Ghani Initiates AfPak Intelligence-Sharing Deal

Ghani Initiates AfPak  Intelligence-Sharing DealGhani Initiates AfPak  Intelligence-Sharing Deal

The spy agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to share intelligence and carry out "coordinated intelligence operations" against militants operating along their fragile border, in the latest sign of improved relations following years of mistrust that undermined the fight against the Taliban.

Pakistan's army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa announced the signing of the Memoranda of Understanding between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security in a Twitter post late Monday. Bajwa did not say when the accord was signed, AP said in a report.

The announcement came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, along with the country's army chief and the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), visited Kabul to step up cooperation in the fight against militants.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of sheltering militants, but relations have improved since Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assumed power last September. An attack on a military-run school in Pakistan in December in which Taliban gunmen killed scores of people, mainly children, seems to have hastened the movement toward greater cooperation.

Dramatic Gesture

The intelligence-sharing agreement is the most dramatic gesture yet by Ghani, who has been determined to win Islamabad’s help in brokering peace talks with the Taliban by offering concessions that would have been unthinkable under his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

Ghani has upset hawks by sending Afghan cadets for training at Pakistan’s officer academy and diverting scarce military resources to fight Pakistani militants hiding in Afghanistan.

Even his November 2014 visit to the office of Pakistan’s army chief in the garrison city of Rawalpindi was seen by some as an affront to national pride.

Softer Tone

Both sides have toned down their rhetoric in recent months, and Ghani has sought to reassure Pakistan that Kabul is not working with its archrival India to undermine its interests.

Relations between the two neighbors has improved dramatically after Ghani took over as president last year and after NATO troops rolled back their operations in the country.

There are signs Ghani’s strategy is paying off, with Taliban and Afghan representatives meeting for informal talks in Qatar this month.

Add to that, last week's visit to Kabul by Pakistan’s prime minister to deliver an unprecedented public rebuke to the Taliban, which is engaged in a brutal summer campaign of violence.

Immediate Backlash

Considerable mistrust remains, and several Afghan lawmakers have criticized the intelligence agreement.

Ahmad Shah Ramazan, a lawmaker from northern Balkh province, called the deal "anti-Afghan."

"Pakistan is the enemy of Afghanistan, and such an agreement with Pakistan will never be for the benefit of Afghanistan," he said. "When it is put before the parliament for approval, it will be strongly rejected," he said.

The immediate backlash highlights the difficult balance Ghani has to strike between pushing for peace and sustaining public support for his government.

“We all know these daily attacks, the suicide bombers, the terrorists are coming from Pakistan,” said Haroun Mir, a Kabul analyst. “Suddenly we want to share something we don’t share with very close allies with a government we blame for every single attack.”