Taliban Insurance

At  Marginal Revolution via the WSJ;

Afghan shopkeeper Nasratullah Niazai has developed a brisk new business over the past year. For about $2 a pop, he uploads into customers’ cellphones a collection of Taliban songs and ringtones.

A skinny 22-year-old who operates a one-room computer store on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Mr. Niazai is no Taliban. Neither are most of his customers.

Instead, the songs and ringtones romanticizing the insurgents’ jihad against the infidel invaders serve as potentially lifesaving travel insurance for Kabulis who brave increasingly perilous countryside roads.

Sentries at improvised Taliban checkpoints, some only an hour’s drive away from central Kabul, routinely check travelers’ cellphones. As a result, government officials, police, soldiers, security guards, university students, translators for Western companies, construction workers and scores of others go to extraordinary lengths to scrub their phones of any evidence of links to the coalition and the Afghan government—and to masquerade as Taliban sympathizers.

Business has boomed in the past year, Mr. Niazai said. The songs that buyers like best, he said, are “the emotional ones sung by children with beautiful voices.”

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