CPA Announces Measures to Tighten Border Security in Iraq
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2004 The Coalition Provisional Authority announced a new policy today to tighten border security in Iraq, an effort officials say will help stem the flow of terrorists and foreign fighters entering the country.
During a briefing from Baghdad, senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor told reporters the new policy calls for "increased personnel, new technology and tighter procedures," beginning at the Iranian border. He said the new policy is the first stage in a multi-stage effort to address security problems at Iraq's porous borders.
Reading a statement issued this morning by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer III, Senor said initiatives in the new border policy call for doubling the security personnel at Iraq's borders, reducing the number of entry points on the Iranian border and hiring more immigration staff officers.
The coalition will begin closing all but three points of entry into Iraq from the Iranian border in about a week, he said. By next summer, Senor said, the policy calls for doubling Iraq's border patrol force from 8,000 to 16,000, as well as increasing the number of immigration officers on duty from 86 to 1,000.
Senor said increased border security is needed because foreign terrorists are present in Iraq. He said that although "their numbers are not known with precision, recent attacks and their continuing presence underscores the importance of improving security at Iraq's borders."
Other policy initiatives call for:
- Decreasing the number of individuals who will be allowed to cross into Iraq
- Installing a high-tech tracking system for those entering and exiting the country
- Decreasing the length of stay that individuals are allowed when crossing, and requiring passports when entering the country
"All visitors arriving to Iraq by land will need to present a passport, fill out an entry form, be issued a temporary entry card, and be entered into an immigration monitoring system," Senor said.
Senor said tourist visas will begin being issued in the next several months, and the entry-permit program will begin immediately. Also, the new length-of- stay rules will be required immediately for new entrants into the country, he said.
The CPA will use an identification tracking system that has been tested in Afghanistan and Pakistan to "positively ID" everyone entering and leaving Iraq, he said.
He said data from the entry cards will be entered into the tracking system to give border officials a means to conduct checks for wanted subjects and provide a photograph of each visitor. Senor said 36 Iraqis have so far been trained on the system.
Senor said the coalition also is hopeful that neighboring countries will take more aggressive steps to stem the flow of individuals, specifically foreign fighters, who are crossing their borders into Iraq.
"That is a problem that we have seen to be on an increasing scale recently, instead of decreasing," Senor said. "So we would also encourage governments bordering Iraq to do more."
He said CPA officials have consulted with the Iranian government on the new policy, and that a delegation of Iraqi Governing Council officials departed today for Tehran for further discussion.
Senor said the new policy to increase security at the Iraq-Iran border has the support of the Iraqi interior minister, and that he believes the policy will get Tehran's support as well. "We believe that its something the Iranians want, but we would encourage them to play a more aggressive role in doing their part from their end to make it more difficult for people to illegally cross the border," he said.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said the new policy will not reduce the number of U.S. coalition soldiers helping to patrol Iraq's borders.
"I'm not aware of any options where we are looking at this as an opportunity to pull coalition soldiers away from this mission," he said. "It would be additive to, and not an opportunity to replace them."