In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have admitted that they may have made
a mistake in attacking the cell phone companies. This was a campaign by the
Islamic terrorists to shut down cell phone service at night, that has turned
into a public relations nightmare. The
Taliban damaged or destroyed ten cell phone towers outside the southern city of
Kandahar, and forced the cell phone companies to shut down service at night for
about 300,000 rural customers in areas where the Taliban gunmen are active. The
Taliban believed NATO was using cell phone signals to track Taliban movements
at night. Actually, NATO has several ways to track the Taliban at night. Few in
the Taliban seem to understand how ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) works, so
this campaign against cell phones is simply a desperate reaction to many smart
bomb attacks, or police raids, on houses where Taliban were spending the night.
Taliban themselves make heavy use of cell phones, especially since service has
been installed in many rural areas. To make this happen, the cell phone
companies make deals with the local tribal leaders, who want cell phone service
and are willing to protect, or at least not attack the cell phone towers (which
cost up to $250,000 each.)
tribesmen are often pro-Taliban, and want the cell phone service to stay in
touch with friends, family and the few government services that are available.
Now the Taliban has angered people who were on their side. The tribesmen are demanding
that night service to be restored.
now over five million cell phone users in Iraq, and many rural areas are
getting access to phone service for the first time ever. The cell phone
companies have invested over a billion dollars so far, giving many Afghans
access to telephone service for the first time. This is common in poor
countries, where government monopolies and high costs prevented the
establishment of conventional landline phone systems anywhere but in a cities
and some large towns.
government is publicizing this PR debacle as another example of Taliban efforts
to prevent reconstruction efforts, while the government struggles to improve
infrastructure and the economy. The story is getting a lot of play throughout
the country, depleting what little good-will the Taliban had left.