With a 5,500-kilometer border that often snakes through remote and volatile territory, Afghanistan faces the challenge of increasing trade with neighboring countries while preventing illicit activities such as drug trafficking. A partnership between the country’s two key border agencies at the busy transport hub of Hairatan in northern Afghanistan serves as a model for border management that contributes to a thriving licit economy.
The partnership, called the Border Management Model, is based on international best practices. It establishes clear roles and responsibilities for the Afghanistan Customs Department, which is responsible for cross-border trade, and the Afghan Border Police, which is charged with immigration and national security at the border. The model also encourages information-sharing between the two entities to stem corruption, smuggling, and other illegal activities.
USAID’s Trade and Accession Facilitation for Afghanistan project and other partners, including the U.S. embassy’s Border Management Task Force, have supported this model since September 2011 in a pilot at Hairatan, on Afghanistan’s border with Uzbekistan. In the pilot, customs and police officers conduct joint examinations of vehicles, strengthening control of borders, and reducing opportunities for corruption and other illegal activities. To further support increased trade, customs officials have expanded their working hours to 24 hours, seven days a week.
“Police and customs worked separately before, but now they work together,” said Mohammad Zahir, a customs deputy at Hairatan. “This is improving trade and security at borders.”
Afghanistan met an International Monetary Fund benchmark in June 2011 when key ministries signed off on the model. With the pilot’s success, Afghanistan is preparing to meet another benchmark by expanding the model to two additional sites — Sher Khan Bandar on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan and Islam Qala on the border with Iran — in 2012. The government will eventually implement the model nationwide.
“This has shown that the police and customs can accomplish more by working together as partners,” said Mohammad Za-hour, a colonel with the Hairatan border police.