Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taliban Thwarting the War on Polio in Pakistan? Yes, but . . .

Thus claims this story via NPR, which notes how 

In July, the Taliban flat-out banned any polio teams from entering North and South Waziristan until the U.S. drone attacks stopped.

Rumors about the polio vaccine are rife: It'll make the children sterile; it contains the AIDS virus; the vaccinators are really CIA agents.

Those rumor sound absurd, don't they?  Makes an already hateful bunch (the Taliban) seem even more reprehensible.

Thing is . . . that bit about the vaccinators being CIA agents is not without substance.

More than a year ago, when that Navy SEAL team took out Osama Bin Laden, the intelligence that set up that event was provided, at least in part, by agents, employed by the CIA, whose cover was to act as medical personnel providing polio vaccinations for the locals in and around Abbottabad, where OBL was holed up.  As The Guardian reported at the time [emphasis mine}:

The National Disaster Management Authority, which oversees disaster relief, said it was issuing travel permits on a priority basis. "We are committed to facilitate aid workers in their pursuit of assisting affected communities," said spokesman Brigadier Sajid Naeem.


Tensions were exacerbated by news that the CIA ran a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad to identify the occupants of Bin Laden's house. "It's adding fuel to the fire in terms of mistrust," said a senior UN official. "Now the Pakistanis can say 'We were right all along – these NGOs are only doing spy work.' "


Médecins Sans Frontières said the CIA operation was "a dangerous abuse of medical care" that would compromise humanitarian work.


The Taliban's intervention against polio vaccinations is cynical and reprehensible, surely.  But let's spread the credit around when it's so warranted.  And unfortunately - indeed, tragically - impoverished, frightened Pakistanis have reason to believe the Taliban when they claim that vaccinators are working for the CIA.

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