kill Nine in Attack on

Pakistan Police Station”, Reuters, 29 January


accessed 28 April 2019.

Rehman, Z. (2019) “Pakistani Taliban: Between Infighting, Government

Crackdowns and Daesh”, TRT World, 19 April


downs-and-daesh-25976>, accessed on 22 April 2019.

Roggio, B. (2018) “Pakistani Taliban Appoints New Emir After Confirming

Death of Mullah Fazlullah”, The Long War Journal, 23 June,>,

accessed on 2 April


US Department of State (2010) “Designations of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan

and Two Senior Leaders”, United States Department of State, Washington,

DC, United States ,

accessed on 6 February 2019.

US Department of State (2015) “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014”,

United States Department of State, Washington, DC, United States.



The Current and Projected Status of

Sino-Russian Relations

Audrey Oien

It can be assessed with moderate to high confidence that current

Sino-Russian relations are at their highest level of cooperation

and will continue to improve. In this case, the term “improve”

can be defined as an expansion of cooperation and deepening

of ties between the two countries. Although Russia and China

are not allies, they formed a “strategic partnership” in 1996 (Bolt

2014:49). Through this ongoing partnership, Russia and China

intend to establish a multi-polar world order (Bolt 2014:50). In

theory, this is accomplished by filling global power gaps left by

the United States, allowing Russia and China to increase their

role in world affairs. Cooperation intended to fill these power

gaps draws the two nations closer together, deepening their ties.

The desire by Moscow and Beijing to establish a multi-polar

world order and counterbalance US global power is indeed a

foundational element of the Sino-Russian relationship (Bolt




Since the 1600s, Sino-Russian relations have been characterized

by periodic conflicts (Karlin 2014). Most Sino-Russian conflicts

were due to conflicting territorial claims in Siberia (Karlin 2014).

With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in

1949, the Soviet Union officially recognized diplomatic relations

with China (Karlin 2014). Shortly after this, Russia and China

reverted back to strife (Bolt 2014:52). It was not until the fall of

the Soviet Union in 1991 that relations between the two nations

began to normalize (Karlin 2014). This ultimately led to the

creation of the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly

Cooperation in 2001. The treaty is a 20-year strategic plan

outlining the basis for peaceful relations, economic cooperation,

and diplomatic and political inter-reliance (Anon. 2001). Since

the signing of the treaty, Sino-Russian relations in these and

other areas have consistently expanded (Bolt 2014:49). In recent

years, the level of depth in the cooperation between Russia and

China has increased dramatically. Within the past year, Chinese

Foreign Minister Wang Yi described bilateral relations as being

at their “best level in history” (Westcott 2018). Since Yi’s

statement, cooperation between Russia and China and the

desire to deepen their relationship has further increased.

Diplomacy in Venezuela

Russia and China have increased efforts to expand diplomatic

cooperation. This can be seen through Russia and China’s

intervention in the Venezuelan crisis. Sino-Russian support for

the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, significantly

increased when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself

interim president on January 23, 2019. Shortly after, Russia and

China joined Maduro in opposing any military action facilitated

through US aid and even supplied the state’s military with

advanced weaponry (Anon. 2019a). China then stated that the

Venezuelan crisis is a result of internal affairs, echoing Russian

comments against outside military intervention (Anon. 2019b).

On February 28, Russia and China vetoed a US-proposed


resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

calling for a peaceful process leading to free elections in

Venezuela (Nichols 2019). Prior to voting against the resolution,

both nations made their views known that the Venezuelan crisis

would best be resolved via “constructive discussions” regarding

differences between the government and people (Anon. 2019c).

Increased Sino-Russian support for Maduro’s presidency is

consistent with the two nations’ goal of combatting US

hegemony to create a multi-polar world order. The joint

diplomatic efforts in Venezuela allowed Russia and China to

counter US influence and support for Guaido. The use of vetoes

at the UNSC is one way in which the two nations are able to

exert influence in world events and combat US hegemony.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia

views China and itself as important stabilizers in world affairs

(Anon. 2019d). This was followed by agreement from China, as

Beijing stated that China-Russia relations have “injected positive

energy” into maintaining global strategic stability (Anon. 2019e).

The efforts to accomplish this goal have allowed Russia and

China to build stronger diplomatic ties and expand their joint

diplomatic efforts into new regions. The Venezuelan crisis is an

indicator that, in the foreseeable future, Russia and China will

likely continue their joint cooperation in diplomatic affairs, in

order to augment their world power and influence.

Trade and Energy

Recently, Sino-Russian trade cooperation reached new heights.

In 2018, China was Russia’s largest trading partner (Anon.

2019f). Trade between the two nations grew 24.5%, reaching an

all-time record of $108 billion in trade turnover (Anon. 2019f).

Most of these goods were traded in the energy sector, particularly

crude oil, refined copper, and petrochemicals (Anon. 2019f).

One example of this is the construction of the Power of Siberia

Pipeline. The pipeline is a 30 year agreement between Russian

and Chinese state companies to supply China with 38 billion

cubic meters of natural gas per year from Eastern Siberia,


beginning in 2025 (Yep 2019). China hopes to continue this and

other similar projects aimed at doubling bilateral trade turnover,

as China’s Premier Le Keqiang stated earlier this year (Jiangnan

2019). This will also be accomplished through increased trade

in internet commerce, the air and space industry, and general

exchanges between the two nations (Anon. 2019g). Since

Keqiang’s remarks, it was announced in early June that a

memorandum of understanding of trade promotion was signed

between Russia and China (Yinglun 2019). The memorandum

highlighted certain sectors needing development and improvement,

which will put the two countries on track to reach trade turnover

goals (Yinglun 2019).

The recent increase in trade activity between Russia and China

shows that the two nations are not only deepening their current

economic ties, but expanding economic cooperation into new

areas. This increase in economic cooperation signals the depth

of the relations, as both countries are willing to rely on one

another, potentially reducing trade in corresponding areas with

other countries. The pipeline would be a major supplier of

natural gas for China, causing China to become more dependent

on Russia for energy supplies. China’s willingness to become

reliant upon Siberia for natural gas reaffirms Chinese interest in

the region. This may suggest further cooperation between

Russia and China to continue developing mutually beneficial

projects in Siberia.

Russia and China also intend to boost economic cooperation by

relying on national currencies in bilateral trade. On June 5, 2019,

the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement

allowing the currency of bilateral trade to shift from the US

dollar to the Russian ruble and Chinese yuan (Anon. 2019h).

The deal will also increase cross-currency settlements by up to

50 percent (Anon. 2019h.). It is believed that, in the next few

years, this deal will allow share settlements in the ruble and yuan

to increase from ten percent to 50 (Anon. 2019h). It was also

reported that new mechanisms of cross-border payment are

currently under development with the intention of completion


in 2020 (Anon. 2019h). Both countries have urged other nations

to follow in their footsteps and switch to trading with national

currencies, with Russian President Vladimir Putin stating that a

number of countries have already expressed interest in

abandoning the dollar (Anon. 2019i).

The decision to use national currencies in bilateral trade is one that

could draw Russia and China even closer together economically.

Reducing dependency on US currency by switching to national

currencies may cause Russia and China to become more

economically reliant and dependent on each other. Using the

ruble and yuan would help to reduce exchange rate fluctuations,

which creates even more of an incentive for Russia and China

to not only keep trading with each other, but to further increase

bilateral trade. While moving away from the dollar could

significantly benefit Russia and China, it will likely have negative

consequences for the US. If other countries follow suit in

abandoning the dollar, the currency may drop in value, and the

US may lose some of its power and position as a leader in global

trade. This result is consistent with Russia and China’s mutual

desire to draw power and global dominance away from the US.

Tensions in Siberia

As part of the recent deepening of Sino-Russian business

relations, China is increasing its number of projects in Siberia

(Anon. 2019l). One of these is a water bottling project

conducted by AkvaSib, a Russian firm owned by the Chinese

company Lake Baikal Water Industry (Gan 2019). AkvaSib’s

project, which began construction in January, allows for 190

million liters of water to be bottled from Lake Baikal each year,

beginning in 2021 (Anon. 2019k). Since the start of the project

in 2017, locals in the Siberian village of Kultuk, where the plant

is based, have been concerned that the project would harm the

lake’s environment (Antonova 2019). As a result, an online

petition against the project was launched and received over one

million signatures (Gan 2019). In response to local concerns, on

March 15, a court in the Siberian city of Irkutsk ordered


AkvaSib to halt the project in order to investigate the claims of

environmental violations (Antonova 2019). On March 27, the

court ruled that the project’s official permit of plant

construction was illegal (Anon. 2019l).

Protest against AkvaSib’s project comes during a time of

popular disapproval of Chinese projects in the region (Anon.

2019l). Locals have been wary of the increased Chinese presence

in Siberia, and the AkvaSib project is no exception. Negative

feelings this project festered have the potential to complicate

Russia and China’s relationship. Territorial disputes and border

demarcation in the Siberian region have sparked Sino-Russian

conflicts in the past (Gan 2019). Though it was reported that

the majority of the public and mass media are not in favor of

the recent projects, there has been no word from Moscow itself

on the matter (Gan 2019). If China continues to show interest

in Siberia through projects like AkvaSib’s, already present

tensions will likely grow between the two nations. This may

challenge Russia and China’s efforts to continue expanding

economic cooperation. Continued Chinese investment in

Siberia could grant China a large financial claim to the

infrastructure of the region, decreasing Russian influence. Since

locals are already concerned by Chinese encroachment in the

region, Russia may be less willing to continue economic

cooperation with China in Siberia. This could negatively impact

Sino-Russian business interactions and potentially reduce

annual bilateral trade turnover with China.


Sino-Russian efforts to establish a multipolar world order have

resulted in an increase in diplomatic and economic cooperation

between the two. This can be seen through the Sino-Russian

intervention in Venezuela, increases in bilateral trade, and the

recent agreement to use national currencies during trade.

However, there still remains an ever-present tension between

Russia and China over China’s latest projects in the Siberian

region. Though these tensions exist, the benefits of the Sino-


Russian relationship will likely facilitate continued cooperation

to fill global power gaps. Therefore, it can be assessed with

moderate to high confidence that Sino-Russian relations are at

their highest level of cooperation and will continue to improve.


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Will the Power of the ELN Continue to

Grow in 2019?

Joseph Cain

The Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), or National Liberation

Army, a Marxist-Leninist guerilla movement operating in

Colombia and Venezuela, has carried out numerous operations

against the Colombian government and continued to expand its

influence across the Andean region, signifying an increase in its

overall power. It has done so in the name of combating

disproportionate wealth created by what it sees as the

exploitation of Colombia’s natural resources. Since the signing

of the 2016 peace accords by the Colombian government and

the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the

ELN has stepped in to fill the power vacuum and achieve its

stated goal of battling transnational corporations and the elite

of Colombian society from taking advantage of the extensive

natural resources Colombia has. The ELN has also taken

advantage of the volatile situation in Venezuela and set up illegal

enterprises across the country.


Meanwhile, the Colombian President Ivan Marquez Duque was

inaugurated in August of 2018. His government has made a

concerted effort to combat the ELN. However, the steady flow

of attacks carried out by the ELN against government

infrastructure and personnel shows that this effort has largely

been ineffective. Therefore, we assess with a high level of

confidence that the power of the ELN is likely to continue to

grow in 2019.


The ELN was formed in 1964 in the department of Santander,

located in the northeastern sector of Colombia. Originally, the

organization was very ideologically driven, drawing on

influences such as the Cuban Revolution, Catholic Liberation

theology, and socialism. This meant that the ELN strictly

partook in subversive acts against the Colombian government

and stayed away from more ideologically nefarious activities that

it would adopt later on. This approach lasted primarily until

1973 when the Colombian government undertook a massive

military offensive against the ELN, decimating its membership

from 200 to 65 by the end of the campaign (Stanford 2015). The

ELN leadership was wiped out and new leaders emerged that

took the ELN in a new direction. This would include the

adoption of new means of survival through funds procured

from acts such as kidnapping, extortion, and narcotics

trafficking. This resulted in the ELN reaching new peaks in

terms of power. By the mid-1990s, it was estimated the group

had grown to 5,000 members (InSight Crime 2018). However,

the growth of the ELN was once again affected by a major

military push by the Alvaro Uribe government from in the mid-

2000s. It also faced conflict from rightwing-based paramilitary

organizations. This severely affected the ELN. But with the

2016 FARC Peace accords, the FARC demobilized and became

a legitimate political party relinquishing its control over large

swathes of areas in Colombia. This allowed the ELN to begin

expanding into territories it had not historically operated in —a

growth that has been evident up to the present day. The group


is currently experiencing a resurgence, and it is now believed to

have between 2,500 and 3,000 members, a number that is

expected to rise.

Recent Developments

At the beginning of 2019, the ELN was partaking in peace

negotiations with the Colombian government in Cuba.

However, talks were immediately suspended indefinitely in the

aftermath of the January 17, 2019, ELN car-bombing on the

General Santander National Police Academy in Bogota, which

killed 22 people and injured 60 (Dayton 2019:17). This left the

members of the ELN delegation, including its leader, Nicolas

Rodriguez Bautista, alias Gabino, stranded in Cuba. President

Duque also reactivated International Criminal Police Organization

(INTERPOL) red notices on all members of the ELN delegation

stranded in Cuba. However, Cuba has refused to extradite any

of the members, citing the protocols for peace talks (Cobb 2019a).

Although this issue is affecting the leadership of the ELN, it has

not hampered the organization’s operations in Colombia and

Venezuela. The main reason being that the ELN is a highly

decentralized organization with multiple fronts across Colombia

that operate with high degrees of autonomy from the main

leadership organ of the ELN central command (COCE). Therefore,

attacks on oil infrastructure have continued unhampered. The

most prominent examples include attacks against the state-owned

energy corporation Ecopetrol. Two of the main pipelines that it

runs, the Cano-Limon pipeline in the northeast and Transandino

pipeline in the southwest, have experienced approximately 20

attacks this year, all of which are thought to have been carried out

by the ELN (Cobb 2019b). However, the Colombian government

managed to capture Arturo Ordóñez, alias El Elefante, who was

the ELN commander of the Urban Front that carried out the

attack on the General Santander Police Academy on March 1,

2019 (El Tiempo 2019).

The ELN has also begun to significantly expand its presence in

Venezuela. Reports indicate that the ELN is now present in at


least 12 of the 23 Venezuelan states, primarily for the purpose

of narcotics trafficking, fuel smuggling, and the illegal mining of

precious metals (Venezuela Investigative Unit 2019). In fact, it

is now estimated that several guerilla organizations, primarily

the ELN, run a criminal economy in Venezuela that employs

upwards of 15,000 Venezuelans. The ELN is performing

services for the Venezuelan people such as handing out food

rations, rebuilding schools, as well as passing out educational

guerilla material to consolidate its standing among the country’s

populace, as well as boost recruiting. The government of

Nicolas Maduro, through its actions and inactions, has shown a

willingness to allow the ELN to act as a de facto governing force

inside the country, specifically in the rural areas that have

become too expensive for the Venezuelan government to

maintain a large presence in. There have also been reports of a

minor armed skirmish between the ELN and Venezuelan

authorities in November of 2018, which resulted in the death of

three Venezuelan soldiers (Lozano 2018). However, the

relationship between the two entities has remained intact.

Colombia’s highest-ranking General, Luis Navarro, recently

stated that the Venezuelan military has been training ELN

personnel in advanced weapons training on the Russian IGLA

surface-to-air missile system (Bristow 2019).


The Colombian government, under the leadership of President

Duque, has been able to do little to curb the growth of the ELN

in 2019, despite the intense focus on doing so. One explanation

is that the ELN benefits from the disunity between the

executive and legislative branches in Colombia. President

Duque’s popular support has been steadily dwindling as his

term has progressed, amid the emergence of a centrist alliance.

The latter intends to act as a voting bloc against President

Duque’s policies, between the Liberal Party (LP), Radical

Change (CR) and the U Party (U) (Alsema 2019). At this point

in the Duque Administration, it is too early to apply the label of

a ‘lame duck’, but the trajectory is pointing in that direction. This


will make it difficult for Duque to draw on political support to

combat the ELN, as the group continues to bomb government

infrastructure such as police buildings and state-owned oil

pipelines. The relative gains the Colombian government has

made in combating the ELN, such as the capture of El Elefante

are just that —relative. The ELN works in a highly decentralized

fashion, and whenever a member of its leadership is arrested, it

is unlikely to affect the fronts and cells of the organization.

The ELN’s continued expansion into Venezuela is very

significant due to the international attention being placed on the

country. The United States, specifically Admiral Craig Faller of

US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), has stated that the

ELN is a growing threat and that the US is strengthening its

focus on the organization. Washington has said it will provide

increased support to the Colombian government to combat the

ELN, and has accused the group of taking advantage of the

instability in Venezuela (Stewart 2019). The reason this

expansion is so pressing for the US, and for other Andean

countries that oppose the Maduro government in Venezuela, is

because, in the event of an attempt to overthrow Maduro, the

ELN would protect him. Considering that the ELN has been

participating in a constant guerilla warfare campaign against the

Colombian government for decades and has continued to

persist, the organization poses a serious threat to any entity that

attempts to combat it, especially as it continues to operate with

a high degree of freedom in Venezuela.


The ELN has steadily expanded its areas of operations and

carried out well planned and sophisticated attacks against the

Colombian government this far into 2019. In light of the current

relationship between the President and the Colombian

Congress, a unified strategy and effort to disrupt and minimize

the power of the ELN is unlikely to emerge. The ELN is also

taking advantage of the situation in Venezuela, which is close to

its historic stronghold and main operating region of north-


eastern Colombia, to further profit off enterprises and

recruitment in Venezuela. This holds a major significance to the

world, as the ELN is firmly entrenched in Venezuela and

presents a formidable adversary to any potential invading force.

Therefore, it can be stated with a high degree of confidence that

the ELN will continue to grow in power in 2019.


Bibliography of References Cited

Alsema, A. (2019) “Moderates in Colombia’s Congress Team Up,

Marginalize Duque”, Colombia Reports, 7 April>

accessed on 26 April 2019.

Bristow, M. (2019) “Venezuelan Troops Trained Rebels to Fire Rockets,

Colombia Says”, Bloomberg, 6 May


, accessed on 07 July 2019.

Cobb, J.S. (2019a) “Colombia’s ELN Rebel Leaders Say They Will Not

leave Cuba”, Reuters, 31 January ,

accessed on 26 April 2019.

Cobb, J.S. (2019b) “Colombia’s Ecopetrol Says Working to Contain Spills

from Pipeline Attacks”, Reuters, 16 April


accessed on 26 April


Dayton, R. (2019) “The ELN’s Attack on the National Police Academy in

Bogotá and Its Implications”, CTC Sentinel, 12(2), pp17-20.

Lozano, D. (2018) “La guerrilla colombiana del ELN ataca por primera

vez a las fuerzas militares venezolanas”, El Mundo, 5 November

e956a8b45ef.html > , accessed on 07 July 2019.

Stewart, P. (2019) “Exclusive: As Venezuela Crisis Deepens, U.S. Sharpens

Focus on Colombia Rebel Threat”, Reuters, 18 March>, accessed on 26

April 2019.

Stanford University (2015) “Mapping Militant Organizations: National

Liberation Army (Colombia)”, Stanford University, 17 August>,

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Venezuela Investigative Unit (2019) “Venezuela Gov’t Claims Military

Buildup at Colombian Border is to Combat Criminal Groups”, InSight

Crime, 11 April ,

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General Santander”, El Tiempo, 2 March


accessed on 26 April




Marijuana Legalization and United

States National Security

Madison Scholar

It can be stated with moderate confidence that marijuana

legalization will not become a matter of US national security,

however it will negatively affect certain communities and will

not impede the illicit market in narcotics. National security can

be defined as efforts to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure,

and resilient against threats (Congressional Research Service

2013:8). Marijuana is currently a schedule one drug under the

Controlled Substance Act, and is deemed federally illegal. Lately,

Mexican cartels have responded to legalization by shifting their

focus to distributing more addictive drugs as the demand for

low-grade marijuana drops. Domestic criminal organizations

have taken control of the illicit marijuana market as they are

capitalizing on the illegal cultivation and transportation of

marijuana across US state lines.

It can also be stated with high confidence that confliction

between federal and state laws will continue, and that state

legalization will be an upward trend in 2019. Because the 10 th


Amendment allows states to supersede federal law, states have

been legalizing marijuana regardless of the federal ban on the

drug. Within legalized states, dispensaries and retail stores that

sell both recreational and medical marijuana have created a new

industry. On average, over $40 billion is spent annually on both

legal and illegal marijuana in the US (Halperin 2018).


In 1970, President Richard Nixon passed the Drug Abuse

Prevention and Control Act, also known as the Controlled

Substance Act (CSA), categorizing all known drugs into

schedules (Houser and Rosacker 2014:132). Marijuana was

classified as a schedule one drug, the highest schedule, and was

made illegal under federal law. The government defined it as

having, “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential

for abuse” (US Congress 1970:1247). Soon following the

enactment of the CSA, Nixon declared the War on Drugs and

directed federal authorities to target drug traffickers (Houser

and Rosacker 2014:132). President Nixon then created the Drug

Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a central authority to

enforce federal drug laws. The War on Drugs has lasted over 50

years and continues to this day.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has strengthened its

enforcement on marijuana while states have done the exact

opposite. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize

medical marijuana (Houser and Rosacker 2014:134). This was

one of the first major instances of a state superseding federal

drug law. Washington and Colorado became the first states to

legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and other states quickly

followed (Houser and Rosacker 2014:133). Movements towards

legalization sparked controversy between state and federal law,

and tensions began to rise. Currently, 11 states, including

Washington, DC, have legalized recreational marijuana

(National Conference of State Legislatures 2019). Marijuana is

also legal for medical use in 33 states and is decriminalized in 13

states (National Conference of State Legislatures 2019).


Recent Developments

The DEA’s National Drug Threat Assessment for 2018 states

that Mexico continues to be the largest source of foreign

marijuana to the US (US Drug Enforcement Administration

2018:77). This is primarily because even though Mexicandistributed

marijuana is considered “low grade”, it is much

cheaper than legal marijuana sold in dispensaries (UN Office on

Drug and Crime 2018:40). There is indication of some cartels

enhancing the quality of their marijuana to compete with US

growers. We are also seeing a larger trend of cartels shifting their

cultivation to opium (UN Office on Drug and Crime 2018:40).

Apart from the cartels, domestic criminal organizations have

created networks of unlicensed grow houses in legalized states

that cultivate mass quantities of marijuana, which is later

transported out of state and sold on the illicit market (US Drug

Enforcement Administration 2018:82). The DEA explains that

criminals have been using medical marijuana as a front to

operate their networks without attracting the attention of

authorities (US Drug Enforcement Administration 2018:82). In

Colorado, local law enforcement reports that drug traffickers

have begun to move into the state from the East Coast with the

intention of opening up illegal grow sites in rental homes,

warehouses, on federal land, or even disguised as legitimate

dispensaries (Stewart 2018). Legitimate dispensaries are also

involving themselves in the illicit market. The federal

government does not test marijuana, leaving it up to the states

to enforce their own testing laws (Roberts 2017). Marijuana that

tests positive for pesticides, bacteria and mold is not thrown

away, but is instead resold to the illicit market (Roberts 2017).


According to my research, the illicit drug market will not be

significantly affected by marijuana legalization. However, the

illicit marijuana market is shifting into the hands of domestic

criminal organizations, and away from the Mexican cartels.

There is still a demand for illegal marijuana, because legal


marijuana sold at dispensaries is significantly more expensive

than the marijuana that can be bought on the street. Marijuana

can also be chemically changed to be more potent than state

laws allow. A law enforcement source adds that cartels are ahead

of the game, beginning to make the marijuana with potencies

far greater than legal limits in order to continue selling (Source

A 2019). Domestic criminal organizations are also profiting from

illegally transporting marijuana across state lines. Such organizations,

including street gangs and biker gangs, have created networks

within legalized-marijuana states to illegally grow marijuana without

a license (US Drug Enforcement Administration 2018:85).

Furthermore, communities will be negatively affected because,

as laws change in the US, cartels have begun to shift their focus

on producing more dangerous drugs, including heroine, methamphetamines,

and Fentanyl. Younger cartels with foundations

in harder drugs, rather than marijuana, have become increasingly

more violent (Agren 2018). US Customs and Border Patrol

(CBP) reported that marijuana seizures dropped by over 50

percent between 2012 and 2017 —a trend that directly

coincided with Mexico’s deadliest year in 2017, as a result of

drug violence (Agren 2018). Growers have slowly moved away

from marijuana to grow opium, the plant used to make heroine,

because of growing demand for heroine in the US. The US

opium epidemic is worsening as a result of an influx of opium

coming across the US-Mexico border (UN Office on Drug and

Crime 2018:47).

Secondly, relating to the complications between federal and

state laws, we have begun to see a strong trend in US states

pushing marijuana legalization agendas. Public support is rising

in recent polls and is not expected to decline (Mccarthy 2018).

Despite this trend, the federal government has shown no signs

of altering its standards on marijuana legalization. Marijuana is

still considered a schedule one drug under the CSA, and the

DEA has not shown any interest in changing its schedule. It is

apparent that marijuana legalization is not one of President

Donald Trump’s priorities (Napolitano 2018). Therefore, in


order for the federal government to legalize marijuana, there

may have to be a political party swing in congress, or a

presidential candidate who is focused on legalization elected to

the White House. It is also clear that the legalization trend

among states will continue, therefore increasing the confliction

between federal and state law.


We can see that the illicit narcotics market in the US has not

been significantly affected by marijuana legalization. However,

the marijuana trade is shifting into the hands of domestic

criminal organizations away from the prior control of Mexican

cartels. Marijuana legalization is also contributing to the opium

epidemic occurring in the US, as cartels have begun to switch

their focus on more dangerous drugs in order to meet demand

in the US. Therefore, it can be stated with moderate confidence

that marijuana legalization will not become a matter of US

national security, however it will negatively affect certain

communities, while at the same time not impeding the illicit

market in narcotics.

Secondly, since the federal government has not shown signs of

lifting the federal ban on marijuana, law confliction will

continue to escalate as more states legalize it. The current

presidential administration has shown little interest in federal

legalization, and the CSA is not likely to be amended any time

soon. State elections in 2018 showed a strong public support for

marijuana legalization, which in turn will result in multiple states

potentially legalizing the substance in 2019. In addition to the

above conclusion, it can also be stated with high confidence that

conflictions between federal and state laws will continue, and

state legalization will be an upward trend in 2019.


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Agren, D. (2018) “Mexican Cartels Pushing More Heroin After US Relax

Marijuana Laws”, USA Today, 20 February


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Congressional Research Service (2013) “Defining Homeland Security:

Analysis and Congressional Considerations”, Congressional Research

Service, Washington, DC, United States.

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Marijuana Industry?”, The Guardian, 3 October>,

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Houser, K.A. and Rosacker, R.E. (2014) “High Times: A History of

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Biographical Notes on Contributors

TYRA BJORLO, from Exmore, Virginia, is a graduate of Coastal Carolina

University, where she majored in Intelligence and National Security Studies

and minored in Political Science. In the fall of 2019, Tyra interned for the

Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington

DC, focusing on al Qaeda’s global network. During her time at Coastal,

Tyra was elected to serve as an executive officer for the Chanticleer

Intelligence Brief, and served as the organization’s recruitment officer

while also heading the Transnational Issues and Africa Desks. Her research

focused on women in Salafi-jihadist groups with particular focus on the

Islamic State. In May 2019, Tyra received the Intelligence and National Security

Studies’ Student of the Year Award at Coastal Carolina University.

KYLE BROSSARD, from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, graduated from Coastal

Carolina University in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence

and National Security Studies. He is now employed as an intelligence

analyst with the United States Government. In 2019, Kyle was a member

of the Chanticleer Law Enforcement Analysis and Research Group

(CLEAR) and provided crime and data analysis to the Myrtle Beach Police

Department. He also joined the invitation-only Order of the Sword and

Shield (the honor society for homeland security, intelligence and emergency

management). Kyle served in the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief as its

Communications Officer and head of the Special Topics Desk. He is also

the recipient of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Regional Expert Award.

JOSEPH CAIN, from Springfield, Kentucky, is a senior Intelligence and National

Security Studies major and a Spanish minor at Coastal Carolina University.

He has been a member of the Coastal Carolina University’s Honor

College for the duration of his undergraduate career. In 2018, Joseph

studied Eastern Mediterranean security and geopolitics during a monthlong

stay in the countries of Cyprus and Greece. Additionally, as a

member of the Chanticleer Law Enforcement Analysis and Research

Group (CLEAR), he has provided geographic information system (GIS)

capabilities and analysis to the Myrtle Beach Police Department. He

currently serves as the Reports Officer and head of the South America

Desk for the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief. Joseph is also the recipient

of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Intelligence Analysis Award and

Regional Expert Award. In the summer of 2019 he was awarded a place,

and subsequently attended, the Cambridge Security Initiative’s International

Security and Intelligence Program at Cambridge University in England.


MORGAN CLASGENS, from Cincinnati, Ohio, majored in Intelligence and

National Security Studies. She graduated from Coastal Carolina University

in May 2019 and is now employed as an intelligence analyst. Her undergraduate

research focused on non-state terrorist organizations and counterterrorism

efforts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lebanon. Morgan

joined the Asia Desk of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, where she

focused on research relating to the current and projected status of the

Pakistani Taliban. Her intelligence briefs on her analytical subject were

repeatedly published on the organization’s website.

RYAN LAWRENCE, from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, majored in Intelligence

and National Security Studies and minored in Political Science at Coastal

Carolina University. He graduated in May 2019 with cum laude honors

and as a member of the University’s Honors College. During his studies

at Coastal Carolina University, Ryan joined the Chanticleer Intelligence

Brief to hone both his briefing and analytical skills, and was able to

successfully contribute to the organization’s Latin America Desk. In the

Applied Intelligence Analysis course at Coastal Carolina University, Ryan

studied the power dynamics of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels and

had two of his written briefs on his analytical topic published on the

organization’s website. In the Spring 2019 semester, Ryan was invited

to appear on The Intelligence Report, the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s

television broadcast. In the same semester, he and his fellow analysts in

the Latin America Section were presented with the Chanticleer Intelligence

Brief’s Intelligence Analysis Award for delivering the highest-quality oral

analytical product during the semester.

AUDREY OIEN, from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is a senior Intelligence and

National Security Studies and Language and Intercultural Studies doublemajor

at Coastal Carolina University. Her primary research interest is the

evolving relationship between Russia and China and its implications for

the United States, a topic that she has been researching since her

freshman year. During her participation in the Chanticleer Intelligence

Brief, Audrey has been awarded the organization’s Regional Expert

Award for the Russia Desk and the Best Intelligence Essay Award. She

was also featured as a panelist at the 6th Chanticleer Intelligence Brief

Symposium and on episode six of The Intelligence Report, the organization’s

television broadcast. More recently, Audrey was awarded the China

Government Scholarship, a fully funded scholarship to study in China,

and is currently studying Mandarin Chinese in Beijing during the Fall

2019 semester.


MADISON SCHOLAR, from Marietta, Georgia, is a recent graduate of

Coastal Carolina University’s Intelligence and National Security Program.

Throughout her studies at Coastal Carolina University, she was an active

member of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, serving as Chief Operations

Officer for two semesters. During her senior year, she was awarded a

Policy Fellowship from the Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public

Policy. This gave her the opportunity to conduct in-depth research on

the topic of marijuana legalization and to discuss the topic in numerous

speaking opportunities. Upon graduation, Madison received the Department

of Politics Intelligence and National Security Student of the Year Award

for the graduating class of 2019. She is currently completing a Master’s

degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Manchester

in England, which is generously funded through a $50,000 Ambassadorial

Scholarship awarded by the Rotary Global Grant.

JOSEPH FITSANAKIS, PhD, is Associate Professor of Politics in the

Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina

University, where he teaches courses on intelligence operations,

intelligence communications, national security, intelligence analysis, and

intelligence in the Cold War, among other subjects. Before joining Coastal,

Dr. Fitsanakis founded the Security and Intelligence Studies program at

King University, where he also directed the King Institute for Security and

Intelligence Studies. He has written extensively on subjects such as

international espionage, intelligence tradecraft, counterintelligence,

wiretapping, cyber-espionage, transnational crime and intelligence reform.

He is a frequent media commentator, syndicated columnist, and senior

editor at, an ACI-indexed scholarly blog that is cataloged

through the United States Library of Congress.

JOHN NOMIKOS, PhD, is Director at the Research Institute for European

and American Studies (RIEAS), Chairman of the Mediterranean Council

for Intelligence Studies (MCIS), Chairman of the Greek Intelligence Studies

Association (GISA), Chairman of the European Intelligence Academy (EIA), and

Founding Editor of the Journal of Mediterranean and Balkan Intelligence

(JMBI) and the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies. He

is Assistant Professor at Webster University (Athens Campus) and Visiting

Scholar at the John Naisbitt University in Serbia and the University of Rome

(Tre) in Italy. He was previously Adjunct Professor at the Department of

International Relations at the University of Indianapolis (Athens Campus).





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