Afghanistan, Pakistan resume intel-sharing after years of mutual animosity

Activists of Jamat ud Dawa protest in support of Pakistan's army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in Lahore on April 25, 2014. (AFP Photo / Arif Ali)
Pakistan and Afghanistan have set about restoring cooperation after years of bickering and confrontation: their intelligence agencies have signed a memorandum on intelligence-sharing to tackle the Taliban insurgency together.

While it was always a powder keg of tribal warfare, security threats soared to new heights after Islamabad and Kabul fell out over the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But following former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s departure from power and his successor Ashraf Ghani taking power last year, both countries have stepped up the fight against the Taliban.

These efforts took a beating, however, as it was thought that Pakistan feared its longstanding rival, India, would use regional terrorism to play the blame game. The US invasion would have been the perfect pretext for such accusations.

The decision to pool intelligence was announced in a memorandum of understanding between the two spy agencies on Monday by the Pakistani military’s spokesman, Major General Asim Bajwa, on Twitter.

"MOU signed by ISI & NDS," the announcement read, referring to the two agencies – the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence and the Afghani National Directorate of Security.

It mentions a broad agreement that focuses on the sharing of intelligence, as well as “complimentary and coordinated [operations] on respective sides.”

The announcement was officially made on the heels of the visit to Kabul last week by Pakistan’s intelligence chief, the chief of army staff and prime minister.

In the aftermath of a strong escalation in the armed insurgency, the two neighbors would shift blame towards one another as well: over in Kabul, Karzai enjoyed NATO backing in his accusations against Pakistan and how it backs the Taliban, which rampages across state borders and allegedly answers to Pakistani leadership in its aims to destabilize Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces (Reuters / Omar Sobhani)

Although Pakistan had always denied the allegations, the international community did not see much in the way of action in tackling the Taliban insurgency there.

The same accusations were leveled at Afghanistan some time later, when two distinct Taliban insurgencies had started operating on both sides of the geographical divide, both trying to topple their respective governments and institute a strict form of Islamic law.

Although some form of cooperation had been going on, such as Afghanistan sending some of its cadets over to Pakistan for training, there were still no substantial joint military operations, as until now, suspicions ran deep.

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Meanwhile, the US has continued its drone strike campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistani border operation against the Taliban on home soil has likewise picked up steam.

Questions remain about the true nature of Pakistani-US cooperation and the validity of the claim that killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 was a huge blow to the Taliban. A recent report by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh outlines how Washington fabricated several key claims regarding the raid that killed Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Hersh, writing in the London Review of Books, has alleged that the US government and Pakistani officials in fact worked closely together to smooth over political and financial disputes prior to the May 2011 assault on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound.

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