- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, along with Border Patrol agents, are on the ground in Iraq to help secure that country’s war-torn borders prior to tomorrow’s national elections, CBP officials said yesterday.

CBP spokeswoman Kristi M. Clemens said the deployment team will bolster current border security efforts, providing support and additional training for Iraqi border police — which will continue beyond the elections — in an effort to keep saboteurs, terrorists and armaments from crossing into or out of the country.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents are fighting the war on terror, and we’ve taken it to the borders of Iraq,” said CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. “Our people are on a vital mission to train Iraqis to protect their own borders and build Iraqi institutions that will safeguard the new freedoms and democratic principles being established there.

“There is no more important mission,” he said.

The deployment is the latest effort by CBP in an ongoing commitment to develop and help institutionalize Iraq’s border security strategy.

In December, CBP officers and agents played a key role in the arrest of 41 terrorists seeking to join al Qaeda. The terrorists were arrested by CBP border-support teams working with newly trained Iraqi border-enforcement agents. Those arrested had maintained a weapons route, effectively arming the insurgency within Iraq.

More than 20 CBP officers have trained 1,600 Iraqis since August at the Jordan International Training Academy in Amman, Jordan — all of whom were assigned to the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement. Another 500 Iraqis graduated this month.

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.

Miss Clemens said training at the Jordanian facility, which begins with basic classroom instruction and progresses to field exercises, includes proper border security tactics, human rights, defensive tactics, weapons training and vehicle searches, as well as basic customs and immigration activities. The Iraqis have since put the training to use at the country’s ports of entry.

The next class is scheduled to begin Feb. 7.

“Border security is critical to defeating terrorists — whether at U.S. borders or the borders of Iraq,” Mr. Bonner said. “I commend the CBP officers and Border Patrol agents who volunteered their expertise and sacrificed the comforts of home to help institute Iraqi border security.”

In December, Mr. Bonner personally delivered to the officers and agents in Jordan new CBP badges, part of a series of ceremonies he conducted from California to New York.

Miss Clemens noted that CBP’s priority mission is preventing the entry of terrorists and terrorist weapons into the United States, an assignment undertaken domestically and abroad. More than 1,000 CBP officers and Border Patrol agents are now stationed around the world, she said.

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