By Sgt. Ben WatsonJuly 13, 2010
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - International Security Forces are assisting Afghan district and provincial leaders throughout southern Afghanistan with communicating to their constituents and keeping them informed and entertained through radio broadcasts and live call-in radio shows.
The stations are staffed and operated by Afghans in conjunction with district and provincial leaders, and are strategically located to reach the maximum number of Afghan listeners. U.S. Special Operations Forces, who helped establish the radio network throughout southern Afghanistan, provide technical support to Afghan radio announcers.
"This network is proving to be a vital link between the Afghan people in this region and the local governing officials," said a USSOF sergeant who oversees the technical support of the radio network in southern Afghanistan. "This network provides an opportunity for Afghan citizens to communicate information and voice their opinions, which might not otherwise be possible if this network didn't exist."
Programming for the stations is determined by Afghan DJs, Afghan governmental leadership, and listeners. The stations cover a wide variety of programs such as educational shows, public service announcements, news from the Afghan government, and music.
"These radio stations are pretty handy because they provide a way for Afghan leaders to share information and messages with the people they represent," said the technical support sergeant.
In Day Kundi province, the district governor hosts a weekly call-in show for his constituents. Among the most popular radio stations in southern Afghanistan is the one broadcasting in Khakrez, just north of Kandahar city.
"The radio station in Khakrez has been broadcasting since March and receives hundreds of calls daily for song requests," said the sergeant. "Since a cell phone tower was erected near the station in June, the station also receives calls from concerned Afghan citizens who provide tips on suspected insurgent activity in their villages."
Local officials said feedback from Afghan citizens has discouraged insurgent and illegal activity. Recently a radio program broadcasting from the Khakrez station was credited with influencing an insurgent leader and his followers to release six hostages.
All of the radio stations in southern Afghanistan have caller tip lines for citizens to report suspicious activity by insurgents, criminals, and other events which may affect local residents.
"The success of this radio network speaks volumes about the Afghans and their eagerness to utilize radio and other media to promote enhanced security and more responsive governance," said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman, a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan spokesperson. "These are their efforts, their ideas, and it's making a big difference in the lives of regular Afghan citizens."