May 202015

Given that nothing in the murky world of intelligence is ever quite what it seems, there do appear to be some welcome developments in terms of intelligence-sharing by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Intelligence-sharing can be difficult to pull off as it may mean revealing assets that the other side was unaware of, along with a range of other pitfalls. Pakistan already has difficulty managing the coordination of its several domestic intelligence-gathering agencies, which have a long history of failing to cooperate with one another. Extending hands that hold the keys to the intelligence files across the mutual border is undoubtedly going to be a challenge, but on the basis of self-interest on both sides, well worth taking up.

The lead intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Kabul. The National Directorate of Security and the Inter-Services Intelligence have both confirmed the signing of the MoU but were tight-lipped as to any other detail. This is a further indication that the two countries are moving closer to the harmonisation of their counterterrorism operations. The world of intelligence is one of shadows and whispers, but the war fought in the shadows has to be won if both countries are to win the physical guns-and-bullets war. The threat to both countries is currently convergent as Afghanistan adjusts to the new realities attached to the American withdrawal, and Pakistan is ever more hard-nosed and effective in its operations associated with Zarb-e-Azb. The MoU is said to clarify who ‘the enemy’ is, and whilst there are external threats as the intelligence agencies of a range of countries jostle for space in both Afghanistan and Pakistan; the biggest threat to both countries comes from within rather than outside. Terrorism finds fertile ground to sow its deadly seeds, and Afghanistan and Pakistan have both failed to create a countervailing narrative. That narrative is the missing piece in the counterterror jigsaw. Find that and the game is winnable.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015.

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