‘Good’ Taliban commander halts polio vaccinations over drone strikes

A Taliban leader in North Waziristan who is favored by the Pakistani state has banned polio vaccinations until the US stops conducting drone airstrikes in the tribal areas.

Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan who is known to shelter top al Qaeda leaders, said the polio vaccination program is “used to spy for America against the mujahideen.” A statement released by Bahadar referenced Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the US in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Adridi is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence for charges of supporting the Laskar-e-Islam, an Islamist terror group based in Khyber.

“As long as drone strikes are not stopped in Waziristan there will be a ban on administering polio jabs,” a statement released by Bahadar’s group said, according to The News.

“No one will have the right to complain about damage in case of any violation …. Polio campaigns are also used to spy for America against the mujahideen (holy warriors), one example of which is Dr. Shakil Afridi,” the statement continued.

Bahadar has objected to the US drone strikes in the past. On Nov. 12, Bahadar suspended meetings with the government and threatened to attack the Pakistani state if it continued to allow the US to conduct attacks in areas under his control.

Bahadar follows in the footsteps of Mullah Fazlullah, the commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s faction in Swat who has ordered a ban on polio vaccinations. Fazlullah claimed the anti-polio campaign was a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

Background on Bahadar and his ties to terrorist groups

Bahadar and the Taliban maintain a “peace agreement” with the Pakistani military that allows him to run a state within a state in the remote tribal agency. Bahadar and his commanders have set up a parallel administration, complete with courts, recruiting centers, prisons, training camps, and the ability to levy taxes.

The peace agreement allows North Waziristan to serve as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and non-aligned Taliban groups, as well as the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.

Last July, a spokesman for Bahadar claimed that there were no “militants” in North Waziristan, and that Bahadar’s Taliban faction has lived up to its terms of a peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The US has conducted numerous airstrikes against terrorist targets in areas under Bahadar’s control. Of the 302 drone strikes that have taken place in Pakistan’s tribal areas, 77 of the strikes, or more than 25 percent, have occurred in areas directly under the control of Bahadar. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012, for information on US airstrikes.]

Datta Khel, an area of North Waziristan under Bahadar’s control, is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. While Bahadar administers the region, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadi groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, is known to have a command center in Datta Khel.

Datta Khel serves as a command and control center for al Qaeda’s top leaders, and some of them have been targeted and killed there. A US Predator airstrike in Datta Khel on Dec. 17, 2009, targeted Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Al Saudi is thought to have survived the strike, but Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, were both killed in the attack.

But the most significant attack in Datta Khel took place on May 21, 2010, and resulted in the death of Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, a region that encompasses portions of Pakistan, Iran, and several Central Asian states. More importantly, Yazid was al Qaeda’s top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group’s purse strings. He served on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, a practice well-established in the country now.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, the other major Taliban group based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly attack both civilian and military targets in Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Dhakainfobd says:

    “” Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan who is known to shelter top al Qaeda leaders, said the polio vaccination program is “used to spy for America against the mujahideen.” A statement released by Bahadar referenced Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the US in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Adridi is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence for charges of supporting the Laskar-e-Islam, an Islamist terror group based in Khyber.””
    I would like to say that pakistan goverment has own statement n law for every person of pakistan. America can’t stop any violation of any country. Obama or bush or what ever it is that they only try to control American statement in another contry.

  • gb says:

    If this is enforced for years it may get tough for talib to recruit young warriors that can walk

  • Nic says:

    This story should be added to all dictionaries that contain a definition of the words “irony” and “tragic irony”. The primary victims of Bahadar’s decree will be Muslims. If none of the mujahideen or their children receive the vaccine then they are all at the greatest risk because Polio is endemic in Pakistan. Bahadar has therefore allowed an invisible enemy to attack his own people.
    “As long as drone strikes are not stopped in Waziristan there will be a ban on administering polio jabs,” a statement released by Bahadar’s group said, according to The News.”
    Albert Sabin invented the oral vaccine thus no “jabs” are necessary.

  • Steve M says:

    Come again Dhak.

  • Nic says:

    @gb: I bestow upon you the Alexander Pope Award: “what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed ” for your insightful comment.

  • gerald says:

    Cut off your nose to spite your face. Way to stand up to those awful Crusaders who are risking their lives to help YOUR children.

  • mike merlo says:

    hopefully multiple members of his immediate & extended family will get stricken with polio. Why aren’t we psyoping this area with leaflets exposing this barbarity?

  • Tony Buzan says:

    There were undeniable problems with the polio vaccine in Nigeria, with profound consequences.
    This was confirmed to me by the fellow who first cloned the polio virus Vincent Racanciello.
    We went on for some length about that.

  • Rogg Gollibo says:

    Using Hafiz’s logic then…. he doesn’t allow Polio vaccines, and we get to CONTINUE to strike via our robotic flying friends. WIN WIN.

  • Don says:

    I guess consigning a generation of Pakistani children and young adults to the ravages of polio doesn’t count as an “attack inside Pakistan.”
    And, so much for Pakistani prating that UAV strikes in this area are an assault on their “sovereignty.” Seems to me they’ve already relinquished their sovereignty to the “good” Taliban.
    What losers (in every sense of the word).
    Don // Kabul

  • Neonmeat says:

    To be fair I imagine the US and other intelligence agencies use programmes such as this for espionage operations all the time, so I do not doubt the legitimacy of his concerns.
    However cutting off vital vaccines to your own people and their children, in an area that desperately needs such vaccines is highly immoral to say the least. The concern for his brothers and sisters should outweigh and fear of espionage which will no doubt be conducted regardless.

  • Neonmeat says:

    On another point I could imagine that this move by Gul will only increase the pool of people willing to spy for the US and ISAF in this region. In fact despite the suffering his ban will cause we could say that this move is good for our interests as it demonstrates to the locals that these Leaders are more concerned with their own safety and political games than they are with their peoples. We want a populace that is disgruntled and resentful of their Taliban Overlords, moves like this should make them so.

  • omar says:

    cutting off nose to spite face indeed..http://www.brownpundits.com/?p=7071

  • Sethi Mushtaq says:

    First of all it is a known fact that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been claiming responsibility for having killed thousands of innocent Pakistani innocent men,women and children and security personnel,through terrorist acts committed all over Pakistan.Thus proclaiming them as good Talibans from Pakistan’s point of view by the author hold no water.
    Secondly,the number of children besides adults civilians being killed by the CIA assassination Drones,without doubt is more then the probable children who may get get afflicted by polio if not vaccinated.Why does not the CIA stop the extrajudicial killings by the Drone attacks in that areas,if they are so concerned for serving humanity ?.
    Thirdly,the peoples confidence was shaken in these vaccination drives ,when the CIA/US,used it in a mock manner,for their covert operation in Abbotabad-Pakistan…They should question themselves whether morally what they did was right or wrong and are they responsible for having destroyed the faith of people in such health related projects ?
    Last but not least,the veracity of these immunity drops being affective is questionable as confirmed by some posted links by commentators above.

  • Scott says:

    If they are willing to put 160000 of their own children on the chopping block they better not say anything about civilians being killed by the US!!! These animals do not deserve to walk amongst us they are nothing but sick twisted oxygen thieves!!!!

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ Sethi-Mushtaq
    The CIA is not concerned with preserving Humanity it is concerned with the protection of the USA from foreign threats, thus the Drone Strikes continue.
    I would personally argue that Polio kills many more Children than Drobe strikes, if you have facts and figures to support your assertion please post them.
    I would agree, and stated in my previous post, that indeed the CIA likely uses programmes such as these all the time for espionage, but that of course means other Intel Agencies such as the ISI probably do as well. My point is do people really care if there are spies among the people giving them life saving medicine? Or do they just want to protect the lives of their Children? If their own Government won’t do it what choice do they have?
    Abattobad was a massively different situation, and in my opinion the only thing the US did wrong their was to let the Doctor fall into the hands of the Pakistani Government.

  • Albert Bakker says:

    Well Neonmeat, then you are being at least honest about it. If the US, because they call the shots, deliberately and most cynically uses vaccination campaigns as a cover for spying operations in order to direct drone attacks for example, because somehow the importance of gathering this information prevails over securing the prevention (or rather the eradication) of Polio, then at least people can have the decency to cut out the fake moral indignation.
    It’s like pissing on corpses.
    The Taliban doesn’t care about these children, the US and their allies, including Pakistan don’t care about these children. The question is who actually does care?


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