Development, the Drug War, and the Limits of Security Sector Reform in the West African Sahel

  • Brittany Meché Williams College
Keywords: Sahel, West Africa, War on Drugs, War on Terror, Policing, Security Sector Reform


This article contemplates how drug interdiction strategies influence the character of present counterterrorism efforts in the West African Sahel. I argue that the incorporation of drug interdiction strategies within a broader framework of security sector reform represents the emergence of a normative vision of security, which links policing, drugs, and governance. In addition, I suggest that drug expertise has become an important avenue for new ways of pursuing a wide swath of security interventions including counterterrorism projects. Amid numerous critiques of the War on Drugs and increased recognition of the limitations of criminalized approaches to drug use, the Sahel has emerged as a site of experimentation, where the coupling of counterterrorism and anti-drug trafficking strategies provides a way of salvaging remnants of an older style drug war, while also revealing the institutionalization of drug expertise as a mode of security governance.


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How to Cite
Meché, B. (2021). Development, the Drug War, and the Limits of Security Sector Reform in the West African Sahel. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(6), 687-706. Retrieved from
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