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Thread: Telephone and communication nets in insurgent infested areas

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    Default Telephone and communication nets in insurgent infested areas

    It seems to be common understanding that insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are benefiting to great extent from the ubiquitous communication networks (e.g. using cell phones as triggers etc...). So, why not restrict access to such lines in these countries or bringing down mobile phone lines alltogether?

    Or, are the intelligence counter measures that become available worth more than a squaddie's life on the streets?

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Wink Somewhat true

    Quote Originally Posted by oakfox View Post
    It seems to be common understanding that insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are benefiting to great extent from the ubiquitous communication networks (e.g. using cell phones as triggers etc...). So, why not restrict access to such lines in these countries or bringing down mobile phone lines alltogether?

    Or, are the intelligence counter measures that become available worth more than a squaddie's life on the streets?
    But think about this

    Cutting off all comms capabilities within an area except for military
    or in other words cutting off information is like shutting off air.

    Yes you will eventually get some of the bad guys but most of them will generally leave. The locals on the other hand are still there and at that point you are suffocating them rather than the enemy.

    Unless you know exactly who, where, how, and what to target large scale actions like that would seem to be more likely to backfire than anything else.

    Just my take on it
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    Quote Originally Posted by oakfox View Post
    It seems to be common understanding that insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are benefiting to great extent from the ubiquitous communication networks (e.g. using cell phones as triggers etc...). So, why not restrict access to such lines in these countries or bringing down mobile phone lines alltogether?
    Ron's point about the counterproductive nature of such an action is well taken.

    You also should be careful about the generalization over "benefits" to the bad guys from the comms networks. Recall the Taliban's attacks on cell towers earlier this year, and their concurrent demands of local mobile operators to cut off operations at night, because of the Taliban's perception that we were tracking them through their comms.

    As far as IEDs go, shutting down cell phone nets would have absolutely no effect on the bad guys ability to construct devices. There are plenty of options for triggers - and they've always been nothing if not innovative.

    Restricting or shutting down of mobile networks would have a net negative effect, and to re-emphasize Ron's point again, the most important part of that is how it would piss off a big chunk of the local populace that we really want on our side. Not a good idea.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default

    Insurrections and insurgencies are largely battles to be recognized as the legitimate authority in a region/over a people. Legitimacy in large part is conferred on that entity that is best able to allow the folks to get on with their lives in the least disruptive fashion. Strippping comms capability from the populace would be about as disruptive as turning off their access to water, electricity, fuel, and sewage services (provided they already had some level of expected service in any/all of these areas). I suspect it would be as effective a recruiting technigue for the insurgents as offering folks a monetary bonus for building/delivering IEDs. By adopting such a plan, the level of risk to the troops would increase dramatically, IMHO.
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default RAND paper

    I've read in the IISS Library, a RAND report on mobile phone networks, I think this is the link: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG595.1/

    davidbfpo

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    To add to what has been already said...

    mobile phones have become an icon of freedom in many of these areas so removing them will draw unwanted comaprisons with the previous regime.

    Furthermore, we know this is a realm that the enemy is operating and as such can operate there as well. If the mobile net is shut down then they will find another way and we will be hard pressed until we infiltrate it.

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    Default at least three issues

    Cutting off cell phone networks should be considered, but because they are a resource for the insurgents, the populace, and friendlies you would have to monitor the effects carefully.

    1. If it is shut down for a specific time and in a specific region to support an operation that would probably be acceptable, but once you show your hands a couple of times it doesn't take long for the insurgents to realize that when their cell phones don't work something bad is coming their way.

    2. Shutting down the phone network permanently would damage local commerce (regardless of how limited it may be), interfer with public safety, quality of life, etc. and probably wouldn't endear the populace to support the government. The question is could it be used effectively as a coercive tool to get the populace to support the government? For example, stop attacks on government forces in your area and we'll reestablish your phone service.

    3. Cell phones are great tip lines, so shutting them down would impact the ability of the populace to share intelligence with security forces.

    Just a couple of thoughts.

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Further widening the spectrum of possibilities ...

    In addition to discussing the other facets of the Taliban's campaign against cell phones/towers, Lewis Page posted this at The Register on 25 FEB 08:

    It could be that the Taliban want to operate their own networks, of course. Micro/pico/femtocell equipment is widely available, and there's said to be a strong tradition in wild and woolly rural Afghanistan of unregulated, private wireless comms. It might be that guerrilla commanders merely want to clear other operators off the spectrum so that they can use it themselves.
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