The recent Taliban violence
against rural cell phone facilities in Afghanistan is yet another example of
how much the Taliban depend on a lack of communication in rural areas. The
Taliban can afford to give their combat units (of a few dozen to a few hundred
armed men) a satellite phone. But in most of rural Afghanistan, there is no
quick way to communicate. No landline phones, no shortwave, no nothing. This is
great for the Taliban, because it means local villagers, shepherds or whatever,
cannot report Taliban movements. At least not quickly enough to have any
just the Taliban, either. Around the world, guerilla type movements are hurting
when cell phone service arrives. Suddenly, all those rural folk who oppose the gunmen
are able to report activities quickly to the police. Some rebel groups have
taken to seizing all cell phones when they enter a rural village. But if they
miss just one, they won't last until dawn. Peacekeeping operations have also
found cell phones to be a marvelous tool. Terrified locals now have someone to
call, and as the peacekeepers distribute the new emergency number, the bad guys
take notice and reconsider their career options.
This has led
to some creative thinking on the part of civil affairs and Special Forces
troops. One idea is a takeoff on the successful campaign by an NGO to sneak
cheap radios into North Korea. For a long time, only radios that received one,
state approved, station were allowed there. Normal radios were illegal, and in North
Korea they could receive Chinese and South Korean programming, which proved to
be very uncomfortable for the North Korean government.
plan for Afghanistan is to drop cheap cell phones, that can also receive radio
broadcasts, in Taliban dominated areas. These broadcasts would come from U.S.
psyops aircraft or blimps overhead, that would transmit useful programming
(weather reports, health, farming religious messages from moderate imams,
husbandry tips and local and national news). The cell phone would only be able
to call the equivalent of 911, which would be manned by the Afghan police. One
of the elements leading to this concept was the existing program back in the
United States, where old cell phones are modified to just call 911, and given
away free for that purpose. The basic message here is; "Let us know if you need something . . . or
see something . . ".
something like this off the ground and into action is another battle entirely.
But it shows you the kind of thinking that's going on.