Satellites Build a Better World…or Enhance Islamic Terror Command and Control?

Recently SpaceNews carried an article speaking to how the SATCOM provider GlobalComm had recently won the Society of Satellite Professionals’ first annual Better Satellite World Awards.

The reason was because GlobalComm “[gave] the troubled nation of Afghanistan a shot at a better future.” This future is enabled by two networks, the Government Communication Network (GCN)-linking the regional, provincial and national governments together via satellite enable telephone and internet, and the Village Communication Network (VCN) “that In the past seven years, the network has grown from barely 200 sites to well over 1,000. Before the existence of the VCN, most villagers had to travel up to three days to get to the nearest telephone. With VCN terminals, often solar-powered, they now have connectivity right in their own villages”.

While I applaud the success of GlobalComm in winning the first ever award recognizing the impact, positive impact of spacepower to the civilian populations of the world, and their quest to extend that same positive impact to the people of Afghanistan, something came to mind. A question: With the VCN (and other companies’ and nation’s satellites) enabling villagers to not have to travel up to three days to pass messages or use the telephone, I was curious if through our good intentions as a nation, as well as a space community, to better the future of Afghans we have unintentionally enabled the Taliban and other Islamic terror organizations to have a more efficient command and control system throughout 2000 stations in the country to better pass intelligence of NATO troop movements, Afghan Police and National Army movements as well as U.S. special forces and humanitarian organizations for suicide bombing targeting.

The other part that concerns me is given all the reporting in the open press about the corruption within the Afghan National Government, what was the likelihood that the GCN was being abused by terrorist sympathizers as well? The likelihood is great given the fact that Osama bin Laden utilized satellite phones in the early days of the Global War on Terror, before the news media reported it and the terror group went silent.

Now, there appears to be sort of a dualistic approach to the use of satellite communication and satellite enabled internet within terror groups like Islamic State. See the attached links:

While Islamic State and other terror groups use space enabled communications to recruit and spread their messages and call to arms, the enemy seems unwilling for the populace, even supportive populations to have access to cell towers and satellite phones and internet, because to do so will expose them to Western thinking. See below:

While we as an international space power and force for good in the world (I believe that),  aim to provide all the comforts of modern society to areas currently under siege by Islamic terrorist organizations or those conquered by Islamic State, perhaps we might want to think about what the second and third order effects could be? It is possible that it helps Allied forces, but we could also be putting those we are attempting to help in danger by enhancing our enemy with free SATCOM.

Just a few things to think about from a strategic level.


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