At a small compound not far from the airport in Dushanbe, an Afghan, a Tunisian, and a Tajik official sit side-by-side listening to a lecture on weapons smuggling interdiction. As the American instructor's words are simultaneously translated into Dari, English, and Tajik, the students furiously scribble notes. They will have to present research projects on this material in the near future. They do not want to be caught unprepared.
The students are but three of 41 border management and/or security officials from Central Asia and beyond who have come to the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Tajikistan to learn how to fight terrorism, human trafficking, illicit drug trade, and many other threats that governments face as they manage long, porous borders. More Afghans have been trained than any other nationality since the program began. With the support of its 57 members (including the United States), the OSCE has taught these intensive courses on international standards of border management three times a year since 2009. Considering the regional security and economic implications of border integrity, the benefits of the training will far exceed the borders of the countries represented in the class, particularly as the region prepares for the transition in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
Perhaps as significant as the applicability of the curriculum is how each course builds a cohesive team from a class comprised of students from such disparate national and linguistic backgrounds. The teachers say that the technical expertise students acquire in the class serves as the common link. As one of the administrators said, "I can't understand a word they are saying, but they can somehow understand one another." The ability to use these courses to forge common approaches to an effort that will so clearly rely on the buy-in of multiple countries bodes well for the increasingly regional nature of Central Asian countries' cooperation and concerns.
Here in Tajikistan, the OSCE Border Management Staff College is making a tangible contribution to regional preparedness for Afghanistan's assumption of full responsibility for the various aspects of its national security. The United States is proud to help support this effort and believes it will pay dividends for years to come.