The Stars and Stripes reports that US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry cites progress and requests more “assets” at the Afghan border.
- Nine years into the Afghan war, efforts to monitor the border with Pakistan have met with little success; massive amounts of bomb-making chemicals, drugs, weapons and enemy fighters continue to pour into Afghanistan. US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry visited Wesh, a town on the road between Kandahar and the Pakistani city of Quetta, one of just two crossings where U.S. forces have any permanent presence. The U.S. also has troops at Torkham Gate in the Khyber Pass, which links Jalalabad and Peshawar in northern Pakistan, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Johnson, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman. U.S. soldiers at Wesh say there is so much explosive material flowing across the border that the Taliban must be hauling it in large trucks through the legitimate border crossings. However, the Afghan Border Police, whose job it is to secure the border, are undermanned and undertrained.
- “You need a comprehensive approach … that begins with the frontline support of the Afghan Border Police,” Eikenberry said. “You need a strong, coherent customs system … and ultimately you need the help of the neighbor. You need the help of Pakistan.” Eikenberry also chatted briefly with Pakistani officials, who said cooperation has been good on both sides of the border. Daily traffic across the border at Wesh includes 25,000 to 50,000 pedestrians, 4,000 civilian vehicles, 550 commercial trucks and 80 to 125 ISAF supply trucks. One platoon of U.S. soldiers — the first real U.S. presence here — works with 130 Afghan Border Police at Wesh to boost security. From their base, soldiers from Troop D, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, can see the “Friendship Gate” that marks the border with Pakistan.
- New scanners enabling border guards to see inside 12 trucks per hour will soon be introduced to boost security. Right now it takes 15 men two to three hours to inspect a single truck, since loads are irregular and not palletized, and it can take between three hours and two days for a truck to clear the border, said troop commander Capt. Matthew Kelley. Many of the pedestrians who cross the border live in the nearby Pakistani city of Chaman but cross into Afghanistan each day to work in Wesh or Spin Boldak, he said. “You have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Afghanistan here,” Kelley said. “There is stability and relative security and there are jobs with the trucks coming across. They need repairs and people need a place to stay and food to eat. And Afghan government ministries are actually doing their jobs here, which is different to other places in Afghanistan.”
- One Afghanistan legacy is that its eastern boundaries were established with little regard over ethnic and tribal populations making securing the border an impossible task unless there is a significant government commitment. Here it appears that progress is being made, but the breadth of the task at hand overwhelms the limited resources being applied. Additionally, the photo gallery accompanying this story brings a sharp perspective to the daunting task at hand.
- If border security is a critical task, and if stemming the flow of insurgents and their resources will improve security, than why is it that NATO has only assigned one US platoon to this border post? FYI – none of the troopers pictured are wearing the complete outfit of issued body armor; no throat, groin, or deltoid protection.