A top official with coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan warned Wednesday that the lengthy border with Pakistan - an escape route for terrorists and a transit point for explosives - may never be plugged.
"These borders, with respect to the terrain, may never be fully controllable," German army Maj. Gen. Richard Rossmanith said Wednesday. He is deputy chief of staff for ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force.
"This always will be a challenge and we need to do a lot within the country to actually mitigate the challenges we face at the borders," Rossmanith said from Afghanistan in a video link with journalists at the Pentagon.
He said that securing the borders is of particular importance to a counterinsurgency policy. But land-locked Afghanistan has thousands of miles of borders, including 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) with Pakistan.
U.S. officials long have complained that insurgents come across the border from Pakistan and later return to safe havens in that country, beyond the reach of coalition forces. Rossmanith and others confirm that fertilizer, raw material for improvised explosives, also is smuggled into Afghanistan and used against U.S. and allied forces.
Meanwhile, ISAF is working to boost the capabilities of Afghan forces. "Indeed, we have seen an increase in the Afghan border police in numbers and quality," Rossmanith said. And he said new efforts are under way to increase effectiveness at border crossings and airports.
"We expect from all these activities an increase in security," he said. "On the other side, we should also be realistic."