Taliban calling the shots

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images In recent weeks, the Taliban have threatened to burn down cellular towers throughout Afghanistan unless the main wireless companies shut down service between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. each night. Why? Taliban commanders are convinced that coalition forces are using the cell networks to track their fighters. (They don’t seem to understand ...

595984_080313_afghan2.jpg
595984_080313_afghan2.jpg

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

In recent weeks, the Taliban have threatened to burn down cellular towers throughout Afghanistan unless the main wireless companies shut down service between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. each night. Why? Taliban commanders are convinced that coalition forces are using the cell networks to track their fighters. (They don't seem to understand that while coalition forces might use the Afghan mobile networks for some intel, they certainly aren't dependent on them. Thank you, spy satellites.)

And now they've made good on their threat. In a country that is nearly wholly reliant on wireless communications (for lack of any land-line infrastructure), the main mobile networks (all privately run) have begun switching off service at night after attacks on 10 cell towers, the latest on Tuesday night. Score this round for the Taliban.

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

In recent weeks, the Taliban have threatened to burn down cellular towers throughout Afghanistan unless the main wireless companies shut down service between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. each night. Why? Taliban commanders are convinced that coalition forces are using the cell networks to track their fighters. (They don’t seem to understand that while coalition forces might use the Afghan mobile networks for some intel, they certainly aren’t dependent on them. Thank you, spy satellites.)

And now they’ve made good on their threat. In a country that is nearly wholly reliant on wireless communications (for lack of any land-line infrastructure), the main mobile networks (all privately run) have begun switching off service at night after attacks on 10 cell towers, the latest on Tuesday night. Score this round for the Taliban.

I can only hope that the frustration of not being able to make calls past dusk will inspire public condemnation of the men who forced the blackout. But then again, the government vowed to help the private sector stand up to Taliban pressure. And that unsuccessful stand hardly inspires confidence.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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