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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Afghanistan: trying to make sense out of what's going on
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Afghanistan: trying to make sense out of what's going on

i can already see that a real challenge for me while i'm in afghanistan is trying to make sense out of conflicting information... for instance, this arrived in my email last night before i hit the sack...
[An] unconfirmed reported received indicates that a planned demonstration will be staged within next three days in Kabul city. Foreign offices and telecommunication buildings have been mentioned as targets for demonstrations and mob riot style attacks, the objective behind the attacks may be to destroy telecommunications systems working in the city as the networks have not capitulated to the Taliban demands to shut down services after 17.00hrs to 0700hrs. About 1500 or 2000 people are expected to attend this demonstration including some AGE [anti-government extremists] who will attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to conduct insurgency related activities in the Kabul city.

this morning, as per my usual routine, i was skimming news articles from various sources and ran across this...
Taliban attacks on telecom towers have prompted cell phone companies to shut down service across southern Afghanistan at night, angering a quarter million customers who have no other telephones.

Even some Taliban fighters now regret the disruptions and are demanding that service be restored by the companies.

The communication blackout follows a campaign by the Taliban, which said the U.S. and NATO were using the fighters' cell phone signals to track them at night and launch pinpoint attacks.

About 10 towers have been attacked since the warning late last month — seven of them seriously — causing almost $2 million in damage, the telecom ministry said. Afghanistan's four major mobile phone companies began cutting nighttime service across the south soon after.


But the cutoff is proving extremely unpopular among Afghan citizens. Even some Taliban fighters are asking that the towers be switched back on, said Afghanistan's telecommunications minister, A. Sangin.


That the Taliban could dictate when the country's mobile phone networks operate shows the weakness of the central government and the international forces that operate here, said Mohammad Qassim Akhgar, a political analyst in Kabul.

"After the Taliban announcement, they were aware of the situation, and still they couldn't provide security for the towers," Akhgar said. "Maybe destroying a few towers will not have any effect on the government, but the news or the message that comes out of this is very big, and all to the benefit of the Taliban."

All four of the major phone companies — Roshan, AWCC, Areeba and Etisalat — declined to comment.

Sangin said the government is not overly worried about the Taliban threat because Afghans are becoming increasingly angered by the shutdown. He said seven destroyed towers, and three others with minor damage, out of the 2,000 now in the country was "not a big thing," though he added that the towers cost from $150,000 to $300,000 each.

so, depending on which information source you read, the taliban either will provoke mass riots to shut down the cell phone system at night OR they have already been successful at shutting the cell phone system down at night...

as a sidenote, land-line phone service in afghanistan is virtually non-existent so you can imagine that folks would get pretty upset at having the only phone service that they have ever enjoyed and which was only recently-obtained knocked out for half of a 24-hour day...

of the four providers mentioned above, roshan is the system on which both my personal and my employer-provided cell phones are currently registered...

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