By Sgt. Matthew C. MoellerJune 2, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TORKHAM, Afghanistan (May 29, 2009) -- An Afghan National Army military liaison officer at the Khyber Border Coordination Center receives a phone call; violent extremists are fleeing from Nangarhar province across the border into Pakistan's Peshawar region. The Afghans have to inform the Pakistanis fast if they want to catch them in the act.
What used to take hours now takes seconds, as the ANA liaison walks a few feet to the desks of representatives from the Pakistani military and the Afghan National Border Police.
Located just a few miles from the Afghan-Pakistani border, the KBCC here has brought Pakistani, Afghan and NATO International Security Assistance Force servicemembers together to remove the fog of war and to allow instant communication and coordination among all working to secure the border.
"Basically, it removes a lot of links from the chain," said U.S. Army Capt. David Gray, officer in charge of the KBCC's ISAF personnel. "Now, you have that face-to-face interaction between the different groups, so it tends to make things run a lot quicker."
Historically important, the Khyber Pass is home to Torkham Gate, Afghanistan's largest official entrance into the country. More than 40,000 people can cross through the gate each day, taking advantage of the direct route between Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, and Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Afghan military members based at the KBCC say the difficult terrain along the border had allowed extremists to cross back and forth with little detection, often attacking from one side then fleeing to the other before the second country could be informed of the intrusion.
Now, with the KBCC fully operational, the two nations and ISAF are able to coordinate a response together almost instantly.
"We're working closely with the Pakistani and [ISAF personnel]," said Afghan Maj. Mohammad Shinwar, Afghan Border Police liaison officer. "If something were to happen at the border, we are going to share with these two parties, ... and if we have any kind of problem, we will share with them, and the decision will be made by Pakistan, Afghanistan and [ISAF]."
These three-party decisions are seeing results. Several months ago, officials said, extremists attacked Afghan forces in the country's volatile Kunar province. After receiving reports that the men planned to flee through Torkham Gate into Pakistan, KBCC personnel coordinated with Afghan and Pakistani military forces, and the men were apprehended at the gate.
"Our successful coordination here led to their capture," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Craig Snow, the center's public affairs officer.
The KBCC is the first of several planned coordination centers to be placed along the border.
(Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)