When Terrorists Go Bad: Analyzing Terrorist Organizations' Involvement in Drug Smuggling

Victor Asal, H. Brinton Milward, Eric W. Schoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The intersection of terrorism and organized crime is a central global security concern. However, the conditions that contribute to this intersection or hinder its development are widely debated. Drawing on prominent cases of ideologically driven violent nonstate actors engaged in illicit economies, some scholars argue that this intersection is a logical evolution. Other scholars, focusing on the fact that relatively few groups engage in both organized crime and terrorism, argue that ideological differences hinder this intersection. We use data on 395 terrorist organizations to analyze how organizational and environmental factors affect the likelihood of terrorist involvement in illicit drug trafficking. Our analysis shows that the degree of connectivity within networks of terrorist groups is the most significant predictor of a group engaging in drug trafficking. Further, contrary to the theorized effects of ideology, an explicit religious ideology has no significant effect while an ethnopolitical ideology actually increases the likelihood of drug trafficking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-123
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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