Bush Wants More VOA Broadcasts to Afghanistan, Arab World

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush says Voice of America should play a bigger role in getting America's message out to Afghanistan and the rest of the Arab world, even though budget cuts have forced VOA to make cutbacks in the past decade.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday, "The president does think that there is a need for an increased role by the Voice of America to make sure people understand the message the United States government is saying."

The government-funding VOA is an important diplomatic tool, Fleischer said, particularly in Afghanistan.

"Voice of America is broadcasting in there," said Fleischer, and he added that the best way to deal with anybody around the world who tells lies about the United States is to let American officials take to the podium to counter those lies.

Voice of America terminated its Western European broadcast service completely some time ago because VOA officials believed it was no longer needed in the post-Cold War world. VOA now concentrates its broadcasting on Africa and Asia.

Voice of America did not return calls seeking comment on Fleischer's remarks on Tuesday.

CNSNews.com first reported last week that a pro-American radio station is now airing broadcasts aimed towards the Afghan people.

BBC Monitoring first detected the station on a previously unused shortwave frequency.

The station broadcasts in the two main Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto, and is heard for ten hours each day. BBC Monitoring says the station "mixes announcements read in an emotionless tone with lively Afghan music."

Although the station does not identify itself on air, a BBC Monitoring spokesman said that the station is using a shortwave frequency identified on leaflets dropped along with U.S. food aid.

The station has made specific references to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in an attempt to create solidarity between Afghans and Americans.

Shortly after the CNSNews.com report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that radio transmissions had already begun into Afghanistan.

"We're working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them, and we want to help free their nation from the grip of the Taliban and their foreign terrorist allies," Rumsfeld said.
Freeplay, the British company that pioneered the manufacture of a wind-up radio that uses no batteries, has reportedly received thousands of orders from aid agencies for radios destined for the region. Those radios would be capable of picking up news sources such as Voice of America and the BBC World Service along with the new information station.
Some politicians insist that propaganda is a vital part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism. U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) has proposed establishing "Radio Free Afghanistan" along the lines of stations Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia.

"Horrible things are being said right now that are not being countered," Royce said last week. "There is a lot of anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Western hate radio being broadcast by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's organization."

Both Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcast information into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Royce's bill would provide $14 million over two years to fund a new round of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasts to Afghanistan.

The Taliban's main propaganda tool, Voice of Shari'ah, has been off the air in Kabul since the start of U.S. attacks on Oct. 7. A Taliban radio station in the northern Balkh province continues to broadcast, however.