Taliban weighs using US mass surveillance plan, met with China’s Huawei

The Taliban are creating a massive CCTV network covering Afghan cities, which could repurpose a plan drawn up by the Americans before their withdrawal in 2021, an Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters, as authorities try to replenish thousands of cameras which have already been set up in the capital Kabul. .

The Taliban government – which has publicly said it is focused on restoring security and suppressing Islamic State, which has claimed many major attacks in Afghan cities – has also discussed possible cooperation with Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei, the spokesperson said.

Preventing attacks by international militant groups – including prominent organizations such as Islamic State – is at the heart of the Taliban’s interaction with many foreign nations, including the US and China, according to the results of those meetings.

But some analysts question the cash-strapped regime’s ability to fund the program, and rights groups have expressed concern that all resources will be used to crack down on protesters.

Details on how the Taliban plans to expand and manage mass surveillance, including obtaining the U.S. plan, have not previously been reported.

The massive rollout of cameras, which will focus on “key points” in Kabul and elsewhere, is part of a new security strategy that will take four years to fully implement, said Abdul Mateen Qani, spokesman for the ministry of Home Affairs, told Reuters.

“We are currently working on a security map of Kabul, which is being completed by security experts and takes a lot of time,” he said. “We already have two maps, one made by the US for the previous administration and the second by Turkey.” He did not indicate when the Turkish plan was made.

A US State Department spokesperson said Washington had no “cooperation” with the Taliban and “has made it clear to the Taliban that it is their responsibility to ensure that they do not provide safe haven to terrorists.” A Turkish government spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

Qani said the Taliban had a “simple conversation” about the potential network with Huawei in August, but no contracts or final plans had been reached.

Bloomberg News reported in August that Huawei had reached “oral agreement” with the Taliban on a contract to install a surveillance system, citing a person familiar with the discussions. Huawei told Reuters in September that “no plan was discussed” during the meeting.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she was not aware of specific discussions, but added: “China has always supported the peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan and supported Chinese enterprises to establish relevant practical cooperation .”

Electricity outages, rights concerns According to the Taliban, there are more than 62,000 cameras in Kabul and other cities that are monitored from a central control room.

The last major update to Kabul’s camera system took place in 2008, according to the former government, which relied heavily on Western-led international forces for security.

As NATO-led international forces gradually withdrew in January 2021, then-Vice President Amrullah Saleh said his government would undertake a massive upgrade of Kabul’s CCTV system.

He told reporters that the $100 million plan was backed by the NATO coalition.

“The arrangement we planned at the beginning of 2021 was different,” Saleh told Reuters in September, adding that the “infrastructure” for the 2021 plan had been destroyed.

It was not clear whether the plan Saleh referred to was similar to those the Taliban say it has obtained, nor whether the government would change them.

Jonathan Schroden, an expert on Afghanistan at the Center for Naval Analyses, said a surveillance system “would be useful to the Taliban as it tries to prevent groups like the Islamic State from attacking Taliban members or government positions in Kabul.”