News Update

Taliban opens investigation, Griner closing arguments, NATO vote passes

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Taliban opens al-Zawahri investigation- The Taliban announced Thursday it is investigating this weekend’s killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri. A spokesperson indicated that Taliban leaders were not aware of the killing or of al-Zawahri’s presence in Kabul. This goes against Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s claim that the Taliban was sheltering him.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban “grossly” violated the Doha Agreement by hosting and sheltering al-Zawahri. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby condemned the Taliban for its unwillingness to comply with the agreement.

“They can comply with their agreement under the Doha agreement, comply with their commitments on the Doha agreement, or they can choose to keep going down a different path,” Kirby said. “If they go down a different path, it’s going to lead to consequences, not just from the United States, but from the international community.”

Griner trial phase enters closing arguments – Closing arguments were underway Thursday morning in Brittney Griner’s Russian trial.
ESPN has reported a verdict and sentence are expected tomorrow. If the verdict is guilty, which is expected, it would set the stage for the prisoner swap Blinken announced last week.

The deal would bring Griner home along with another jailed American, Paul Whelan. The U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in return. Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” is one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers.

Finland and Sweden NATO vote – Finland and Sweden got two steps closer to becoming NATO members after the U.S. and Italian governments approved the move on Wednesday. Adding the two nations to NATO has been seen as a move to strengthen the western alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. Senate vote was 95-1 with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) the only one to vote against it.

“Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs,” Sen. Hawley said. “But America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia.”

Other Republican senators were quick to blast Hawley over his vote.

“If any Senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote ‘no,’ I wish them good luck,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Karah Rucker: THE TALIBAN ANNOUNCED TODAY IT IS INVESTIGATING THIS WEEKEND’S KILLING OF AL-QAEDA LEADER AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI.
A SPOKESPERSON INDICATED THAT TALIBAN LEADERS WERE NOT AWARE OF THE KILLING — OR OF AL-ZAWAHIRI’S PRESENCE IN KABUL.
THIS GOES AGAINST SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN’S CLAIM THAT THE TALIBAN WAS SHELTERING HIM.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS ARE UNDERWAY THIS MORNING IN BRITTNEY GRINER’S RUSSIAN TRIAL.
E-S-P-N HAS REPORTED A VERDICT AND SENTENCE ARE EXPECTED TOMORROW.
IF THE VERDICT IS GUILTY — WHICH IT’S LIKELY TO BE — IT WOULD SET THE STAGE FOR THE PRISONER SWAP BLINKEN ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK.
FINLAND AND SWEDEN ARE NOW TWO STEPS CLOSER TO BECOMING NATO MEMBERS — WITH U-S AND ITALIAN GOVERNMENTS APPROVING THE MOVE WEDNESDAY.
THE U-S SENATE VOTE WAS 95 TO 1 — WITH MISSOURI SENATOR JOSH HAWLEY AS THE ONLY NO-VOTE.
ADDING THE TWO NATIONS TO NATO HAS BEEN SEEN AS MOVE TO SURE UP THE WESTERN ALLIANCE IN THE FACE OF RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE.

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Taliban opens al-Zawahri investigation- The Taliban announced Thursday it is investigating this weekend’s killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri. A spokesperson indicated that Taliban leaders were not aware of the killing or of al-Zawahri’s presence in Kabul. This goes against Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s claim that the Taliban was sheltering him.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban “grossly” violated the Doha Agreement by hosting and sheltering al-Zawahri. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby condemned the Taliban for its unwillingness to comply with the agreement.

“They can comply with their agreement under the Doha agreement, comply with their commitments on the Doha agreement, or they can choose to keep going down a different path,” Kirby said. “If they go down a different path, it’s going to lead to consequences, not just from the United States, but from the international community.”

Griner trial phase enters closing arguments – Closing arguments were underway Thursday morning in Brittney Griner’s Russian trial.
ESPN has reported a verdict and sentence are expected tomorrow. If the verdict is guilty, which is expected, it would set the stage for the prisoner swap Blinken announced last week.

The deal would bring Griner home along with another jailed American, Paul Whelan. The U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in return. Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” is one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers.

Finland and Sweden NATO vote – Finland and Sweden got two steps closer to becoming NATO members after the U.S. and Italian governments approved the move on Wednesday. Adding the two nations to NATO has been seen as a move to strengthen the western alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. Senate vote was 95-1 with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) the only one to vote against it.

“Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs,” Sen. Hawley said. “But America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia.”

Other Republican senators were quick to blast Hawley over his vote.

“If any Senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote ‘no,’ I wish them good luck,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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