The Taliban are adopting modern approaches to disrupting Afghanistan’s society:
Alissa Rubin, Taliban Using Modern Means to Add to Sway
Punctually, at 8 o’clock every evening, the cellphone signals disappear in this provincial capital. Under pressure from the Taliban, the major carriers turn off their signal towers, effectively severing most of the connections to the rest of the world.
This now occurs in some portion of more than half the provinces in Afghanistan, and exemplifies the Taliban’s new and more subtle ways of asserting themselves, even as NATOgenerals portray the insurgents as a diminished force less able to hold ground. The question is whether the Taliban need to hold territory as they once did in order to influence the population. Increasingly, it seems, the answer is no.
Tactics like the cellphone offensive have allowed the Taliban to project their presence in far more insidious and sophisticated ways, using the instruments of modernity that they once shunned. The shutoff sends a daily reminder to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Afghans that the Taliban still hold substantial sway over their future.
Frank Herbert had Dune’s Paul Atreides say ‘He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing,’ and with cell towers running $250,000 to repair the cell companies there aren’t too eager to ignore Taliban ‘suggestions’ to turn the towers off where thet streets aren’t controlled by the government or the US.
Note that this is not an attack on civilians, which is both a social good and a smart play for the Taliban’s efforts to recast their image just as the US is staging down. But it is a Shakespearean twist on the anti-modernity of the Taliban, threatening cell towers.
It’s a strange turnaround to the bottom-up civil unrest in the Arab Spring, where the besieged governments sought to shut down communication between protestors. Here we have ‘protestors’ — insurgent Islamists — who turn off cell communications for everyone, on a daily basis, taking the cell towers as hostages.