By Sgt. Nathan Bowen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 20, 2008 - As part of their ongoing effort to enhance communication and cooperation, Afghan and Pakistani border security forces at Torkham Gate met Feb. 28 with the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Special Troops Battalion commander to address security and communication issues and the upcoming opening of the Khyber Border Coordination Center. Preventing insurgent operations in the border area requires constant communication between the Afghan and Pakistan border forces, said Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milhorn, the battalion commander. He said he hopes to improve the chances of catching insurgents by supplying the Afghan and Pakistani border police with radio equipment so they can speak directly with each other.
The recent improvements at Torkham Gate, such as installing an X-ray machine to scan incoming cargo trucks and people who regularly cross the border into nationwide databases, are just some of the processes put in place to more efficiently regulate border operations.
Pakistan Army Col. Qaiser Alam stressed the importance of the Afghan and Pakistani border police and the U.S. military pooling their resources to combat a common enemy.
"A terrorist is a terrorist," Qaiser said. "He has no nationality, no religion, no color."
The meeting moved to the roof of the border checkpoint on the Pakistan side to take in a full view of the bustling Afghan border station across the bridge, and plans were discussed about future changes. Qaiser said he hopes for newer facilities on his side of the border, alleviating some of the burden from the Afghan side.
No paperless communication exists among the Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. forces, and although they're only a few hundred feet apart, the checkpoints work independently of each other. Improving the forces' cooperation ultimately will benefit both sides, officials said.
"Estimates by experts indicate that (Torkham Gate) has the potential to generate $350 million in revenue each year – money that could be put back into government projects," said Army Maj. Scott Sonsalla, Special Troops Battalion's executive officer. "Our goal is to improve the country through prosperity and security. Closing the border to illegal traffic does both."
(Army Sgt. Nathan Bowen serves with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.)