Pakistan to Free Taliban Leader
Pakistani officials suggested they would release Abdul Ghani Baradar, a senior moderate leader of the Afghan Taliban. Baradar has been a long time critic of the state of war that has engulfed Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s administration hopes Baradar can play a role in peace talks. For its part, the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai agrees that Banadar could have a “positive and important role”, though it would like him to be extradited to Afghanistan rather than merely released. The Afghan High Peace Council has expressed tempered optimism about Baradar’s release. One member, Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, noted that Baradar had been working to bring peace to Afghanistan. “Because of that, they put him in jail,” Qasimyar said. “I believe it is good for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to build trust, and this release is important.”
Others on the Peace Council, including former Taliban diplomatic envoy Abdul Hakim Mujahid, note that without the blessings of the Taliban’s ultimate leader, Mohammed Omar, Baradar may have little political or cultural capital within the Taliban. Baradar has spent three years in captivity, and before his capture it was suggested that Baradar and Omar had a number of disagreements. “He can play an important role in the peace process if he does it in consultation with the Taliban leadership,” Mujahid said. “But if he plays that role as an independent alone, that would be a little problematic. For now, the best thing would be to wait and see.”
Rouhani Urges West to Engage in Nuclear Talks
Newly elected Iranian President and noted centrist Hassan Rouhani said the window for resolving Iran’s nuclear issues with the West was limited, and appealed to the world’s leaders to seize the opportunity his election has presented. “The world must also use this period of time and this opportunity that our people created in this election. We will also use this opportunity. God willing, I am hopeful we can, step by step, solve this problem.”
Western nations led by the U.S., have repeatedly and ineffectually sanctioned Iran over its uranium and plutonium enrichment programs. Iranian officials have always maintained that such programs were for medicinal and energy purposes only, but U.S. and Israeli officials demur, suggesting the true goal of the nuclear enrichment programs is to achieve nuclear weapons. Rouhani plans to meet with leaders from Russia, China, the European Union, and the United States in New York later this month, saying “I believe that if the opposite side has a serious will, the nuclear issue can be resolved.”
U.N. To Re-Open Hammarskjöld Inquiry
On the heels of a new report by the Hammarskjöld Commission, the U.N. has reopened its investigation into the unsolved death of former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. The Swedish diplomat was nearly successful in reunifying the war-torn Congo when his plane crashed as it was nearing Ndola, Northern Rhodesia in 1961. Due to the nature of the Cold War and U.S. interests in the massive uranium deposits in the Congo, it has suggested on numerous occasions that Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was shot down by C.I.A. or other U.S. allied forces.
The commission’s report suggests the probable existence of “significant new evidence” that would provide conclusive proof of whether the plane was shot down by a second aircraft. Numerous witnesses reported seeing another aircraft in the vicinity just before the crash. If such evidence exists, it is likely housed at the National Security Agency. A number of recent Freedom of Information Act requests, lodged by the commission and the National Security Archive, have been denied by an executive order from the Obama administration (which claims that releasing the documents “could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security”.
In its report, the U.N. the commission recalled the words of Harry Truman the day after the plane crash. Speaking to a New York Times reporter, he said, “Dag Hammarskjöld was on the point of getting something done when they killed him.”
Ethiopia Hosts Eritrean Rebel Summit
Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) and Saho Peoples Democratic Movement (SPDM), both backed by the government of Ethiopia, have agreed to engage in joint military actions against the single party government in Eritrea. Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki has cracked down substantially on dissent since the end of the border conflict with Ethiopia in 2001. Leaders from RSADO and SPDM met in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa last week and have pledged to cooperate militarily and diplomatically.
According to RSADO spokesperson Nesredin Al, “The two opposition groups have agreed to jointly carry out military attacks to topple the oppressive regime and to eventually place a new democratic rule that respects the rights of the Eritrean people.” Ali invited other opposition groups to join them. “Our doors are open for other opposition groups, concerned bodies and the Eritrean people and the army itself to join the struggle against president Isaias-led rule.”