Afghanistan has suffered the consequences of poor leadership and decisions by the Taliban government over the past year, and now the results are too clear to ignore. The university students have filed a complaint with the relevant authorities as they get expensive and very slow internet, which is a big obstacle between the students and their education. Officials at the Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology Information said a gigabyte of internet data used to sell for 250 Afs, but the price has recently dropped to 110 Afs. Officials said efforts are underway to improve the quality of the internet, Enayatullah, a ministry spokesman, said;
“The Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology Information has lowered the price of the Internet,”
While the Taliban can make any promises they want, the reality lies in the fact that the Taliban’s military success in retaking the country and their online media campaign does not mean they will be able to provide service to the uphold millions of Afghan netizens. Although they have been able to keep the internet going longer than expected, this facade that the Taliban can rule anything, let alone the internet, is about to end. Kabir Taneja, an observer in the Observer Research Foundation’s Strategic Studies program, sees the Taliban’s internet strategy as follows:
“It was easy to waltz into Kabul with Kalashnikovs on your shoulders, but when it comes to running power plants, when it comes to running internet ecosystems, these are things we haven’t seen the Taliban do.”
Recently, the Taliban met with Afghan Telecoms Regulatory Agency (ATRA) officials and said they would work together to ensure internet access remains active.
This comes just a few months later ATRA reported that the Taliban had destroyed 28 telecommunications towers across the country, it seems they never thought they would need to fix things they previously so passionately destroyed.
Two of the largest mobile operators in Afghanistan are Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Africa’s MTN Group. MTN announced last year that it was leaving the Afghan market. Etisalat has not made any public comments on whether or not they will cease operations. The impact of shutting down the two largest ISPs can be massive, and with the Taliban unable to build alternatives, these price hikes and speed hits have been eagerly anticipated. Doug Madory, head of internet analytics at Kentik, a company that monitors global networks, told DW:
“Right now it seems like the internet is running on autopilot in Afghanistan. It will be a few weeks before we see if the Taliban have the ability to keep the internet running, if they have the manpower and equipment to fix internet outages, or even just to turn on the power to keep going.”
The way Afghanistan connects to the rest of the internet is via a series of fiber optic cables that run their cables through Tajikistan to the north of Afghanistan, east through Pakistan, and west through Iran. The Taliban still have to pay for the broadband that the country sends through the cables. With their US assets frozen and foreign aid halted, it’s unclear if they will have the resources to keep the information flowing. They could soon stop paying for the service and would have to abandon Internet excess altogether or find ways to get the West on the same page.