Obama Is Sending Border Officers from DHS--Which Has Failed to Secure U.S.-Mexico Border--to Help Secure Afghan-Pakistan Border

By Penny Starr | January 4, 2011 | 10:04 AM EST

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rang in the New Year with a visit to Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy in Kabul)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which by its own admission has thus far failed to control even half of America's nearly 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico, is now sending personnel to Afghanistan to help that country secure its border with Pakistan.

On a New Year’s visit to Afghanistan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there are now 25 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CPB) personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. That number could reach 65 or more by the end of 2011, she said.

“We’re going to contribute numbers,” Napolitano said, in explaining her department’s role in helping Afghanistan transition from military to civilian control.

Napolitano said she hoped to leave Afghanistan with an appreciation of what “skill sets” are most needed there – “and to make sure that’s included in the next wave of individuals that we (Department of Homeland Security) send over.”

In July 2002, when the George W. Bush White House released the first national strategy for the Department of Homeland Security, it identified the new agency’s three objectives as preventing terrorist attacks within the United States; reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism; and minimizing the damage from attacks that do occur.

When asked by CNSNews.com if ICE and CBP personnel have been deployed elsewhere in the world to help secure borders, a DHS spokesperson said that they had, but that security issues prevented the department from providing details on those deployments. Such secrecy apparently does not extend to the deployments of CPB and ICE personnel to Afghanistan, however.

The DHS spokesperson did not respond to questions about what posts CBP and ICE personnel would be pulled from in order to go to Afghanistan. Nor did the spokesperson say what expertise the Homeland Security Department could provide that NATO and U.S. military forces could not provide.  

At her Jan. 1 news conference, however, Napolitano said that some of the advice provided by U.S. border security and customs personnel is “very practical in nature.” She gave some examples: “How do you arrange in-bound versus out-bound lanes?  How do you make sure that you can check trucks?  How do you employ the right kind of equipment in the right way?”

Napolitano said U.S. civilians also are working to prevent “criminal activity in general, not just insurgency.” She mentioned drug smuggling and “bulk cash” smuggling and said the goal is to “intervene and disrupt.”

Napolitano said border protection in any country demands specific skills. “Policing at a border, border protection, is not the same as being say an inner-city police officer,” Napolitano said. “There are obviously different techniques involved, different tactics, different laws oftentimes, and so I think being able to participate and help design that training for this border (Afghanistan) is very important.”

Napolitano said border protection is crucial to establishing “legitimate trade” – and revenue -- which “needs to happen” in Afghanistan.

Napolitano visited the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan, where a number of American border security and customs civilians are serving as advisers. She indicated that in general, she is satisfied with what she saw.  “So I would say that there is a perception that real progress is being made here and has been made in the last nine months.”

However, the commander of a U.S. Army Brigade assigned to the Afghan-Pakistan border told reporters in late December that even the U.S. military has trouble controlling the Afghan-Pakistan border.

“As far as the border itself, you know, I think it’s naive to say that we can stop, you know, forces coming through the border,” Col. Viet Luong told a press conference in Afghanistan on Dec. 28. Luong and his troops are in charge of 162 miles of the Afghan border.

See related story:
U.S. Military Leader: It’s ‘Naïve’ to Say U.S. Can Stop Insurgents Coming Into Afghanistan (4 Jan. 2011)

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