Afghanistan's biometric system 'completely secure', authorities say

By Izazullah

An Afghan security officer (wearing uniform) registers his biometric data in Kabul earlier in 2016. [Izazullah]

An Afghan security officer (wearing uniform) registers his biometric data in Kabul earlier in 2016. [Izazullah]

KABUL -- The Afghan Interior Ministry is debunking recent claims by the Taliban that they accessed the Afghan National Security Forces' (ANSF's) biometric information system, thereby gaining the ability to target security personnel.

"It is impossible to access our biometric system ... without access to the databases containing the identifying information," Deputy Minister of Interior Masood Ahmad Azizi told Salaam Times.

Pajhwok Afghan News on February 14 reported that Taliban militants halted a bus going from Takhar Province to Kabul and checked the passengers using the biometric system on their cell phones to determine whether there were government officials aboard.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also claimed the fighters had access to the biometric system in different areas, including Kunduz.

Earlier in June 2016, media outlets reported that the Taliban had gained access to the system after it kidnapped bus passengers in Kunduz Province. The militants questioned passengers and reviewed their documents in an attempt to single out security personnel to be killed on the spot.

'Baseless propaganda'

Reports that the Taliban "used the biometric system to identify security personnel on the highways ... are baseless propaganda", Azizi said.

The ministry investigated those allegations, he said, adding, "The biometric system ... to register the identities of police officers and to access criminal records is completely secure."

If the system is compromised in any way, the central biometric system deactivates all local counterpart systems in the provinces, he said.

Deputy Interior Minister Masood Ahmad Azizi strongly rejected the Taliban claims.

These reports are "merely part of the propaganda war in the country", he told Salaam Times on February 16. The Afghan government "will never let insurgents control the system”.

"It is not a simple system that someone could come and use easily," he said, adding that only a few individuals in the ministry have access to the system.

"I am fully confident that only authorized people can use the system", Afghan Ministry of Defence spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times.

Besides, "the biometric systems in the provinces only record new data", Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Salaam Times. "They cannot be used to access the databank."

"After investigating the reports, the Ministry of Interior can assure everyone that no such breach happened," Sediqqi said, calling the Taliban's claims an effort to demoralise the ANSF.

Afghan National Army Lt. Gen. Shir Aziz Kamawal, commander of forces in the 808th Spin Ghar Zone in the northeast, corroborated Sediqqi's assertions about the "firewall" between local biometric systems and the secure databank in Kabul.

The system uses identifiers like "fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA and signatures", Sayed Maisam Ehsani, deputy director of the Kabul-based Young Activists Network for Reform and Change, told Salaam Times.

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