- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, working in Jordan and Iraq to train Iraq’s newly established Department of Border Enforcement, have been key players in the arrest of 41 terrorists seeking to join al Qaeda insurgents, CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said yesterday.

The terrorists, arrested by CBP border-support teams working with newly trained Iraqi border-enforcement agents, had sought to enter Iraq for what Mr. Bonner called “continuing violence and terrorism” aimed at U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraqi authorities and civilians.

Those arrested maintained a weapons route effectively arming the insurgency within Iraq, he said.

“I had a chance to visit our CBP training teams and border-support units to thank and salute them for the dedication they have shown and the sacrifices they have made on a voluntary basis to help rebuild Iraq,” Mr. Bonner said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan.

“They needed to be told how much their efforts are appreciated by the Iraqi people, the governments of both countries and the American public in helping to support U.S. objectives of building strong and effective governmental institutions in Iraq.”

More than 20 CBP officers in Jordan have trained 1,600 Iraqis since August at the Jordan International Training Academy in Amman — all of whom were assigned to the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement. Another 500 Iraqis started new training classes this week, and will graduate in January.

The training includes border-security tactics, human rights, defensive tactics, weapons training, and vehicle searches for suicide bombs, as well as basic customs and immigration work.

Other smaller CBP border-support teams, mostly Border Patrol agents, are working with the Iraqis at numerous undisclosed locations, looking for insurgents and enforcing basic immigration laws.

“The Iraqis are charged with securing and controlling the border and, like CBP, they are the front line for border and customs enforcement,” Mr. Bonner said. “This may be the only other country in the world besides the United States that has aligned all its border agencies into one.

“The United States in building effective and credible government institutions in Iraq, and I am glad CBP is playing an important role in that effort,” he said.

Mr. Bonner said the creation of an effective Iraqi border-enforcement agency is the first step to ensuring sovereignty for that nation. He said if the United States can develop credible and effective institutions of government within Iraq, both democratic and stable, it would be “the beginning of the end” for the al Qaeda terrorists.

“Within a very short period of time, we have made great progress, and those CBP officers and agents working here — and doing so voluntarily — are encouraged by the progress,” he said.

While in Jordan, Mr. Bonner personally delivered to the officers and agents new CBP badges, part of an ongoing series of ceremonies he has conducted over the past three months from California to New York — delivering the first law enforcement badges to his agents within the Department of Homeland Security.

Created March 1, 2003, CBP is the nation’s unified border agency within Homeland Security, consisting of officers, inspectors and agents from the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Border Patrol. Its 41,000 employees manage, control and protect the nation’s borders, at and between the official ports of entry.

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