Pro-American Radio Station On Air In Afghanistan

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

London ( - As the propaganda war inside Afghanistan intensifies, 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 on Sunday night.

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 Wednesday that the station is using a shortwave frequency identified on leaflets dropped along with U.S. food aid this weekend.

The first broadcast on Sunday told listeners that "the forces of the United States are passing through your area" - a possible reference to special forces preparing to enter the country or already on the ground in Afghanistan. Subsequent broadcasts have emphasized "coalition countries" rather than the United States specifically.

The station calls the coalition "peace loving" and gives advice on how to distribute air-dropped food and avoid missiles and bombs.

The station warns Afghans to stay away from roads and bridges, and to take shelter if they see U.S. troops or aircraft.

"The most safe place is your own homes," one announcer said. "Don't listen to what al-Qaida and the Taliban say. If you follow these instructions no harm will come to you.

"The coalition countries want to prove to you and other Muslims in the world that the aim of this war is not to eliminate Islam, but we want bring to justice those who have shown disrespect to the name of Prophet Mohammed."

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.

"Recently people in our country have been killed because of an act by terrorists," one broadcast said. "We know that your family have also lost their dear ones because of drought and war in the country. We share the feeling of loss."
At a briefing Monday, 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.

Some reports before the military action began indicated that the U.S. would be dropping wind-up radios capable of receiving only one frequency on Afghanistan.

But when asked if such radios were being distributed, Rumsfeld said Tuesday: "I don't think we have yet. There was talk about that, but I don't think it's happened."

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.

Radio Free Afghanistan

Some politicians have been emphasizing the importance of the propaganda war. 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."

On Wednesday, Royce's press secretary said a bill creating Radio Free Afghanistan should be marked up and out of the House International Relations Committee by tomorrow afternoon, but he spoke learning that Congress would adjourn Wednesday afternoon because of an anthrax scare.

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.

Radio main source of info

Radio is the main source of information in Afghanistan, where nearly 70 percent of the population is illiterate and television and the internet have been banned.

The new Afghan station is thought to be broadcasting from the U.S. Air National Guard's "Commando Solo" fleet. The fleet, which has operated in Panama, Bosnia and Haiti, is comprised of six EC-130 aircraft that serve as airborne radio stations.

Broadcasters from several anti-terror coalition allies have been aiding in the fight to get independent news and information to the Afghan population. National broadcasters in Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan and Pakistan have stepped up their broadcasts in the Afghan languages since military action began, according to BBC Monitoring.

The monitoring service records and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries.\f1\fs23