World News Brief, Wednesday May 20

Afghanistan and Pakistan sign intelligence deal; trial against former Thai PM begins; Ban Ki-moon to visit North Korea; Burundi president fires ministers; 170 bikers charged in relation to Texas shooting; and more


Afghanistan and Pakistan Sign Landmark Intelligence Deal

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security and Pakistan's Intelligence Service signed (Dawn) a memorandum of understanding to share information and carry out "coordinated intelligence operations," in a bid to boost joint counterterrorism efforts, according to officials. The agreement signals a thaw (Reuters) in tense relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and comes after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the chiefs of Pakistani intelligence and army staff met with Afghan leaders in Kabul last week. Meanwhile, eleven Afghan police officers were sentenced (RFE/RL) to one-year prison sentences on Monday for failing to prevent the mob killing in March of a woman who was falsely accused of burning the Quran. Four men were sentenced to death earlier this month for the crime, which triggered protests against violence against women across Afghanistan. 


"It is an astonishing step for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has long accused its opposite numbers at the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) of practically directing the Taliban insurgency. It is also the most dramatic gesture yet by Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president who came to power last year determined to win Islamabad’s help in brokering peace talks with the Taliban by offering concessions that would have been unthinkable under his predecessor, Hamid Karzai," write Jon Boone and Sune Engel Rasmussen in the Guardian.

"Ghani’s political calculus depends on Pakistan’s willingness and ability to push the Taliban to negotiate seriously. This is surely a high-risk strategy because of Pakistan’s traditional spoiling role in Afghanistan. But a more worrying concern is that even if Pakistan had the desire, it lacks the ability to force the Taliban to make a deal that the insurgency considers to be against its interest," write Scott Smith and Moeed Yusuf in Foreign Policy.

"New Delhi is watching President Ghani’s high-stakes peace gamble warily from the sidelines—concerned that it could spark off rebellion from leaders of ethnic minority groups in the country, as well as anti-Pakistan Pashtuns, undermining the country’s fragile polity," writes Praveen Swami in the Indian Express


Trial Against Former Thai PM Begins

Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pleaded (Nation) innocent to charges of dereliction of duty and malfeasance in connection to a rice subsidy program scandal on Tuesday. Separately, the Thai junta delayed (Reuters) general elections by six months to allow for a referendum on a new constitution; elections are scheduled to take place in August 2016 at the earliest.

NORTH KOREA: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit (Korea Times) an industrial complex in North Korea on Thursday. Ban will be the first UN chief to visit the country in twenty-two years.

This CFR Interactive chronicles the evolution of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


Burundi president fires ministers

170 bikers charged in relation to Texas shooting

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