U.S. customs advisors establish relationship with Afghan customs officials
February 12, 2011
WEESH, Afghanistan - Two members of the Border Management Task Force introduced themselves to Afghan customs officials and inspected containers at the Weesh customs yard Feb 2.
Joe Parsons and Charles Rosario, BMTF advisers, visited the Weesh customs yard and spoke to Afghan customs officials to establish a partnership with the agencies working at the border; the Afghan Customs Department Afghan Border Police and customs officials.
"Our objective is to help [customs officials] build revenue for Afghanistan by way of commercial entries, taxation duties, applicable to anything coming into this country," said Parsons, a former U.S. customs inspector. "You have to have basic control of what comes in, how it is manifested, identify who is responsible, and keep track of where the money is going."
Both men have 35 years experience as customs inspectors. Parsons said being an Afghan customs officer is no different than being a U.S. customs officer.
"My goal, in the one year that I will be here, is to come here as much as possible and work with the Afghan customs department at this port," said the Philadelphia native. "It takes a long time for the Afghan people to trust us, so I am here to make friends."
Rosario, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, said Afghanistan needs more customs officers. He said the customs officers he met with want to work with U.S. advisers. "They are eager to work. They would like new buildings and uniforms that say \'Customs.'"
The Air Force veteran was optimistic about the Afghanistan-Pakistan border relationship, "I believe they are making progress at this port, if we [the BMTF] can help to improve on just two things, I feel we did a lot."
After meeting with the Afghan customs officials, the BMTF officers took part in a foot patrol with Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.
The road that connects Pakistan and Afghanistan has a variety of shops on both sides. It is regularly congested with people traveling on foot, via motorcycle, car, bicycle and even donkey carts. The smell of food filled the air as street vendors sold lamb kabobs, fresh fruit, and a variety of other foods on wheeled carts.
Parsons, a Vietnam War veteran, said he was surprised he felt no hostility whatsoever from the local population as they walked through the busy urban section of Weesh.
"It's an amazing culture of people," said Parsons of the local population after the foot patrol through the city of Weesh.
"Hopefully we will be able to have advisers at the port of entry on a regular basis," said Parsons.
This is the first time in Afghanistan for the two BMTF officers. Currently there are four customs advisers at Spin Boldak. Their tour will last one year.