Afghanistan on Sunday expressed anger at the United States for allegedly monitoring almost all the country’s telephone conversations after revelations by the Wikileaks website.
Wikileaks editor Julian Assange said on Friday that Afghanistan was one of at least two countries where the U.S. National Security Agency “has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic [and international] phone calls.” Earlier last week journalist Glenn Greenwald had revealed that the NSA had been monitoring all the domestic and international phone calls of the Bahamas, but had refused to identify the second country, claiming he believed it could lead to the death of innocent people.
The Afghan government responded to the claims by ordering the interior and telecommunication ministries to stop illegal monitoring of calls, and said it would lodge a complaint with the U.S.
“These activities are an obvious violation of agreements based on technical use of these [telephone] stations,” said a government statement. “Most importantly, it is a violation of the national sovereignty of Afghanistan, and a violation of the human rights guaranteed to all Afghans.”
Relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. have been severely strained in recent years over issues of Afghan sovereignty, including detention of Taliban militant suspects in U.S.-run jails. President Hamid Karzai has also launched bitter attacks on the U.S. for civilian casualties in air strikes, night raids on private houses and alleged abuses by special force commandos.
Much of the criticism has infuriated Washington as Karzai has relied on U.S. military and civilian support since he came in power after the Islamist Taliban regime was ousted in 2001 with U.S. assistance.
“These [telephone] stations are installed in Afghanistan by U.S. and Britain forces for the purpose of combating drug smuggling,” the Afghan government said. “The [Afghan] National Security Adviser has been directed to raise these illegal activities and the anger of Afghan government with the U.S. and seriously investigate the issue.”
Afghanistan has seen a huge boom in mobile telephones since the end of the 1996-2001 Taliban era, when there were only a handful of landlines in the whole country.
Revelations that the U.S. monitored all telephone calls in at least one country emerged in March, but no country was immediately named due to security concerns.