Home­land Se­cu­rity to add staff in Afghanistan

Agency to fo­cus on train­ing, border con­trol sup­port, Napoli­tano says

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY PAMELA CON­STA­BLE con­sta­blep@wash­post.com

kabul — U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano, on a two-day visit here, said Satur­day that her depart­ment plans to sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster its ac­tiv­i­ties in Afghanistan over the com­ing year, adding as many as 54 agents to the cur­rent con­tin­gent of 25.

Napoli­tano said her agency’s work will fo­cus on sup­port­ing border con­trol and train­ing Afghan of­fi­cials in anti-smug­gling tech­niques, with spe­cial em­pha­sis on stop­ping il­le­gal ship­ments of bulk cash. Smug­gled cash is used to fi­nance crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties and to hide prof­its gained from cor­rup­tion and drug traf­fick­ing.

She told jour­nal­ists at the U.S. Em­bassy that the “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ca­pa­bil­ity” by her depart­ment was in­tended to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion from mil­i­tary to civil­ian over­sight of border and cus­toms con­trol, anti-smug­gling ef­forts and other op­er­a­tions as the United States be­gins to with­draw its troops over the next sev­eral years.

The cash, drugs, pre­cious gems, his­toric ar­ti­facts and tim­ber smug­gled out of Afghanistan are a huge drain on its econ­omy, with hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars a year leav­ing the coun­try il­le­gally. Many items exit Afghanistan by land, but bulk cash is of­ten smug­gled by air to Dubai and to other desti­na­tions. One prom­i­nent Afghan was stopped in Dubai last year with sev­eral suit­cases stuffed full of cash.

Napoli­tano, who vis­ited one of two main border-cross­ing points be­tween Afghanistan and Pak­istan on Fri­day, said her depart­ment is bring­ing in new ex­perts from var­i­ous U.S. agen­cies. Em­bassy of­fi­cials said they will in­clude for­mer border pa­trol agents and en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

The sec­re­tary met with Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and other se­nior Afghan of­fi­cials Satur­day, in­clud­ing the fi­nance and in­te­rior min­is­ters. She said “real progress” had been made in im­prov­ing border con­trol and anti-smug­gling op­er­a­tions in the past nine months.

“ There is a grow­ing num­ber of vet­ted units, poly­graphed units” of Afghan se­cu­rity agents who have been trained by U.S. law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, she said.

Napoli­tano also said that while Afghan and U.S. of­fi­cials are work­ing to­gether to shut down il­le­gal smug­gling, they are ea­ger to fa­cil­i­tate le­gal trade and make Afghanistan into a tran­sit hub for re­gional com­merce.

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