Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Phone is for You, It's the Taliban

Interesting post about how the Taliban love their cell phones to follow up (and help explicate) recent news coverage about the Taliban threatening to bomb cell phone towers in Afghanistan if the services weren't shut off at night, apparently it's to protect their bases in the mountains were they hide at night. Nothing like USAF cluster bombs to ruin a good night's sleep.

Today the Taliban can't seem to get off the mobile phone. In the past six years, Afghanistan has gone from no mobile (and virtually no fixed) telephone service to 10% mobile phone penetration. The Taliban have participated in this technological development. Recently they attracted attention by threatening to blow up mobile phone towers if they were not switched off at night, claiming that NATO was using their signals to track their locations.

As National Assembly member Shukria Barakzai stated, this claim "does not make any sense." They can still be tracked during the day. And if they really wanted to avoid detection, they could turn off their phones or take out the batteries! In any case, a friend of mine who negotiated the release of two of his Afghan staff who had been taken hostage by Taliban in Wardak (just next to Kabul) said that it was always difficult to reach the kidnappers at night, because they moved away from the road up into the mountains where the reception was poor. Finally they had to explain to the Taliban that they needed to stay within the coverage range to reach a deal.

Perhaps the Taliban don't trust their rank and file to turn off their phones.... Or maybe they just want to show how much damage they could do and how present they are in different parts of the country. Mobile telephone operators are among the best informed people about the territorial penetration of the Taliban. Setting up a cell phone tower anywhere in Afghanistan requires the consent of whoever "controls" the territory, or at least has the power to blow up the cell phone tower.|Rubin: Taliban and Telecoms -- Secret Negotiations Just Got Easier, and at a Price You Can Afford! - Informed Comment: Global Affairs|

No comments: