Links Between China’s Biggest Telecom Company and Taliban Regime

January 10, 2019 Updated: January 30, 2019

While there is much scrutiny about Huawei’s role in communist China’s efforts to extend its influence worldwide, it’s less known that the telecommunications company may have provided assistance to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which supported Osama bin Laden and his terrorist attacks against the United States.

The Population Research Institute reported in September 2001 that the Chinese regime and suppliers played a key role in Osama bin Laden’s war on America, supporting the Taliban both in arms and techniques, the report said. Huawei allegedly made a major contribution to building telecommunications networks for the Taliban.

Since the early 1990s, the Taliban regime enthusiastically aided and abetted Al-Qaeda against the United States, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1995 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed five U.S. servicemen, U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, off the coast of Yemen that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

The Taliban also maintained a close relationship with the Beijing regime for decades. In December 2000, the U.N. Security Council voted to place an embargo on arms sales to the Taliban, which forced the group to close bin Laden’s terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Beijing abstained from voting.

Months later, Huawei made a deal with the Taliban to build an extensive military communications system throughout Afghanistan.

Intelligence Agencies Scrutinize Huawei Deals

India’s intelligence agencies placed Huawei on a watch list for alleged business dealings with the Taliban, according to Indian media in December 2001. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Huawei India was suspected of supporting terrorism, the reports said. The India Software Technology Parks of India investigated Huawei’s activities in India, and questioned Jack Lu, then Huawei India’s chief operating officer.

In addition, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)  planned to deport 178 Chinese engineers working for the Huawei India research and development center in Bangalore, because CCS had discovered Huawei India allegedly was supplying communication surveillance equipment to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

The Chinese regime refutes the allegation and said the report is misleading, while the Indian government didn’t comment.

Taliban Linked to Afghan Cellular Curfew

The Taliban also is believed to be controlling Afghanistan’s mobile communication system, according to a report by The New York Times in October 2011. The connection between the local region and the rest of the world relies on mobile phones because there is no other communication system available, according to the report.

Since the Taliban set up the mobile communication system, it exercised its authority by turning off the network at 8 p.m. every evening and turning it back on each morning. This cellular curfew occurs in more than half the provinces across Afghanistan.

It’s widely known the Taliban has been on the United Nations’ sanctions list since 1999. No communications company has since been allowed to sell to them.

Huawei reportedly supplied the telecommunications system.

In many Afghanistan regions, cellphone is the only way to connect with the rest of the world. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

Links to Iran and Syria

On Jan. 8, Reuters reported that Huawei used two companies to do business with Iran and Syria to avoid sanction-related bans: Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech Co. Ltd and Mauritius-registered Canicula Holdings Ltd. Skycom Tech is an equipment vendor that operates as part of a shell corporation called Canicula Holdings.

Huawei may be more closely linked to the two companies than previously known, according to corporate filings and other documents. Reuters discovered that the manager of Skycom’s Iran branch might be Shi Yaohong, who happens to share the name of a known Huawei executive. Shi was appointed by Huawei as its Middle East region president in June 2012.

In addition to this, most signatories of Skycom bank accounts in Iran are ethnically Chinese and, at least three of them, had signing rights for both Skycom and Huawei bank accounts.

The latest revelation in the U.S. case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is that Skycom Tech was essentially operating as a Huawei subsidiary in Iran, but Meng allegedly lied about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, according to prosecutors.

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