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Afghanistan: Kabul Sharing Intelligence With Pakistan, NATO

Afghan soldiers in Paktika Province in October (file photo) (epa) KABUL, January 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The NATO-led force International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghanistan, and Pakistan have set up a joint intelligence-sharing center at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. NATO officials said they expect the new center to coordinate the fight against insurgents coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan without tackling the highly charged questions of where the border lies or how it should be secured.

The new intelligence-sharing body represents a breakthrough in the difficult relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Detailed Operations And Intelligence

Brigadier General Richard Nugee, the chief ISAF spokesman, said in Kabul today that this is the first time that the Afghan and Pakistani armies -- together with their NATO allies -- will be sharing tactical intelligence on a continuous basis.

One NATO source told RFE/RL that instead of fencing or mining the border, Pakistan appears increasingly more likely to opt for installing sophisticated monitoring systems along its border with Afghanistan.

"In very broad terms, this center is looking at detailed operations and intelligence and therefore is [working] on day-to-day tactical -- what we call tactical issues -- low-level issues to ensure that the coordination between the Pakistan army, the Afghan army, and ISAF is as close as possible," Nugee said.

Nugee said the center, to comprise between 15-20 intelligence officers from the two countries and ISAF, has already begun its work. Its formal inauguration ceremony will take place on January 25.

Nugee said the creation of the new body was decided at the last meeting of a tripartite council that brings together the senior commanders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISAF every two months.

He said the newly created Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) will not make policy, but instead execute policies already agreed to by the tripartite council.

Fence And Mine The Border?

Nugee said the JIOC will not discuss issues such as Pakistan's reputed plans to fence and/or mine parts of the border.

The border remains an extremely sensitive issue between the two countries. Although Kabul wants Pakistan to take measures to curb the movement of Taliban insurgents across the border into Afghanistan, it objects to Islamabad's reported plans to fence and mine parts of it.

NATO officials in Kabul say this position tallies with Afghanistan's long-standing policy of nonrecognition of the so-called Durand Line, drawn in 1893 to separate Afghanistan from what was then British India. Since 1947 the Durand Line has formed the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan, though Kabul argues it was forced into the 1893 agreement under duress and says the border should be renegotiated. Pakistan rejects that idea.

Nugee said today that NATO believes no fencing of the border has taken place yet. He said the tripartite meeting in Islamabad earlier this week did not discuss the border, but did involve talks about closer cooperation between the militaries "to make sure that we understand what's going on either side of the border."

One senior NATO officer said today that Kabul fears any fencing of the border by Pakistan would "cement" the Durand Line. Another official noted privately that the route of the Durand Line itself is a source of bitter dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The placement of the line can vary by a number of kilometers in the two sides' interpretations.

Cross-Border Insurgents

Mark Laity, a senior NATO spokesman in Kabul, told RFE/RL today that Afghanistan and Pakistan need to come to a political agreement over the border before it can be effectively secured.

"[Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf has acknowledged quite openly that the Taliban operate from Pakistan; he has acknowledged quite openly that he's concerned about 'Talibanization' within Pakistan, that it will be a threat to Pakistan itself," Laity said. "So, everybody recognizes that the border is a problem. Everybody recognizes that there is a problem within Pakistan. The issue is what you do about it. And that in itself is something [that is not going to require aggressive military actions,] it requires a political solution, and that's why we have the tripartite council."

Laity said Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO will need to work together to "solve the problems that emanate from the border areas."

NATO officials say they have no information about which parts of its 2,500-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan that Pakistan might want to fence.

NATO: No Support For Mining Border

One NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that any moves to secure the border will need to focus on traffic from the Pakistani regions of Quetta, Peshawar, and Miranshah, where the Taliban is particularly strong.

NATO spokesman Laity said today that any plans to fence or mine the border must be "properly discussed."

He also indicated NATO will not support any moves to mine the border. "With regard to mining in particular, NATO looks upon the issue of mining with deep concern and strong reservations," he said.

One NATO source told RFE/RL that instead of fencing or mining the border, Pakistan appears increasingly more likely to opt for installing sophisticated monitoring systems along its border with Afghanistan.

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

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