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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 13:12 GMT
Afghanistan gets connected

Kabul view Calls can be made to Kabul and Kandahar at the moment


By Kate Clark in Kabul

International phone links have been established between Afghanistan and 13 other countries.

News of the international phone link reached the BBC late last night.

The local phone in our Kabul office rang and on the other end was a producer from the BBC Pashtu language service in London.

It was quite astonishing.


Sat phone Satellite phones have been the only option so far

The news means that for the first time in seven years, the huge Afghan population living abroad can telephone their relatives back home, and the list of countries that can be contacted is growing.

Foreign organisations here use satellite phones along with the Taleban and the Afghan opposition - and several years ago, a satellite call centre was opened.

But a minute's call there cost the ordinary Afghan half a month's wages.

Isolation

Most people have just become used to international isolation.

Afghanistan has the highest refugee population in the world.

Twenty years of war has also resulted in the destruction of the country's infrastructure and that means contacting family abroad requires persistence.

Usually, people travelling to and from Afghanistan, are weighed down by messages.

But last year an American company announced it was reactivating the country's international phone service and installing a mobile system.

Their first move was to open a call centre in Kabul where people could phone abroad.

But investment had to stop when the US imposed sanctions on Afghanistan.

The company has said the new international link was the result of work undertaken before sanctions.

At the moment, calls can only be made to people living in Kabul and Kandahar via the operator.

But when the company is able to establish its mobile phone network, the link will be countrywide.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Ramadan truce in Afghanistan
06 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Aid convoy crosses Afghan frontline
28 Nov 99 |  South Asia
UN aid for Afghan refugees
24 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Appeal for aid for Afghanistan
25 Jun 99 |  Africa
The child victims of war
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?

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