The South Asia Channel

Al Qaeda Detainee Released From Guantanamo; India to Purchase 37 US Combat Helicopters; Pakistan Arrests 40 Afghans Near Air Base

Al Qaeda Detainee Released From Guantanamo; India to Purchase 37 US Combat Helicopters; Pakistan Arrests 40 Afghans Near Air Base

Afghanistan

Al Qaeda detainee released from Guantanamo Bay prison

The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that Abdul Shalabi, a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay prison, has been repatriated (TOLO News). Shalabi was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and arrested in December 2001 after fleeing bin Laden’s Tora Bora mountain hideout. In June, a review panel found that “continued law of war detention of Abdul Shalabi does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. Shalabi will take part in Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for ex-detainees that includes monitoring for years after. Only 114 inmates still remain in Guantanamo.

Also on Tuesday, an Iraqi detainee at Guantanamo Bay accused of running al Qaeda’s army in Afghanistan fired his defense team for the third time (RFE/RL). The prisoner, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, did not give a reason why he dismissed his two lawyers. Hadi arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 2007 and was arraigned in 2014.

Afghan civil aviation takes over air traffic control

On Tuesday, Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority announced that it now controls all of the country’s air traffic control operations (TOLO News). The agency’s deputy director general, Mahmood Shah Habibi, said: “Right now one hundred percent of Afghanistan’s air traffic is under the control of the government and even if ISAF and NATO want to have operations they must get permission from the Afghans.” Previously, NATO or other U.S.-led coalition forces managed the air traffic. The general commander of Turkish forces in Afghanistan, Jahid Baqir, who also oversaw the operations of Hamid Karzai International Airport, said: “The ability of Afghanistan to control their airspace is both essential for the continuation of the safe operation of military and civilian aircraft and also the economic development of the country by collecting over flight revenue by commercial flights.”

India

Bonus read: “Karnataka’s largest port will destroy coastal biodiversity of Tadri,” by Janaki Lenin (Guardian)

Indian cabinet approves purchase of 37 combat helicopters from Boeing

The Indian cabinet on Tuesday approved $2.5 billion USD for the purchase of 37 military helicopters from the U.S. firm Boeing (BBC). The Indian military will buy 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinooks to partially replace its majority Russian fleet of combat helicopters. The Indian air force showed preference for American helicopters over their Russian competitors in 2012 but budgetary concerns prevented the deal until now.

India and US to jointly train UN peacekeepers for Africa

At the end of a two-day U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking alongside his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, announced that the two countries will jointly train U.N. peacekeeping forces posted in six African countries (NYT, Reuters). He was also quite optimistic that the two countries will be able to reach a “truly ambitious” agreement on climate change this year. Kerry also announced that next week he will meet with Swaraj and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida for a first trilateral meeting to “coordinate policies among our three great democracies.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also due to start his U.S. trip this week and is expected to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in New York at the U.N. General Assembly. This would be the third meeting between the two leaders this year.

PM Modi becomes the second most popular world leader on Twitter

Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday reached the 15 million followers mark on Twitter, making him the second most popular world leader behind President Obama who has 64.2 million followers (Zee News, DnaNews). Modi currently is also the third most followed person on Twitter in India behind Bollywood film actors Amitabh Bachan and Shah Rukh Khan. Modi is known to be an active twitter user who has often made official statements with the help of the social media website.

Pakistan

Pakistan arrests 40 Afghans near air base

On Tuesday, police and other security forces in Quetta arrested over 40 Afghan nationals during a search operation in an area around the Khalid Airbase (Dawn). Authorities have cracked down on “militants and criminal elements” after the attack on Badaber air base last week that killed 29 people. Police said that the arrested Afghan nationals were living in the area illegally and “were handed over to the authorities concerned for investigation.”

PPP leader released on bail

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday released senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Qasim Zia on bail (Dawn). Zia was arrested for fraud on Aug. 8 by the National Accountability Bureau. A prosecutor said that a plea bargain had been reach that requires Zia to return Rs 22.2 million ($21,000) of the Rs 80 million ($770,000) that he had embezzled as a director of Ali Usman Securities brokerage house.

— Courtney Schuster and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

Editor’s Note: Tune in to the new Global Thinkers podcast, just released this morning! FP Story Editor Amanda Silverman has a conversation with FP contributor Elizabeth Dickinson and 2013 Global Thinker, journalist and activist Farea Al-Muslimi. They discuss the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the reach of Riyadh in the Middle East and how the West can pave a way forward. Listen and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher today: http://atfp.co/1K7nhrI

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