Taliban demand night-time cell tower shutdown
Anti-Wi-Fi fatwa feared
Reports out of Afghanistan say that the Taliban have threatened attacks on mobile phone companies unless "signals" are "stopped" at night. Reportedly the hardline Islamic militia believes that cell towers are being used to locate and track Taliban gunmen.
The BBC quotes Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed as saying: "If those companies do not stop their signal within three days, the Taleban will target their towers and their offices." Reportedly the demand is for the "signal" to be cut off from 5pm to 3am local time.
The mobile companies have long been thought by the Taliban to be colluding with NATO and Coalition forces operating in Afghanistan, and in fact it would be surprising if they weren't. The Afghan government is heavily dependent on the international troops. Use of the mobile networks for intelligence is an obvious step which is well-nigh certain to have been taken, just as governments have done in every country. And it's well known that masts can be used to locate a phone which is powered up.
What's less clear is why the Taliban have chosen to demand a shutdown of mast signals at night. Even the most paranoid phone-security advisers would normally suggest taking the battery out of one's phone, rather than menacing local cell operators unless they went off the air. (The idea of removing the battery is to guard against someone having modified the phone to switch itself on without the owner's knowledge.)
It could be that the Taliban want to operate their own networks, of course. Micro/pico/femtocell equipment is widely available, and there's said to be a strong tradition in wild and woolly rural Afghanistan of unregulated, private wireless comms. It might be that guerrilla commanders merely want to clear other operators off the spectrum so that they can use it themselves.
Even so, Western military or spook electronic-intelligence units will still be able to intercept, identify, locate and track active mobile phones in an area of interest, even if they are communicating (or meant to be communicating) only with Taliban-controlled cells. The reported threats still don't make a huge amount of sense in terms of the reasons given.
Another possibility is that the Taliban simply want to deny ordinary Afghans phone service at night, perhaps to stop people reporting on militia movements and/or prevent them phoning for help if attacked. Or it might be that the Taliban - the Taliban press office, anyway - simply isn't up on the technical issues.
Or, it just could be that there's an element of good old-fashioned UK-suburban-style technofear mast phobia brewing among the hardcore religious zealots of Central Asia. We may see a fatwa on Wi-Fi in madrassas.
Read less about it from the Beeb here. ®
@ Chris Williams
I'd hardly say that leaders claiming to be guided by God(s) is a new thing. The pope claims divine guidance, the middle age kings of england (as head of the church of england) claimed divine guidance, the roman emperor's claimed divine guidance, the egyptian pharoahs claimed to be divine, televengelist claim divine guidance.
It's nothing new to claim your leadership is inspired and ordained by a higher power. In fact god is inspiring you to send the sum of $10,000 to my bank in Nigeria to help me obtain the millions from my great uncle Wombossi's bank account, which i will happily share with you once it has cleared...
The rising tide
There has been a large range of theories put forward on this list for the reported Taliban policy on cell phones some of which would sound rather "spooky" to those not deeply familiar with cell technology themselves.
But what seems to be overlooked by most is that the Taliban insurgency is a rising tide. As all insurgencies are, it is quite heterogeneous but the requirements of shear survival against the most technically sophisticated Armed forces in the world are pushing it into greater technical sophistication and professionalism. In this case, they may simple be testing their knowledge of and ability to use the new technology.
One thing is clear. The longer this war goes on the more professional and more sophisticated they will become. Soon they will be an easy match for the Pakistani army and then when NATO/US leave through the usual war weariness a large chunk of Pakistan (the Pushtu speaking areas for one) will be taken out - further destabilizing an already shaky nuclear power.
Nuclear Armageddon by a failing regime of military fanatics anyone?
Idiotic religious dogma?
> "You are discussing a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma. Of course they don't understand the technical issues."
That's a ridiculous thing to say.
Although idiotic religious dogma abounds, the country was certainly not founded on it; quite the opposite, in fact. It's a very new phenomenon to have the dynastic powers that be claim direction from god and to lean somewhat towards the dogmatic.
I don't know about Afghanistan though.