Ghana, U.S. intelligence training reaps immediate dividends with drug bust
By Staff Sgt. Bryan Peterson and Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda, Marine Corps Forces Africa
U.S. service members recently completed the second module of Tactical Intelligence Support to Maritime Operations course for the Ghanaian Navy and Maritime Police Force, Dec. 7-18, at Ghana’s Eastern Naval Command Headquarters here.
This course has already paid dividends, according to Foster Kotoku, the Ghanaian Maritime Police Force assistant superintendent.
During the two-week course, students from the Ghanaian Maritime Police Force seized an undisclosed amount of illicit drugs from a smuggler on a ferry. With follow-on questioning, the police forces were led to a higher connection in the drug trade.
“We used the training [the Marines and sailors] gave us [the week earlier] and we were able to use the intelligence to get somebody else,” said Kotoku. “We are already benefiting from this training and we are already better off.”
U.S. Marine Capt. Jeremy Phillips noticed Kotoku was not in class the following Monday morning, but found out the next day he was in court for normal proceedings after the arrests.
“Once he told us what happened, we were amazed,” said Phillips, the intelligence security cooperation officer with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa. “It validates the training we are providing. It’s important to us because we are in this together and it’s already making a difference.”
The U.S. Marines and sailors taught 16 Ghanaian sailors and two Maritime Police Force members basic debriefing, tactical questioning and link analysis. The joint Navy, Marine aspect delivers multiple perspectives on tactical information collection.
“This time we focused on the tactical, how to actually gather the intelligence,” said Phillips. “They’ve been arresting smugglers in the past. Now, it’s about finding the source of the smuggling.”
The training is designed to turn sailors and policemen into intelligence instructors using a “train-the-trainer” format, and having students ‘teach-back’ during the second week. It also aims to facilitate Ghanaian interagency cooperation to combat illegal drug trafficking that has, according to a 2013 Gulf News article, turned “Ghana into a key trans-shipment point,” for illegal drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana.
“This is evidence of the positive impact, both immediate and long-term, these engagements can have,” said Dr. Assis Malaquias, professor and academic chair of Defense Economics at African Center for Strategic Studies.
This is the second time Marines from SPMAGTF-CR-AF and sailors with U.S. Naval Forces Africa and Combined Task Force 68 trained the Ghanaian Navy and Maritime Police. In October, U.S. service members taught the Ghanaians basic intelligence processes.
A 2013 Gulf News article reported that between 2003 and 2008, Ghana seized more than 5,300 pounds of cocaine and 136,000 pounds of marijuana destined for the United States and Europe.
“Ghana and the wider region have significant vulnerabilities as far as maritime security is concerned. These vulnerabilities are being fully exploited by organized networks that can destabilize the country at various levels,” said Malaquias.
The three-year-old Ghanaian Maritime Police Force is key to this effort.
Kotoku said Ghana’s determination and drive to eradicate the illegal drug trade is strong.
“[Illegal drug trade] is hurting the further development of our economy and the future of our people because we lose credibility with all this happening,” said Kotoku. “When we find the sources of these issues, we will provide a better life for our country.”
Ghanaian Navy Commodore Mark Yawson, the director of the Eastern Naval Command Headquarters in Tema, is looking forward to the “positive results” in the future of Ghanaian naval operations.
“What the students are learning from the US is forming the nucleus for Ghanaian maritime intelligence operations,” said Yawson. “We are looking forward, not back and we are excited about the possibilities.”
The Ghanaian students will continue to work with U.S. Marines and sailors to further progress their teaching skills and thereby disseminate tactical-intelligence skills amongst their own forces.