Canadian Cents is right on point about how telecommunications infrastructure in Afghanistan remains an ongoing threat to Afghan sovereignty:
I hope that after 4 decades of suffering caused by US machinations a sovereign Afghanistan can finally get back on course and develop with the help of regional countries.
From Glenn Greenwald’s “The U.S. Government Lied For Two Decades About Afghanistan” via ZH/substack:
“[NSA capacity] that empowered them to be “secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation” in at least five countries. At any time, they could listen to the stored conversations of any calls conducted by cell phone throughout the entire country.”
“There was virtually nothing that could happen in Afghanistan without the U.S. intelligence community’s knowledge.”
To ensure national sovereignty and independence, the new Afghan government will want to consider replacing the US-installed communications networks that permits that.
There’s also all the US-installed news media, polling organizations, election bureaucracy, etc. that will need to be cleaned up and made sovereign…
Assuming US/NATO subversion and machinations can be prevented, I think in 20 years we will see Afghanistan far more improved, and the Afghan people far better off, than after the past 20 years of American/NATO military occupation and corruption.
For those who would argue that rebuilding industry and human rights come before replacing communications infrastructure, here’s what a completely compromised cellphone network means:
- The CIA and by extension the Pentagon have a full map at all times of what Taliban leaders say to one another when there is a cellphone anywhere within audio range. With modern digital amplification and filtering, audio range is a pretty low barrier these days.
- The CIA and by extension the Pentagon know where both the Afghan leaders and any of their families are at any given time. This leaves Afghani leadership vulnerable to decapitation and blackmail. Drone murder a few families “by accident” first and let them know the rest of the leadership their families are vulnerable.sd
The US wouldn’t threaten families, you say. Don’t make me laugh. Proceed immediately to read “We Know Where Your Kids Live”: How John Bolton Once Threatened An International Official.
Full replacement might not be necessary technically if the Afghanis get Russian experts in to track the communication paths. It’s not the individual wheels which are giving away this information but the routers and the leak points. Some of the leak points will be out via carefully buried satellite links but most of it will be via international wires. Some of the data will be encrypted in country and then sent out with other data, hoping to hide in the electronic tide. Russians would be able to help unwrapping those bundles and chasing down the components.
The big danger technically with this kind of surveillance gear is the layers. There would be an obvious layer or two which provide the big pipe of full communication overview. Then normally there would be hidden nodes which could be activated on request and would surreptitiously allow external parties to Some of those hidden nodes are hiding in plain sight in any equipment by US, Japanese and Korean manufacturers. If a manufacturer of cellphones, routers or computers refuses to include the firmware the NSA require in these devices, that manufacturer is blacklisted and their sales of all equipment into the US market suffer endless bureaucratic barriers. On occasion, if soft measures don’t work, the heads of such companies or senior personnel must be changed.
It’s unpleasant to imagine but that expensive, state-of-the-art router many of us have installed in our home and office networks to protect our communications is riddled with backdoors which allow the USA and its closest satrapies (Five Eyes, Israel) to compromise all our communication with the press of a button (no hacker has to even do any specific work at this point, it’s all GUI and automated for common devices with native firmware).
Here’s where encryption makes nations less secure. As almost all communication is encrypted now, it’s very easy to hide exfiltrated communication among all the encrypted data. What still gives away spying is destination. All data must go somewhere be stored somewhere. Sooner or later that data has to make its back to Washington DC or Utah. The way this is handled is with way stations who look harmless in themselves but from which data can be surreptitiously piped into US hands. Places where such way stations could be planted is within communications with Pakistan. Pakistan is a partner and ally of Afghanistan but still suffers from infiltration and compromise by the US military from their decades as a privileged partner. The US only finally cut off all military funding in 2018.
Do I want to see the Taliban succeed? Like Canadian Cents, I believe that twenty years of independence will do more for Afghanistan and the Afghan people than another 20 years of American/NATO military occupation and corruption. Before Zbigniew Brzezinski and Jimmy Carter decided to fund warlords in Afghanistan to undermine the socialist government in Afghanistan directly and the Soviet Army indirectly1, young women were studying at the university and wearing short skirts safely in public in Kabul.
Before the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, nominally searching for Osama bin Laden, whom the Taliban were willing to freely hand over in exchange for peace, there were no poppy fields or heroin trade. The Taliban had wiped them out. Incarceration rates were lower than in the United States (not difficult). It remains a mystery to me how rule by the Taliban is worse than rule by the House of Saud (again a pretty low barrier), apart from the House of Saud has a lot of money they keep in Western banks and allow Western oil giants to share profits on their oil wealth. The House of Saud lures journalists into its embassies, murders them in cold blood and dismembers their bodies with bone saws. The House of Saud imprisons its daughters at home and kidnaps them abroad.2
How can the Taliban do worse than ostensible allies? I don’t see anyone calling for occupying Riyadh or sanctioning Saudi Arabia. Returning to communication infrastructure, retroactively CIA were able to confirm eleven text messages were exchanged between Prince Mohammed bin Salman and execution mastermind Saud al-Qahtani during the hours immediately before and after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.3 Time to change those routers, Mullahs.
Featured image: still from Oliver Stone film Snowden (2016). Rhys Ifans as CIA recruiter and trainer Corbin O’Brian.
Brzezinski said this in 1997: “the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible; and we engaged in that effort in a collaborative sense with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, the Chinese, and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources again—for example, some Soviet arms from the Egyptians and the Chinese. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government, since it was obviously susceptible to material incentives.” ↩
Speaking of which, we impose some pretty strange things in the West to our women as well. Western women are allowed (no longer encouraged) to give birth to children but then abandon them within two weeks or two months to return to roles as Senior Brokers or Executive Vice President, whose duties require neglecting any children or home life. The children of our upper middle class live their childhood more or less without mothers. If they are lucky, the nannies are good and not changed too often. ↩
The contents of the messages were not leaked but the CIA certainly has those too, leaving Saudi Arabia and its rulers to serve the USA at the pleasure of the CIA. If at any point, Prince Mohammed bin Salman goes off reservation those texts can resurface and MBS will find himself on Interpol lists. The statute of limitations stretches rather long on conspiracy to murder, sovereign immunity can be waived as the murder was committed before MBS ascended to the Saudi throne. Basically, MBS is damaged goods for life. The CIA/US have him exactly where they want him. ↩