US trains counternarcotics units in Africa

This image provided by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 12, 2012 shows 39 pounds (14.5kg) of methanphetamines recovered by officials from a cross border tunnel linking a commercial building in San Luis, Arizona to Mexico. Photo/AFP

The US government is training anti-drug specialists in Ghana and plans to do the same in Nigeria and Kenya to counter Latin American cartels smuggling drugs through Africa to Europe, The New York Times reported late Saturday.

"We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues," the newspaper quoted Jeffrey Breeden, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Europe, Asia and Africa section as saying. "It's a place that we need to get ahead of -- we're already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up."

The United States is already conducting extensive anti-drug training programs in Mexico, Colombia and other countries.

According to The Times, cocaine smuggling through West Africa has increased in recent years.

Several years ago, a South American drug gang tried to bribe the son of the Liberian president to allow it to use the country for smuggling, the paper noted.

However, he tipped off the DEA, and the gang members got arrested and convicted.

In addition, a group called Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb offered three of its militants to help ship tons of cocaine through North Africa into Europe in order to raise money for terror attacks, the report said.

Those involved were also caught, tried and sentenced last March in New York.

US anti-drug assistance to West Africa has reached nearly $50 million for each of the past two years, up from just $7.5 million in 2009, the paper said.

The DEA also is opening an in Senegal, said The Times. Meanwhile, the Defense Department is working with Cape Verde to establish there a monitoring station to detect drug-smuggling ships, the report added.