Can the underground “sneaker net” of Afghanistan survive the Taliban?

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When the Taliban captured the city of Herat on August 12, Yassin and his colleagues speculated that soon the Taliban’s invading forces would occupy their own city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

“Mazar’s situation is more tense, so I and other computers Karls Mazar, who worked together, held a secret meeting to decide how to protect all of our content,” he said. Among them, the Informal Computer Union Karls Hundreds of terabytes of data have been collected over the years, most of which will be considered controversial or even criminal by the Taliban.

“We all agree not to delete, but to hide more evil content,” he said. “We believe that in Afghanistan, these regimes come and go, but our business should not be disrupted.”

He is not worried about being discovered.

“People hide guns, money, jewelry, etc., so I am not afraid to hide my hard drive. They will never find it [them],” he said. “I am a 21st century boy and most Taliban live in the past. “

Less than 20 years after former President Hamid Karzai opened up the first mobile phone in Afghanistan, this country with a population of less than 39 million has nearly 23 million mobile phone users. But Internet access is another matter: by the beginning of 2021, there are fewer than 9 million Internet users. This lag is mainly due to widespread physical security issues, high costs, and lack of infrastructure development in mountainous areas across the country.

That’s why the computer Karls Things like Yasin can now be found throughout Afghanistan. Although they sometimes download information from the Internet when they are able to connect, they actually transmit most of the information through hard drives from neighboring countries-this is the so-called “sneaker network.”

“I use Wi-Fi to download some music and applications at home; I also have five SIM cards for Internet access,” said another user, Mohibullah. Carl Who asked not to reveal his real name. “But the connection here is not reliable, so I will send a 4TB hard drive to Jalalabad every month, they will fill it with content, and then after a week, the latest Indian movies or Turkish TV series, music and applications The program returns to it,” he said he paid 800 to 1,000 Afghanis (8.75 to 11 U.S. dollars) for this.

“People hide guns, money, jewelry, etc., so I am not afraid to hide my hard drive. I am a 21st century boy and most of the Taliban live in the past.”

Mohammad Yasin, computer engineer

Mohibullah said he can install more than 5GB of data on his phone—including movies, songs, music videos, and even courses—for just 100 Afghanis, or $1.09. “I have the latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies, dubbed in Dari and Pashto [Afghan national languages], Music, games, apps from all over the world,” he told me in early August, a few days before the Taliban took over.

With just a little more, Mohibullah can help customers create social media accounts, set up their phones and laptops, and even write emails for them. “I sell everything from A to Z. Everything except ‘100% movies,'” he said, referring to pornography. (Later he admitted that he did have some “free videos,” another nickname for porn, but he only sold them to trusted customers.)


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