Will the Taliban survive Afghanistan’s underground “sneakernet”?

When the Taliban captured the city of Herat on August 12, Yasin and his comrades speculated that soon the invading Taliban forces would replace their own city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

“Things are also more tense at Mazar, so me and the other computers kars by Mazar working together to hold a secret meeting to decide what to do to protect all of our content, ”he said. Among them, the informal computer union kars there are several hundred terabytes of data collected over several years, and much of it is considered controversial — even criminal — by the Taliban.

“We all agreed not to remove, but to hide the worse content,” he said. “We argue that in Afghanistan, these regimes always come and go, but our business should not be disrupted.”

He was not worried about being discovered.

“People were hiding guns, money, jewelry, and whatnot, so I wasn’t afraid to hide my hard drives. They couldn’t find it anymore. [them], ”He said. “I’m a 21st century boy, and most Taliban live in the past.”

Less than 20 years after former president Hamid Karzai made the first mobile phone call in Afghanistan, there was almost 23 million mobile phone users in a country of less than 39 million people. But internet access is a different matter: in early 2021, there will be less than that 9 million internet users, a lag largely attributed to widespread physical security problems, high costs, and lack of infrastructure development across the country’s highlands.

So is the computer kars such as Yasin can already be seen throughout Afghanistan. Although they sometimes download their information from the internet when they are able to get a connection, they physically carry most of it on hard drives from neighboring countries — known as “sneakernets.”

“I use Wi-Fi at home to download some music and applications; I also have five SIM cards for internet, ”said Mohibullah, another kar asking not to be identified by his real name. “But the connection here is unreliable, so every month I send a 4 terabyte hard drive to Jalalabad, and they fill it up and return it in a week with the latest Indian movies or dramas. on Turkish TV, music, and applications, ”in which he says he pays between 800 and 1,000 afghanis ($ 8.75 to $ 11).

“People hide guns, money, jewelry, and whatnot, so I’m not afraid to hide my hard drives. I’m a 21st century boy, and most Taliban live in the past. . “

Mohammad Yasin, computer card

Mohibullah says he can install more than 5 gigabytes of data on a phone — including movies, songs, music videos, and even course lessons — for just 100 afghanis, or $ 1.09 . “I have the latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies dubbed in Dari and Pashto [Afghan national languages], music from around the world, games, applications, ”he told me in early August, days before the Taliban took over.

To a lesser extent, Mohibullah helps customers create social media accounts, set up their phones and laptops, and even write emails for them. “I sold everything — A to Z of the contents. Everything except ‘100% movies,’ ”he said, referring to pornography. (He later admitted that he had some “free videos,” another name for pornography, but he only sold them to trusted customers.)

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