Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dubious propositions: walling off Afghanistan

The White House is pushing a plan to build a wall between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Washington is backing a plan to build a 1,500-mile fence along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan to prevent Islamic insurgents and drug smugglers slipping between the two countries....

The cordon, officials said, would deter infiltration in both directions and there would be arrangements for controlled crossings. A spokesman for the US state department, Sean McCormack, told reporters that Washington thought it was "important that Pakistan and Afghanistan take up this idea".

Details of the fencing are sketchy although the Pakistani president said his country could not afford to construct the fence through mountainous terrain and a deeply conservative region "by itself". "We could do selective fencing," he said, as an alternative to an unbroken barrier.

Aware that the security situation could deteriorate in the run-up to the Afghan elections, Pakistan announced last week that it was sending 9,500 more troops to its border regions. Underlining the fragile peace in Afghanistan's southern cities adjoining Pakistan, Britain's defence secretary, John Reid, said in London that several thousand extra Nato troops would be needed in the volatile region. |Guardian Unlimited|
I think a barrier makes more sense in urban areas and to fence in a relatively small area (such as Israel or East Berlin). I question how effective any barrier could be in remote mountainous terrain and how feasible it would be to guard 1,500 miles of fence even with the use of high tech gadgets like a distributed sensor network and remotely piloted drones.

By way of comparison, 1500 miles is roughly the distance from Kansas City, Kansas to Los Angeles, California.

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