News: ABP Keep the Peace at Isolated Check Point
Story by Spc. Ken Scar
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — In the canyon below Forward Operating Base Tillman two streams converge. One leads across the border into Pakistan and one comes down the mountain, from the small villages to the north. The rocky beds of the two streams serve as roads and have probably served as roads for centuries. It’s rough going, but an amazing variety of vehicles ferry passengers and goods past this point every day.
A sturdy mud shop that sells tobacco and corn from local crops juts from the tip of the peninsula that was carved from the merging of the two rivers. Perched in between the fortified bunkers on the banks to each side, the Afghan Border Police operate what must be one of the most unique traffic control points in the country.
If you didn’t know you were in Afghanistan, you’d take one look at this place and think you were on an Indian reservation in Arizona or Utah, on your way to a weekend of mountain biking in Moab. But this is not a vacation destination – not yet.
It’s a place of ebbs and flows - one moment the only sound is the chuckling streams, the next a small convoy of diesel cargo trucks that come slowly rumbling through, leaving behind a cloud of dust and fumes. After a while, the gurgling streams take over again.
The U.S. military has had a presence here for many years, but these days the U.S. soldiers come down from the FOB more to observe and do biometric checks than to conduct the flow of traffic. The hardy ABP stationed here control the pulse of this place now.
A beat-up Toyota Camry grinds up the stream bed from Pakistan. U.S. soldiers observe as the ABP stop it for a routine inspection making the six men inside step out for questioning. After everything checks out, the car disappears upstream in a clatter of steel and gravel.
The local kids like to come down here, where the soldiers are. Dressed in their colorful “kali”, they are bright shadows that follow the soldiers around, making minor pests of themselves.
Sometimes the soldiers will give them candy or other small gifts like radios and bottles of water.
“If it comes out of your pack they love it, they want it,” said one ANA soldier.
Most of the time the U.S. and Afghan warfighters tolerate the small flock of hangers-on with good humor, but when a call comes down that an improvised explosive device has been detonated not far away, accompanied by small arms fire, it’s time for the children leave. The soldiers bark orders and the children, used to this kind of thing, disappear in a blink, scampering off through the neat rows of trees and cornfields on either side of the stream bed. The checkpoint is suddenly quiet, serious.
Some time later the call comes on the radio – all clear. The children reappear, splashing and chattering along the stream beds. The grinding of gears echoes from up the canyon, and a jingle truck bounces into view.
The ebb and flow continues.