Officials: Weak border security a threat to Afghanistan
Stars and Stripes August 7, 2006
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Security along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is improving but still poses a long-term threat to the stability of the new Afghan government, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
Coalition, NATO and Afghan security experts met at Bagram Air Base this weekend for the first joint conference on border issues, designed to plot the course for future operations along the country’s eastern edge.
Military officials say many foreign fighters still cross over into Afghanistan from Pakistan and return to resupply and recruit new fighters.
But Lt. Gen. Mohammed Haroon Asefi, chief of the Afghan Border Police, said coalition and Afghan forces have made strides in securing the border in the east and south since Task Force Vigilant began working with them in April.
Task Force Vigilant commander Lt. Col. La’Tonya Lynn said U.S. troops have seen fewer militants sneaking across the border and fewer gaps in border police checkpoints over the past few months.
U.S. forces have conducted more than 56,000 vehicle and personnel searches with the Afghan police in that time and helped uncover 15 weapons caches hidden near the border.
“Those have been great improvements just over the last four or five months,” she said. “And the training we’ve been able to provide (to the border police) has certainly added another benefit in these efforts.”
Still, Asefi said more needs to be done, emphasizing the need for the border conference.
NATO officials recently took over responsibility for southern Afghanistan and migration issues there and met this weekend to see the challenges and successes in the east.
Lynn said the task force has done all of its searches and patrols jointly with the Afghan troops, with an eye toward ultimately handing over all border missions to the local authorities.
Task force operations officer Maj. Sonya Friday said U.S. troops also have taken part in 11 medical outreach programs in border villages and nine humanitarian missions.
“It gets us into the community,” she said. “It lets them know that we’re here to help, and those villagers have also been instrumental in informing us if something in the area doesn’t seem right.”
Asefi said he also is working with Pakistan on the border security issues. Despite the continued flow of fighters across that border, he said, he is confident the Pakistani government is helping Afghanistan deal with the problems.