Taliban ringtones become social camouflage for some in Afghanistan

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, December 29, 2011 15:56 EDT
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Afghan Road Maintenance Team members practices small unit tactics during a three-day combat skills class taught by International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces at Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2010. Photo: Flickr user isafmedia.
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A new cottage industry has sprung up in Afghanistan: ringtones.

But it’s not just any ringtones. According to a report this week by The Wall Street Journal, merchants are loading some of the favorite songs of the Taliban onto phones, which are being used as a form of social camouflage at checkpoints.

For just a couple dollars, many merchants in the more populated areas will connect mobile phones to a computer and add graphics and music that make the user seem to be a Taliban sympathizer, that way when the phone is checked for any forbidden media, the holder won’t be abused by Taliban soldiers.

The prevalence of checkpoints has reportedly led many to begin taking additional precautions, and cleansing mobile devices of all apparent Western influence is only the latest.

U.S. forces have been drawing down in Afghanistan this year after President Barack Obama ordered a surge of more than 30,000 soldiers in 2009.

It’s still not clear when combat operations in the country will end, but the administration has set a deadline for withdrawal in 2014, with Vice President Joe Biden calling that the “drop dead date.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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