COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Helmand province, Afghanistan - There has been a huge change in the focus of the United States Border Patrol since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Their focus of effort has turned more toward preventing terroristic threats from entering the United States through its more than 300 border checkpoints, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection official website.
The Afghan Border Police has established a very similar mission, but on a slightly smaller scale. The ABP emphasizes border security around small Afghan towns and villages to prevent the infiltration of illegal drugs and weapons, which fuel the insurgency.
Approximately 13,000 ABP work in unison with the Afghan Uniformed Police to help sustain the enemy threat along Afghanistan’s borders and the outskirts of small towns and villages. They patrol the perimeter of their areas of operations daily to ensure the safety of the citizens.
The border police have worked diligently over time to improve their skills and effectiveness through rigorous training and continue to work with Marine mentors who assist them.
“(Since) we’ve been here, I think we’ve made some great progress with the ABP,” said Maj. James M. Moore of Lilburn, Ga., and the Border Advisor Team leader for BAT-1, currently in support of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
The ABP, like many of the Afghan security forces, has some Afghan service members who have more than 30 years of military and fighting experience. A portion of them were once a part of the Mujahedeen, or freedom fighters during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s.
This is why the Marines mentoring them can take a step back and serve as advisors. Moore mentioned the border policemen his team has worked with would be fully functional on their own.
“These Afghan fighters are set and really well-trained,” said Jacksonville, N.C., resident Sgt. Anthony Elzholz. “I feel if we leave tomorrow, they’d be able to hold their own.”
A lot of training, manpower, and logistical support go into getting any security force to a level of self-sustainment. Coalition forces are working to transition responsibility of security throughout the country to Afghan forces, so the ABP is working to ensure it can function on its own.
Luckily for Elzholz, a rifleman and infantry tactics advisor with BAT-1, the ABP team he was once mentoring just a few weeks ago has allowed him to become much more of an advisor than a mentor.
“We were very hands-on about a month ago,” said Elzholz. “Now (the ABP) allow me to be more of a spectator and be there only if they need me rather than walk them through everything. It’s a lot more of suggesting than telling.”
He also said the border police understand it won’t be long before they are running the show. They already know basic infantry tactics and can apply them if need be, but their role as police officers comes first.
Their mission directs them to keep narcotics from entering their area of operations and disrupt enemy activity along the borders of their towns. Border policemen must work with the AUP and Afghan National Army in preparation to combat the narcotic threat, even as the United States and other coalition forces begin plans to return home and another poppy planting season begins.
“Many Marine teams have come in and trained us, and we are blessed to have several policemen in our unit with many years of experience in fighting insurgents and eliminating their main source of income,” said Col. Ahmad Jan, an operations officer with the ABP. “It’s a battle long overdue, and it’s time we stand up for ourselves and show the world our strength.”
Editor’s Note: Border Advisor Team 1 is currently attached in support of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.