The Remote Frontier - UNODC Assistance to Afghanistan's Border Patrol

Farah Border4 January 2010 - Afghanistan's borders are difficult to control: drug trafficking and other illicit cross-border activities, such as the smuggling of contraband and weaponry, money laundering and human trafficking are rife. Iranian border police say they are regularly intercepting consignments of anti-tank mines and mortars bound for Afghan militants fighting NATO-led forces. The responsibility of securing the border does not lie solely with its government. All states, particularly transit countries and those with a large demand for heroin, have a stake in improving the security of Afghanistan's borders. In the spirit of shared responsibility, and in consultation with the Governments of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, UNODC has worked on several projects to improve regional cross-border cooperation in the field of drug control.

The Western and South-Western borders of Afghanistan are its main gateway for drug smuggling, with as much as 40% of the nation's illegal opium crop exiting the country from the area around Nimroz province. This is one of the most important strategic pathways for narcotic trafficking from Helmand, Kandahar and Farah Provinces, which are the highest opium growing and collection centers in the country, into Iran and further onto the markets in the West, mainly because there are no law enforcement authorities stationed in this area.

Cross-border cooperation activities are necessary for effective operations in the region. The governments of Iran and Afghanistan adopted a bilateral agreement in 2004 to build 25 border posts within the Afghan territory. Subsequently UNODC started several projects to support, train and equip the Afghan Border Police (ABP). One of the challenges the ABP faces is that the job is dangerous, the pay is low and there are little prospects of career advancement. UNODC trains young people to be the leaders of the future and focuses on building trust with the local people, showing how the guards work for the community.

UNODC has supported the ABP in terms of tactical and operation equipment supplies as well as training the staff of ABP who man the 25 border posts along Afghan - Iran border. UNODC provided the posts with vehicles, radio communication equipment, power generating machines, day/night binoculars, field drug test kits and other mission critical equipment. Furthermore, UNODC facilitated the construction of two regional logistics and maintenance units. A comprehensive radio communication system has been set up to provide connectivity at the company, battalion and brigade levels. As a direct correlation of this assistance to the ABP, the drug seizures and arrests of smugglers have increased throughout the past years.

Cross Border Liaison offices (BLO) are under construction, with technical assistance from UNODC, as part of the Triangular Initiative, a regional cooperation between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through the BLO's, both sides of the border have equal ownership in the successful interdiction of contraband. In 2010, more mentors will train the ABP, and funding will be sought to further enlarge the capacity of ABP along the western border. The first Border Liaison Offices will be operational and international meetings will be held to strengthen the cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries.