Children in Pakistan will no longer receive polio vaccines as long as U.S. drone strikes in the area continue, according to a statement released by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur and reported in a CNN article by Reza Sayah.
"Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio," the statement from Bahadur read. "On one hand, the U.S. spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan."
Polio remains a threat to children in Pakistan, although it is no longer a threat in most countries.
"Pakistan is one of the three countries where polio remains endemic, according to UNICEF, accounting for about 30 percent of the world’s polio cases," reports Mushtaq Yusufzai in an MSNBC article. "During 2011, the total number of cases was 198, up from 144 cases in 2010. There have already been 15 cases since the start of 2012."
This decree by Bahadur comes in the wake of efforts from organizations in the United States to curb the polio epidemic in the country.
"UNICEF had been hoping to launch a drive this week to vaccinate 161,000 children in the region," according to a Yahoo News report by Dylan Stableford. "Bahadur said he consulted with leaders of the Taliban and al-Qaida and with Punjabi leaders before making the decision to ban the vaccinations."
In April, John Brennan, President Barack Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, acknowledged the use of U.S. drones, according to the CNN article.
"Yes, in full accordance with the law, and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives, the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones," Brennan said.
This is not the first time that the polio campaign in Pakistan has garnered attention. Last year, some reports connected the campaign with efforts to capture Osama bin Laden.
"The country's polio campaign made headlines last year when a Pakistani doctor was linked to a CIA operation to verify Osama bin Laden's whereabouts with a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the town of Abbottabad, where the al-Qaida leader was hiding before he was killed," according to the CNN article.
Despite the implications of the statement from Bahadur, it is unclear at this point whether his demand will be heeded.
"It's doubtful that the warning will affect U.S. drone strikes," Stableford of Yahoo News reports. "The White House has increased its drone operations under President Barack Obama. The Pakistani government has objected to the drone strikes, saying they are 'a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.'"