5 years, 8 months ago
Coalition forces have begun the implementation of one piece of the strategy to throttle the flow of insurgents across the Pakistani-Afghani border region. It is called Joint Intelligence Centers.
The first in a planned series of six joint intelligence centers along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border was opened at the Afghanistan border town of Torkham on March 29.
When the plan is fully implemented there will be three such centers on each side of the border at a cost of US$3 million each. There are high hopes for the centers, which have been described by the US commander in Afghanistan as “the cornerstone upon which future cooperative efforts will grow”. According to US Brigadier General Joe Votel, “The macro view is to disrupt insurgents from going back and forth, going into Afghanistan and back into Pakistan, too. This is not going to instantly stop the infiltration problem, but it’s a good step forward.”
The centers are designed to coordinate intelligence-gathering and sharing between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The project is an outgrowth of the earlier Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) established in Kabul in January 2007. This center, comprising 12 ISAF, six Afghan and six Pakistani intelligence officers, was initiated by the military intelligence sharing working group, a subcommittee of the tripartite plenary commission of military commanders that meets on a bimonthly basis. The JIOC is designed to facilitate intelligence-sharing, joint operations planning and an exchange of information on improvised explosive devices. The working languages are English, Dari and Pashto, aided by a number of translators.
The new border centers will each be manned by 15 to 20 intelligence agents. One of the main innovations is the ability to view real-time video feeds from US surveillance aircraft. The commander of US troops in Afghanistan, Major General David Rodriguez, described the centers as “a giant step forward in cooperation, communication and coordination”.
The Captain’s Journal has had our altercations with General Rodriguez (he is no General Odierno), but we support any attempt to stem the flow of insurgents across the border region. But we’ll comment here that this mission is unique and involves fixed fortifications. It is foolish to garrison 20 intelligence agents at a location without also involving the force protection necessary to keep them alive. A Joint Intelligence Center without a platoon of Marines for force protection is equivalent to begging for mortar fire every night. It is simply astonishing that well-trained commanders would be involved in something like this. Throwing well worn military doctrine such as force protection to the wind is the hallmark of panic.
However, it may not matter, since as we hinted in The Pashtun Rejection of the Global War on Terror, Pakistani involvement in the Afghanistan campaign will suffer in the wake of the recent elections. Continuing with the Asia Times report:
Despite such glowing descriptions, there remains one hitch – Pakistan’s military has yet to make a full commitment to the project. According to Major General Athar Abbas, the director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations, a military information organization, “At this time this proposal is being analyzed and evaluated by the concerned officials. But Pakistan has not yet come to a decision on this matter.”.
General Abbas and other officials have declined to discuss Pakistan’s reservations or even to commit to a deadline for a decision. It is possible that the failure to sign on as full partners in the project may have something to do with the stated intention of Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, to pursue a greater focus on negotiation than military action in dealing with the Taliban and other frontier militants. There may also be reservations on the part of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to share intelligence on their clients within the Taliban.
Actual intelligence cooperation along the border is hampered by a number of factors, not least of which is a basic inability to agree on exactly where the border lies. In the past, Pakistan has responded to complaints from Afghanistan of Taliban fighters infiltrating across the border by threatening to fence or even mine the frontier, a shocking proposal to the Pashtun clans that straddle the artificial divide. Afghanistan’s long-standing policy is simply to refuse recognition of the colonial-era Durand Line, which it claims was forced on it by British imperialists in 1893. Pakistan accepts the Durand Line, but the two nations are frequently unable to agree on exactly where the 2,400-kilometer line is drawn.
It remains to be seen if the concept of Joint Intelligence Centers goes forward. If it does, it will require language skills, international agreements, and above all, force protection. These outposts will not survive without force protection.