Polio outbreak in Syria linked to strain from Pakistan
The Rack: A review of Gary Bass’s The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide by Sunil Khilnani (New Republic). Poliovirus strains linked The World Health Organization (WHO) posted a statement to its website on Monday that linked a polio outbreak in Syria that has crippled 13 children to a strain of the virus ...
The Rack: A review of Gary Bass’s The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide by Sunil Khilnani (New Republic).
Poliovirus strains linked
The World Health Organization (WHO) posted a statement to its website on Monday that linked a polio outbreak in Syria that has crippled 13 children to a strain of the virus in Pakistan (Reuters, RFE/RL). The WHO added that closely related strains of the wild poliovirus have also been detected in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The U.N. health agency is planning an emergency vaccination campaign, with the hope of vaccinating more than 20 million children that could be affected in the Middle East. While the poliovirus has been eradicated from most parts of the world, it remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, his first visit to the facility after he assumed office in June (Dawn, ET). According to reports, he was briefed on the country’s current security situation by the top military leadership, laid a floral wreath at the Martyr’s Memorial, and held a one-on-one meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff. While neither Sharif’s office nor GHQ has commented on the content of the briefing, it is likely that the appointment of a new army chief and the proposed reconciliation talks with the Pakistani Taliban were on the agenda.
Pakistani lawmakers spoke out against Syed Munawar Hassan, the leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) party, on Tuesday, criticizing him for calling deceased Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr and for belittling the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s security forces (Dawn, ET). During a recent television interview, Hassan said that if an American who died on the battlefield was not a martyr, then his backers were not martyrs either since they were chasing the same goal – a statement many felt was a veiled reference to Pakistan’s security forces. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations department issued a statement on Sunday demanding a clarification and an apology from Hassan (AP). Dr. Muhammad Kamal, the JI party’s deputy chief, responded by saying that anyone who dies defending Pakistan is a martyr, with the exception of those accepting aid from the United States (ET).
With Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (grand council) set to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States in the next several days, political parties are beginning to voice their opposition to the process. The National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA), which is led by former foreign minister and current presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah, said the Afghan government invited selected people, not public representatives, to the meeting, which the NCA claimed goes against the Afghan constitution (Pajhwok). Dr. Ghairat Baheer, the head of political affairs for Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan – the second largest militant group in the country – echoed this opinion on Tuesday when he said jirgas were "in conflict with the country’s independence and sovereignty" (Pajhwok). While more than 3,000 people are expected to attend the jirga meeting, with these new protests, it is unclear what kind of legitimacy its decisions will have.
In addition to some of Afghanistan’s political parties, the Afghan Taliban is unsurprisingly also against the BSA deliberations. According to RFE/RL, which quoted a copy of a Taliban letter calling on council members not to participate in the meeting, the BSA would be a betrayal of the Afghan people and anyone approving the agreement would be considered a traitor (RFE/RL). The council is tentatively set to meet from November 19-21 in Kabul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai inaugurated the country’s first military academy on Monday, several weeks after it first open its doors (RFE/RL). A part of the country’s National Defense University, the Afghan National Army Academy, which was created by the British and dubbed "Sandhurst in the Sand," will help train Afghanistan’s security forces and create professional soldiers. The first class of 270 students was chosen from more than 10,000 applicants, and while it is all male, female recruits will join the institution next year. Speaking at the ceremony, Karzai noted the professionalism of the Indian and Pakistani armies, which were also trained by the British, and asked the United Kingdom for similar support (Pajhwok). There are currently 9,500 British soldiers operating in Afghanistan and Philip Hammond, the British defense secretary, said on Monday that any decision about leaving U.K. troops in the country or pulling them out when the NATO mission ends next December would occur after the BSA is signed (Pajhwok).
As the Guardian‘s Emma Graham-Harrison writes, "Landlocked Afghanistan is not an obvious place for beach volleyball to take off. The country does not boast one beach, winter temperatures plunge far below zero, and conservative dress codes make the standard skimpy uniforms for female players unthinkable," but beach volleyball is starting to take off nonetheless (Guardian). Yunus Popalzay, the head of Afghanistan’s volleyball federation, notes that volleyball is already one of the country’s top three sports, and that beach volleyball is a good investor sport since it has fewer players than its indoor coun
terpart. While there are only three courts in the country, the federation is working to train a national team that can compete on the international stage.
— Bailey Cahall
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