Wednesday, May 11, 2005


In the propaganda war Taliban radio now operational (updated)

According to Amin Tarzi of the U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the "Voice of Sharia" (Shari'a Zhagh)—the name of Radio Afghanistan under the Taliban—resumed broadcasting in April.
On 18 April, neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi told Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that because foreign radio stations broadcasting to Afghanistan claiming to be independent and free are "not actually free," the neo-Taliban has established its own station.

According to Hakimi, the radio station began broadcasting on 18 April for one hour a day, from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., in Dari and Pashto. He said it would also resume broadcasting for another hour in the evening, between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Shari'a Zhagh was heard in Kandahar on 18 and 20 April, but no confirmation of its broadcast has been available since.

The radio station broadcasting to Kandahar is one of three owned by the neo-Taliban, Hakimi said. The other two stations will "start functioning soon," he added. In a separate interview with AIP on 21 April, Hakimi said the additional stations will broadcast in other local languages, namely Uzbek and Turkmen. The Afghan Constitution recognizes Pashto and Dari as the country's official languages, while several other languages enjoy official third-language status in areas where the majority of residents speak that language.

The pro-government "Kabul Times" daily wrote on 26 April that while the Afghan government has taken a casual attitude toward the Shari'a Zhagh based on the calculation that most Afghans suffered horribly under Taliban rule and therefore would not heed any message encouraging a return to such a system, the U.S.-led coalition has vowed to find and destroy the radio station. There is "no doubt that the coalition will locate...[the transmitter] with the help of advanced eavesdropping devices," the daily reported.

Dismissing the idea of popular support for the Taliban in the South seems to be a form of "whistling in the dark." On March 11 Tarzi reported

Demonstrations rocked two of Afghanistan's five largest cities on 7 March -- Kandahar in the south and Mazar-e Sharif in the north. While the reasons behind these protests varied and the central government's response to them was markedly different, one factor connects the incidents: the presence of former warlords acting as governors of the two provinces.

The demonstrations, in which people chanted slogans against the United States and in support of the ousted Taliban regime, must have had a deja vu effect in Kabul's circles of power.

The current report hints darkly of Pakistani involvement in the radio set-up—

The "Kabul Times," however, also speculated that a foreign hand might be involved in the establishment of the neo-Taliban broadcaster. Calling the militants a "bunch of mullahs" who are "completely ignorant about engineering," the daily questioned who is supporting the radio venture technically and financially.

Without directly accusing Pakistan, the "Kabul Times" wrote that the country's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) "has been dealing with the Taliban since its inception." The daily added that "surely the ISI...[can] find answers" to the location, type of equipment, and funding for Shari'a Zha2gh. The "ISI is expected to fall into line and find out" the necessary information about the neo-Taliban broadcast venture, the commentary added.

But here's where it gets interesting—

The mere existence of the Shari'a Zhagh has fueled questions about the motives of not only Pakistan, but also the United States.

Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 21 April interviewed Kabul University Professor Nasir Ahmad. The Iranian broadcaster asked why the United States, which "utilizes modern technological equipment and could easily find the Taliban radio station,"1 has not done so. Nasir Ahmad responded that, since the United States has long-term strategic plans in Afghanistan, it needs the neo-Taliban to justify its presence in that country. Thus, he argued, the United States is not challenging the radio station.

Neo-Taliban spokesman Hakimi told AIP on 21 April that he believes that U.S.-led coalition forces are looking for the transmission station of Shari'a Zhagh. He said he believes, however, that they will fail in their efforts because the broadcasts are transmitted from a "mobile station." Furthermore, the programs are aired at dawn and dusk, when "no-one can detect the station's frequencies," Hakimi contended. He also said that "expert Afghan engineers" have designed the station in such a manner to safeguard it "against all possible risks."

So here we have a Kabul professor suggesting that permitting Taliban radio is deliberate on the part of the U.S. "to justify its presence in the country," and the Taliban spokesman supporting the notion that the U.S. is doing everything it can to destroy it. While the U.S. strategic goal of remaining in Afghanistan is hardly in doubt, the idea that it needs pirate radio to provide justification is ridiculous. Perhaps what is more significant is that the Afghan government, such as it is, is countenancing a great deal of anti-U.S. rhetoric.

May 12, 2005

File under: Winning hearts and minds

Musadeq Sadeq of the AP reports,

Shouting "Death to America!" more than 1,000 demonstrators rioted and threw stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, as protests spread to four Afghan provinces over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam's holy book at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Police fired on the protesters, trying to stifle the biggest display of anti-American anger since the ouster of the Taliban 3-1/2 years ago. There were no reports of American casualties, but the violence left four dead and 71 injured in Jalalabad.

Mobs smashed car and shop windows and attacked government offices, the Pakistani Consulate and the offices of two U.N. agencies in Jalalabad. More than 50 foreign-aid workers were reportedly evacuated.

The protests may expand into neighboring Pakistan, where a coalition of hard-line Islamic parties said it would hold nationwide demonstrations Friday over the alleged desecration of the Quran.

Well, according to Pakistan's Daily Times, the protests appear to have already spread—
MIRANSHAH: Chanting slogans against America, thousands of mourners gathered in a Pakistani border town on Wednesday to bury an Islamic militant they claimed was killed in a clash between Taliban militants and American forces inside Afghanistan, witnesses said.

The US military, however, said it had no reports of fighting in the area of eastern Afghanistan where the Pakistani man, Akhtar Zaman, had purportedly died.

The funeral was held in Sarobi, a town in the North Waziristan tribal region, opposite the Afghan province of Khost. Mourners also chanted slogans in support Taliban-led militants that have stepped resistance in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

“Down with America! God is Great! We are with mujahedeen!” mourners shouted, according to residents of the town, who estimated about 6,000 people attended the funeral. There were no reports of violence.

Insulting the Koran or Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death in Pakistan.

In the AP's Afghan report, Kharzai adds his spin—

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who travels to Washington this month for talks with President Bush, played down the violence.

"It is not the anti-American sentiment, it is a protest over news of the desecration of the holy Quran," Karzai told reporters after talks with NATO officials in Brussels, Belgium.

Related post
What's up in Afghanistan and why is Blair sending more troops? (4/5/05)


1 This faith in U.S. technology may be naive, if pirate radio in the U.S. is any measure. [back]

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