Kabul: Team Taliban security officers They gathered on the outskirts of the Afghan capital to prepare for a raid on Uhud Islamic country cache. The chief, Habib-ur-Rahman Inqiad, hastened to obtain the exact location of their objective. He grabbed his colleagues’ phones and called their superiors, who insisted that he send the target’s location pin to his WhatsApp. but The WhatsApp His account was banned in compliance with US sanctions. “The only way we communicate is WhatsApp — and I didn’t have access,” said Inqayyad, 25, who has been followed by The New York Times since the Taliban seized power in 2021.
In recent months, complaints from Taliban officialsTheir WhatsApp accounts, police and soldiers being banned or temporarily disabled, became widespread, and the unrest highlighted how the messaging platform became the backbone of the nascent Taliban government.
The United States has long criminalized any form of support for the Taliban. Thus, WhatsApp scans group names, descriptions, and group profile pictures on the messaging app to identify users among the Taliban and block their accounts. This policy has been in place since US sanctions were imposed more than two decades ago.
But over the past two years, the Taliban’s reliance on WhatsApp has gone far, as smartphone use has spread and 4G networks have improved across Afghanistan with the end of the US-led war. As Taliban control consolidated, the internal bureaucracy became more orderly — with WhatsApp centralizing their official communications.
The cat-and-mouse game of closing accounts has become a nuisance for Taliban officials — an almost daily reminder that the government they lead has become a pariah on the world stage. “We have one group of 50 people who belong to the Islamic emirate, and 40 to 45 individuals are banned in it,” said a police spokesman in Takhar province. However, many of those whose accounts were closed found workarounds, buying new SIM cards. Inqayad recently bought a new unlimited data plan that costs him 700 afghanis per month — about $8. It’s expensive for its budget, he says, but well worth it for the app. My whole life is on my WhatsApp.


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