The Taliban is taking control of cell towers in Afghanistan, manipulating the technology it once eschewed to promote its views and assert control over the local population.
The Taliban coerce cell companies into shutting down networks by threatening to destroy cell towers, which cost around $250,000 to replace."In those areas where Taliban have their direct or indirect control, they demand that the telephone towers be turned off at night from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. so we know they are here," explained Hajji Mohammad Hazrat Janan, head of the provincial council in Wardak.
Technological control allows the Taliban to demonstrate their power to a wide audience, despite having lost physical territory in Afghanistan. Cutting cellular communication also prevents informants from calling American or NATO forces and blocks troops from tracking insurgents' locations.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, explained, "Our main goal is to degrade the enemy's capability in tracking down our mujahedeen."
The Taliban's interest in using technology to command Afghanis' attention differs from its earlier dismissal of modern communications systems.
The organization's tactics regarding cellular communications suggest the organization now wishes to regulate, rather than completely disable, Afghanistan's mass communications. Instead of destroying towers, the insurgents dismantle them at select times of day, in a move meant more to inspire fear and awe rather than cripple wireless signals.
Their approach is similar to that of former Egyptian President Hosnai Mubarak, who cut off wireless communications to exert control over the country's citizens. Regimes in Syria, Libya and other countries tried cell phone communication blackouts as well to prevent citizen uprisings.
In addition to dominating Afghanistan's cellular network, the Taliban also maintains a Twitter account to spread its views and garner worldwide attention. The group's @alemarahweb has thousands of followers interested in tweets about supposed Taliban victories against American and NATO forces.
The Twitter feed is kept up in Pushto, Persian, Urdu, Arabic and English in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. The Taliban also maintain online accounts in chatrooms to recruit new followers, in a reversal of its earlier pledge to avoid "unholy" technology at all costs.
Mobile communication is an increasingly powerful tool for any group, organization or world government to wield, one the Taliban now recognizes and aims to exploit in the uncertain political climate of Afghanistan.
In: World News, Afghanistan
Tags: Desperate, Taliban, Shuts, Down, Cell, Service, in, Afghanistan
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
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