Agents Posing as Development Workers


ISLAMABAD/PULLACH (Own report) - The German foreign spy agency camouflages its agents as development aid workers, even in war zones. This was exposed by concordant reports on the arrests of three agents of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) last week in the Pakistani border region with Afghanistan. It was reported that the three spies claimed to be involved in so-called development aid activities and were using vehicles and calling cards with the emblem of the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ). The GIZ - as other German organizations - is engaged in the border areas, where the West is waging war, aided by intensive espionage, against the supporters of Afghan insurgents. With the use of this camouflage, the BND is tolerating the eventuality of additional dangers for development aid workers. The BND has been active in the Pakistani border regions of Afghanistan since the 1980s, when it was supporting warlords, still waging war today at the Hindu Kush. At the time, the BND's activities contributed toward reinforcing Pakistan's intelligence service, which today is considered one of the predominating forces in the Pakistani establishment.

BND Liaison Office

Last weekend, Pakistani police arrested three Germans in Peshawar in the northwest of the country. According to reports, the two men and one woman had been engaging in espionage in Peshawar since the 1980s, where they were running the German BND's liaison office. BND presence in that area has been widely known since the 1990s. In any case, the whereabouts of western foreigners in that border town, hermetically closed off by Pakistan's repressive forces, could not have remained a secret. The Pakistani police sealed the liaison office and turned the three agents over to the German embassy in Islamabad. This unexpected arrest has thrown the spotlight on three aspects of German espionage activities: on its functioning since the 1980s; on the currently increasing tensions between Pakistan and the West; and on the foreign espionage service's use of development aid organizations.

Struggle against Kabul

Back in 1995, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, an expert on espionage services, had described the BND's wide-ranging activities in Peshawar during the 1980s. He described how during the Afghanistan war, the BND, along with other western espionage organizations, was engaged in supporting the Mujahidin. Peshawar presented itself as an ideal location. It not only lies close to the border with Afghanistan, but also is situated directly along the route to one of the most important border crossings at the Khyber Pass. In addition, Peshawar is very close to the tribal areas, that the Pakistani government hardly controls, whose populations share close ties to the Afghan populations just across the border. Therefore, during the Afghanistan war, Peshawar and the Tribal Areas became launching pads for wide-ranging activities against the pro-Soviet government in Kabul and its Soviet supporters. Alongside the BND, the CIA, MI6 and other western espionage services, strong forces from Saudi Arabia as well as other Islamist - primarily Arab - fighters, including Osama Bin Laden, were engaged in the struggle against the socialist influence in Afghanistan.[1]

Tank Blown Up

The Afghan Mujahidin, also supported by off-duty Bundeswehr soldiers,[2] received not only widespread deliveries of supplies ranging from winter clothes, metal detectors to night vision gear from the BND.[3] They were also provided financial and practical support, according to Schmidt-Eenboom. The warlords' "benevolence was won with money."[4] Various training measures for the armed struggle were carried out in the border areas. One BND officer instructed the insurgents especially in methods "for blowing up Soviet tanks" - a skill that was further developed in Afghanistan and is currently being used against the occupying NATO forces.[5] The BND considered these activities of such significance that one of its first satellite communication lines was to Peshawar.

A Powerful Intelligence Service

In Peshawar, the BND also cooperated with the Pakistani ISI ("Inter-Services Intelligence"). The BND had begun these relations back in the second half of the 1960s - also with the objective of aiding citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), returning home from Vietnam, to defect to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), during their stop-over in Pakistan. In return for their cooperation against the GDR and later for the aid against insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, the BND provided the ISI with substantial aid, including a complete electronic intelligence station - originally destined to intercept Red Army communications. According to experts, this extensive aid provided by western intelligence services, including the BND, enabled the Pakistani ISI to massively enhance its clout within the country.[6] Today, the ISI is, in fact, considered one of the most important forces in Islamabad, particularly in the Afghanistan War.


Because BND activities in Peshawar did not go unnoticed by observers - especially the ISI - the Pakistani administration's unexpected action against the BND agents is seen as a sign of rising tensions between the West and Islamabad. It is contended that the Pakistani military seeks to enhance its influence in Afghanistan in light of the announced western withdrawal and put the planned permanent western military bases in the neighboring country under early pressure. ( reported.[7]) The generals are also no longer willing to sit back and accept the continuous violations of Pakistani sovereignty by ambushes from US drones and the recent NATO aerial attack on Pakistani units, killing more than 20 soldiers. The action against BND activities in the border region serves two objectives: It weakens the general western position and in particular, is restricting intelligence operations in a region, where intense drone warfare is being waged against the supporters of Afghan insurgents. Targeted drone attacks on suspected or actual supporters are to a large degree dependent on intelligence concerning the movements of the targeted person, intelligence, normally achieved through classical intelligence operations.

No Longer Neutral

Various reports have confirmed that the three BND agents, expelled from Peshawar, were disguised as development aid personnel. They were using vehicles and calling cards with the emblem of the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ formerly GTZ).[8] They also claimed to be monitoring development projects throughout the region.[9] The GIZ and other development organizations are active in Peshawar and the larger region along the border with Afghanistan, particularly in the Tribal Areas, known to be of great importance to the Afghan insurgents. The BND accepts the fact that they now have come under suspicion and are exposed to an increased danger. Already in late 2008, it became known that for years, the BND had been using employees of the German Agro Action (Welthungerhilfe) to obtain counterinsurgency intelligence. At the time. this met with enormous protests - also because this could bring the aid organizations under suspicion of helping to fight the war. The Agro Aid warned that this would greatly endanger NGOs "neutrality."[10] An unnamed aid worker warned: "Extremists don't hesitate, if they suspect someone to be a western spy. And we work a lot in regions filled with extremists."[11]

[1] see also Old Allies
[2] Von Peshawar aus operierten mindestens ein Sanitätsoffizier und ein Major des Amtes für Nachrichtenwesen der Bundeswehr.
[3] Peter F. Müller, Michael Mueller mit Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Gegen Freund und Feind. Der BND: Geheime Politik und schmutzige Geschäfte, Reinbek 2002
[4] Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Der Schattenkrieger. Klaus Kinkel und der BND, Düsseldorf 1995
[5] Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Der BND in Afghanistan;
[6] A Force to be Reckoned with; Jane's Defence Weekly 14.01.1995
[7] see also The Choice of Means
[8] Pakistan schließt deutsches Spitzelbüro; 21.01.2012
[9] Colonel among three Germans held; 22.01.2012
[10] Welthungerhilfe empört über BND-Abhöraktion; 08.12.2012
[11] Agenten-Affäre belastet Deutschlands Beziehungen zu Pakistan; 23.12.2012