“Attention Taliban! You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death…”
Such begins another broadcast day on “Information Radio,” the U.S. military’s psychological operations arm of the so-called “war on terrorism” in Afghanistan.
Now that the military campaign is in full seek-and-destroy mode, a specially-equipped plane from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard is making daily flights over Afghanistan, broadcasting music and messages for 10 hours a day on at least two AM frequencies (864 and 1107 kHz). A shortwave station, probably located in the neighboring former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, also relays the programming on 8700 kHz.
Like any propaganda war, Information Radio has two goals: to sap the fighting morale of the Taliban and to sway the opinions of the Afghan people against their government.
Numerous messages urging surrender are broadcast; many read like this:
Our forces are armed with state of the art military equipment. What are you using, obsolete and ineffective weaponry? Our helicopters will rain fire down upon your camps before you detect them on your radar. Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them right through your windows. Our infantry is trained for any climate and terrain on earth. United States soldiers fire with superior marksmanship and are armed with superior weapons. You have only one choice…Surrender now and we will give you another chance.
Some appeals are directly to the Afghan people and result an interesting mix of messages. The first is one of peace in a time of war:
Attention! People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through your area. We are not here to harm you! We are here for Usama bin Laden, Al Quaeda, and those who protect them! Please, for your own safety, stay off bridges and roadways, and do not interfere with our troops or military operations. If you do this, you will not be harmed….
And others attempt to demonize the ruling Taliban government and encourage uprisings:
The Taliban tells you that dying for their fanatical form of Islam is a proud and noble thing to do. They encourage you to be martyrs, but in reality, they are cowards hiding behind farmers and families. If dying for this form of Islam is noble, why doesn’t Mullah Omar go to the fronts? He is enjoying luxurious quarters and his wives while you are asked to die…Resist, and encourage your friends and neighbors to resist!
There is no news yet on the effectiveness of the U.S. propaganda campaign, but with its military having bombed all but one of the Taliban’s radio stations off the air, Afghans don’t have too many other choices of things to listen to.
Simply broadcasting repetitive propaganda messages doesn’t actually mean people will listen and connect with them – time will tell if the U.S. military is as good at the media as it is with missiles.