'Vaccination Diplomacy': Taliban Helps UN, Karzai

In 'pact with the devil,' group helps get polio vaccine to far-flung regions
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2010 9:41 AM CST
An Afghan child is vaccinated against polio during a polio eradication campaign in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
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(Newser) – The Taliban may be pariahs to much of the world, but the group's indisputable hold on vast swaths of Afghanistan has produced an unusual arrangement: It's working with UN health officials and the Afghan government to wipe out polio. Volunteers travel to normally dangerous regions to vaccinate children, armed with a letter from Taliban leader Mullar Mohammad Omar himself, reports the Wall Street Journal. He urges people to cooperate "for the benefit of our next generations."

"There used to be a ping-pong diplomacy, and now we have a vaccination diplomacy," says one Afghan lawmaker. The US isn't thrilled, but the top military commander in the region says diplomatically in an interview that "we support all the efforts to help the people of Afghanistan." An anonymous Western diplomat is more blunt: "It's a pact with the devil, but it's a pact in order to save lives." (Read more Taliban stories.)

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