The Taliban are working on a large-scale camera surveillance network in Afghan cities, potentially utilizing a pre-2021 US plan, and have held preliminary discussions with Huawei, raising concerns. Rights groups fear the system could target civil society and violate rights, amid reports of journalist detentions, Reuters reported.
The Taliban are developing a large-scale camera surveillance network in Afghan cities, potentially repurposing a US plan from before the 2021 pullout. The initiative aims to enhance security and curb Islamic State attacks. The Taliban have consulted with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, sparking concerns about potential cooperation. However, both Huawei and the Taliban state that no firm plans have been reached, and discussions remain preliminary.
Rights groups and analysts express concerns over the surveillance initiative. Critics fear the system could be used to target civil society members and suppress protests, violating fundamental rights. The Taliban deny such allegations, asserting the system will comply with Islamic Sharia law, protecting privacy. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports at least 64 journalists have been detained since the Taliban takeover, raising further concerns.
Practical challenges also hinder the implementation of the surveillance system. Afghanistan faces intermittent power cuts, affecting the consistency of camera feeds. With only 40% of the population having access to electricity, the reliability of the system is questionable. Additionally, the Taliban must secure funding following a significant economic contraction and the withdrawal of international aid, further complicating the project.
The surveillance discussions follow meetings between China, Pakistan, and the Taliban, emphasizing counter-terrorism cooperation. China expresses concerns over militant groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Islamic State, which have threatened and attacked Chinese interests. The Taliban have conducted raids against Islamic State cells, but analysts argue urban surveillance alone won’t address the presence of such groups in Afghanistan.