Fifteen years ago, just ahead of NATO airstrikes on Afghanistan, I assisted a journalist in investigating telecommunications infrastructure in Afghanistan. He had discovered that a New Jersey man had won a contract from the Taleban to construct it, along with a private assurance from Bin Laden himself that none of the Americans who came to the country to staff the project would be harmed.
Through a series of phone calls, I spoke in Dari with the main switchboard operator of the network in Kabul and asked Lily Tomlin-style questions about the quality of service. As the aerial bombardment began in earnest, we kept in touch. He assured me repeatedly that the phone lines remained fully functional, even in tip-top shape. Meanwhile, Taleban government installations were being pummeled.
We asked an American specialist in military matters why the coalition would take pains to leave untouched a phone network serving primarily the Taleban itself. He said the answer was quite straightforward: If they took out the phone lines, they'd lose the chance to tap into the conversations.
Our findings were covered by the New York Times here, and the Jordanian news service Al-Bawaba here: http://www.albawaba.com/business/afghanistan%E2%80%99s-telecoms-infrastructure-limps-along .
How this logic might apply to the vastly more complex communications landscape of 2016 Mosul -- satellite Internet, mobile base stations; social media, fixed line telephony -- is an open question. I hope it's being asked.
- Al-Mesbar CenterSenior Fellow, 2003 - present
Joseph Braude, a Senior Fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute's Program on the Middle East, is a Middle East scholar and author whose research appears in print and on air, in Arabic and English. Fluent in Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew, he studied in the departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale and Near Eastern Studies at Princeton.
His first book, The New Iraq (Basic Books, 2003), examines the challenge of civil society development in the country following the US-led invasion. His second, The Honored Dead (Random House – Spiegel & Grau, 2011), presents an unprecedented investigation of the inner workings of an Arab security service: Braude was embedded for half a year in an investigative unit of the Moroccan federal police in Casablanca, where he read case files, attended interrogations, and accompanied police on nighttime forays into the shantytown.
Since July 2010, Joseph Braude’s weekly program in Arabic, Risalat New York (Letter from New York), has aired nationally on Morocco’s MED Radio. He appears frequently as a commentator on Al-Arabiya and other satellite television networks. He writes a biweekly column in Al-Majalla, the largest-distribution magazine in the Arabic language, and contributes regularly to the daily newspaper Asharq Alawsat. In the United States, he has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The American Interest, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and The New Republic. He provides commentary on public radio programs, and produces documentaries on current affairs in the Middle East for PRI’s America Abroad. He hosts the English-language podcast Eye on Arabia, a light-hearted roundup of reporting and analysis from the Arab world. He is also a contributing editor at Tablet.
Joseph Braude is Advisor at Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center in Dubai, a think tank specializing in Islamist movements across the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to leading seminars and contributing research to its monthly book, he conducts outreach on behalf of the Center in the United States and elsewhere.As a consulting advisor,Joseph Braude has assisted non-profit groups, government, and private companies in matters related to Middle East policy, public diplomacy, security sector reform, and counterterrorism. He has worked with the United States Agency for International Development, the US State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and Pyramid Research.
- Yale University1992 - 1996
- Princeton University1996 - 1999