Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Border Guard commander, Lt-General Talal al-Anqawi revealed yesterday that the kingdom has achieved substantial progress in the controlling of its joint border with Iraq, making it the best compared with neighboring countries.
Regarding the flow of insurgents into Iraqi territories from countries other than Saudi Arabia, he told Asharq al-Awsat that the security situation on the Saudi-Iraqi border “has been the best, compared with border control operations with other countries neighboring Iraq”.
The statement comes almost six months after the announcement of the country’s intention to build a security fence on the joint border with Iraq to curb border crossing through its territories. Prince Ahmad Bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, announced on 6 October last year that Saudi Arabia was about to build a security fence on the joint border with Iraq.
Al-Anqawi refused to give further details on the progress of the security fence, but stressed that the numbers of infiltrators through the Saudi-Iraqi borders have dropped significantly. The Saudi border guard commander stressed in previous statements made to Asharq Al-Awsat that the reduction in the number of infiltrators has decreased by 30 to 40 percent in comparison with the last few years.
Al-Anqawi credited the reduction in the number of infiltrators to the control over borders between the two countries, the tight closure of the border area and the wide-spread installation of thermal surveillance cameras. This was a recommendation made by the interior ministers of the countries neighboring Iraq, in addition to the Iraqi side’s understanding of the extent of efforts exerted by the Saudi side in the process of controlling borders between the two countries. The commander of the border guard said yesterday that his department is embarking on a qualitative leap in the process of border control which goes beyond the installation of thermal surveillance cameras. It is expected that the Saudi border guard department will seek the assistance of aircraft in order to monitor its joint borders with neighboring countries from the air.
The deteriorating security situation in Iraq compels Saudi Arabia to exert extra efforts with particular regard to protecting its borders from any infiltration operations that might take place.
The Saudi-Iraqi borders witnessed in the last few years numerous infiltrations and the Saudi authorities were able to arrest 682 Iraqi infiltrators and smugglers in the first half of 2005. They were also able to apprehend 63 people and prevent them from crossing the northern borders of the country.
Up until August 2005, the cost of securing the border with Iraq incurred by Saudi Arabia rose up to 4 billion riyals, compared with 1.8 billion riyals by the end of 2004. The Saudi security services were able during the period between 2001 and August 2005 to confiscate 14.8 million ammunition rounds, 16.3 weapons and 2991 pounds of explosives. The measures that Saudi Arabia took unilaterally led to discovering massive networks busy manufacturing and smuggling explosives to terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.
In Mach 2004, Saudi Arabia embarked on a comprehensive training program for its officers involved in border control operations and border centers. The forces and equipments of the Border Guard, the National Guard and the Army cover nine regions including (39 administrations) as well as 275 border centers.
The Saudi Interior Ministry has been using the most up-to-date means to control borders, such as the use of special aircraft provided by the Royal Saudi Air Force, sophisticated radar equipment and night vision devices provided by the Ministry of Defense. In the process of border control, the Saudi Interior Ministry sought the assistance of modern thermal surveillance and border control units, while the number of mobile units reached 37 deployed in the region bordering Iraq.