The move is part of a larger reformation effort to improve security against the Taliban in isolated regions next to Pakistan. These border areas are far removed from more populated areas, are rough and mountainous, and do not lend themselves to traditional means of transportation.
About 11,000 police officials have been moved into posts along the Afghan-Pakistan border where the terrain is difficult to navigate, Cone indicated. Their job is largely to augment U.S. forces in stopping the Taliban from traveling back and forth across the border with Pakistan. A total of 18,000 such positions to help patrol the border have been authorized, Cone added.
Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001 a few weeks after the 9/11 terror strikes against New York City and the Pentagon. The earliest phase of combat operations involved air strikes from land-based B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, carrier-based F-14 and F/A-18 fighters, and submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the Department of Defense.
There currently are about 31,000 U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesman told CNSNews.com.
Although the performance of the police force has “generally lagged behind” that of the Afghan National Army, there are signs of progress over the past year – signs that suggest the flow of new resources, in combination with increased training, will produce dividends, Cone said.
“All in all, we have made positive strides in fielding professional security forces that are competent, diverse, and capable of providing security throughout Afghanistan,” he said.
“We have a long way to go, though,” said Cone. “This effort requires sustained support not just from the United States but from the international community. This is especially true for the police reformation, where I am short some 2,300 police trainers and mentors.”
The most encouraging results have occurred in police districts where “mentor teams” of Americans and Afghans, working together, have been active, Cone explained. However, NATO allies will need to expand their commitments before positive impacts can be felt on a large scale, he indicated.
By the end of this year, Cone anticipates having 52 police districts folded into the program. Thus far, he has identified seven districts that are capable of operating on their own.
The Afghani border police force will focus its efforts on the regional command east sector, close to where the 101st Airborne Division is deployed, Cone told CNSNews.com.
“Border police have a tough mission here in Afghanistan because of the remoteness and the isolation that they face,” he said. “Therefore, you can see the recruiting problem.”
Current plans call for more than 50 border companies to be rebuilt and bolstered over the winter months, said Cone. Already, 17 border companies have been sent back to police training centers where they will be re-tooled.
All told, $70 million will be spent on training and equipment for the purpose of border security.
It is only in the past year that considerable attention has been devoted to training the police force, in comparison with the five years of training the national army has received, Cone explained.
Even so, there is cause for encouragement.
More than 22,000 police officers have been trained in 2007-2008, over a quarter of the total force, he said.
Meanwhile, the Afghan National Army is in the midst of expanding from 68,000 to about 134,000 soldiers. The army’s effectiveness on the battlefield has improved in recent months thanks to equipment upgrades, Cone said. As a result, The Afghan army is now taking the lead in 60 percent of the operations where it is participating with U.S. troops, he said.
Afghanistan has a “warrior culture,” and a population that is willing to stand up and defend itself against aggression, Cone said.
The challenge is to properly “harness” that energy and apply it in a meaningful way on the battlefield, he concluded.