By Spc. Maurice Galloway, 17th Fires Brigade Public AffairsJune 19, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - Lines of communication were opened and concerns addressed as Iraqi and U.S. military leaders met at the Basra Operations Center to discuss border security in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Muhammad Jawad Hawaydi, Basra Operations Center commander, hosted the Southern Borders Conference June 14, designed to address concerns among the leaders of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and United States Division-South, and other commanders deployed throughout Iraq attended the conference to assess the vital development of border security across an increasingly sovereign Iraq.
"U.S. officers are here to listen to what you have to say in order to help in achieving security along the borders," Brooks said.
Muhammad opened the discussion by applauding the Department of Border Enforcement's success in significantly reducing the infiltration of illegal materials through the borders.
"Our battle space is very extensive, and despite the DBE's best efforts, we're going to require more force along the borders to thwart the continued infiltration attempts of these criminals living in safe havens along our borders," Muhammad said.
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Habib Dhafar, 4th Region DBE commander, addressed issues in his operational environment such as the extensive damage of the Basra Dam and the number of small canals in the Shatt Al Harrah River that serve as smuggling routes.
"We've asked that the canals be closed on numerous occasions and have received no responses from the government," said Dhafar.
Dhafar said the Basra Dam is more than 70 percent damaged and is vital to the protection of the oil fields. He requested the government renovate the dam, but no official allocation of funds to the project have been made thus far.
Other border enforcement officials who attended the conference reported improvements in security technology with the installation of new cameras and scanners at the Safwan and Shalamche points of entry. They also said joint border patrols have led to the confiscation of weapons and other munitions.
They also said they are losing a significant amount of intelligence due to the lack of resources available to pay informants for vital information which could lead to arrests.
Both, Brooks and Mohammad agreed the conference was beneficial in the development of the security of the Iraqi borders.
"It seems we need to shore up communication between our units in order to better secure our borders," Mohammad said. "We will work hard to adhere to each of the concerns you have placed before us, but it's only by a collective effort that we'll be able to achieve our goal of a safer Iraq," he said.