Radio Shariat Returns. Why?

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by Joshua Foust on 8/9/2009 · 7 comments

Pajhwok reports (thanks for all the RTs, guys!) that Radio Shariat, the FM radio station that transmitted Taliban edicts during the 1990s, is online in Ghazni. What’s interesting about their report is that they state the frequency—88 MHz—and note many irregularities with how people are reacting to it.

For example, the report indicates that the transmitting tower is in Shah-i Kot, Paktya, just south of the provincial capital of Gardez, but it’s unlikely a low-power FM transmission could reach as far as Giro or Andar districts in Ghazni… especially with all those mountains in the way. Furthermore, the District Sub-Governor of Qarabagh said he’s aware of the radio station, but hasn’t ever listened to it. Does that sound right to you?

Lastly, there is the troubling question of why it’s been allowed to become established. In Pakistan, the insurgency is given great fuel by the presence of several illegal FM radio stations broadcasting warnings, threats, and edicts. The Pakistani military knows where these illegal transmitters are; they are also up front that they are reluctant to go and confiscate them because of the fear of violent retaliation.

I sincerely doubt the Taliban in Afghanistan possess the technological capability to mask their radio’s source or coding. Meaning, it is traceable and locatable. The U.S. possesses sufficient skills with SIGINT and MASINT to track where these transmitters are and destroy them. Why haven’t they?

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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AJK August 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Maybe because the military is upholding the American value of free speech abroad?

Well, barring that, my guess is that the intel picked up on the radio stations says that they’re really unattractive targets (built into mountains or in highly urban environments or something…probably the former). Whoever is in charge of radio communications for the Taliban may have been paying attention to Hamas’ radio, perhaps?

Giving this, maybe ISAF doesn’t want to use bunker-buster bombs or do an infantry invasion against a radio tower. Of course, I have no access to intel, so this is pure conjecture.

Anon August 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Maybe because Radio Shariat does more harm in regards to its intent than good? The speculation could be endless here. So, what would Josh do? You posed the “problem” here – now offer up a solution. August 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm

A couple of theories:

1) Right after said stations are taken out kinetically, how long will it be before dead “civilian” bodies are dragged out for media scrutiny.

2) Maybe the stations are located, and someone’s watching who’s going back & forth, and following same.

Toryalay Shirzay August 9, 2009 at 11:27 pm

An excellent article,Mr.Foust.This Taleban radio station, isn’t it symptomatic of broader results now prevailing in Afstan because of poor execution of this war??!!It is essential we bring to light all the actions taken or not taken so that we may get a better grip of what is happening in Afstan.

David M August 10, 2009 at 9:45 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/10/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

IntelTrooper August 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I’m sure that ISAF knows about this. The problem is, and has always been, that no one in ISAF HQ wants to take responsibility for actually doing something, especially nothing that sounds, looks, or smells like IO. Why this is the case is anyone’s guess, but it’s astounding that everyone in the world seems to know that this (InfoOps, or perhaps better Info-oops) is one of ISAF’s fundamental shortcomings except for COMISAF.

Christopher Chambers August 12, 2009 at 1:50 am

IntelTrooper is a man/woman after my own heart. It IS amazing that the failure of IO/PSYOPS has been allowed to go on for so long. These “assets” should be at the fore of COMISAF’s efforts to turn Afghan public opinion around. With all the talk of limiting civilian casualties and lack of boots on the ground, you’d think non-kinetic assets would be front and centre.
Once again showing they’re one up on ISAF, the Taliban have set up shop at 88MHz – right next door to NATO’s/ ISAF’s bloated and misguided PSYOPS Radio Network at 88.5 on your FM dial!

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