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Taliban Forces Telecom Services Shutdown

Date: 3/27/2008 10:41:58 AM

Exactly a month ago, the Taliban threatened telecom companies in Afghanistan to switch off their networks at night for nearly 10 hours else face extinction of their towers and offices.

The Taliban lived up to its warning: since then, ten telecom towers have been attacked with seven of them incurring serious damages to the tune of around $2 million, the Associated Press (AP) quoted the Telecom Ministry saying.

Subsequently, four major mobile phone companies in Afghanistan i.e. Roshan, AWCC, Areeba, and Etisalat began shutting down their services at night in the South in Helmand, Kandahar, and Zabul provinces where the Taliban is most active.

What the phone companies did not bargain for was the anger their action would cause amongst Afghan citizens. Nearly a quarter million customers who have no access to cell phones are now voicing serious displeasure against the shutdown of services in these parts.

Apparently, even some Taliban fighters are now regretting the cutoff and demanding restoration of services by the telcos. This indeed is a Uturn considering it was the Taliban that issued warning to these telcos, alleging that the US military and other foreign forces were using mobile phone signals during the night to track their footprints and launch attacks on them.

Commenting on the sorry situation, Afghanistans Telecommunications Minister A Sangin said that the government is not overtly worried about the Taliban threat since Afghans are becoming increasingly angered by the shutdown. The minister voiced the view that its a fight not against foreign troops or the government rather, against the Afghan people. He expressed hope that the people of Afghanistan would stand up and provide protection for their telecom towers.

Meanwhile, a Kabulbased political analyst expressed the view that the situation reeked of the ineffectiveness of the central government as well as of international forces operating within Afghanistan in the face of the tyranny of the Taliban. That a few attacks could cripple a basic service (which continues to remain crippled despite people protests) shows how little influence the central government of the country wields.

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