(What do you make of this demand that mobile phone carriers shut down their service from dusk until 3 AM?) It doesn't make a lot of sense on the face of it. the Taliban rely on mobile phone networks at least as much as the average Afghan. The only possible explanation I've heard is they're using commercial networks to set up private networks and they want to free up the bandwidth by shutting down other networks at night because that's when the US military is most active and could use their cell phones to track them. But shutting down the entire network is not necessary for that. (So the US military doesn't have its own lines of communication?) No, the US military has abundant forms of communication and tends to avoid using commercial cell phones because they're vulnerable. (So who's at risk by this request?) Well certainly the average Afghan, but also it puts the Taliban themselves at risk which is why it's so curious. There are other ways for them to limit their vulnerability, but the only surefire way is to stop using cell phones. (So could the Taliban actually destroy these telecom towers?) Well the ones that aren't heavily guarded. I'm not sure how guarded they are. Could they do it? some of them, sure. (How much reach do these networks have?) They're surprisingly robust. I've been in the middle of the desert and gotten a signal. (One would think cell phones are a luxury in Afghanistan.) But they're not because the technology is relatively simple and cheap. Across the developing world, cell phone start ups are pretty common. Most folks have more than one phone because there's not one network that covers the entire country.
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