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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
US broadcasts 'not being heard'
Afghan tribesmen listening to a radio
Afghans are avid listeners - but few are hearing the US
By Ian Pannell in northern Afghanistan

The United States is continuing its propaganda assault on Afghanistan.

Under Operation Commando Solo, radio broadcasts in Afghan dialects from four slow-moving American planes repeat that America's aim is not to eliminate Islam, but to bring to justice those who had shown disrespect for Islam.

They have also been broadcasting such messages as "Attention, people of Afghanistan. United States forces will be moving through your area", adding that America wishes no harm to ordinary Afghans.

Bin Laden killed many donkeys and many people and animals, that is why they are attacking

Afghan ironmonger in Hojibahodin

"We've come to arrest Osama Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda network, and those who support them," the broadcasts say.

However, it seems not many people on the ground have actually heard the transmissions.

And although clearly not the case in geographical terms, the war on terrorism seems a million miles away for most people in the country.


The bombing has become a very real part of some people's lives, but for most Afghans it remains an affair shrouded in confusion.

Afghan refugees
Many Afghans have little idea why their country is under attack

At a crowded bazaar, I asked people whether anyone had actually heard the new radio station - not a single person had.

Although most knew that America was bombing their country, there was much confusion about what had sparked this action.

Many people listen to the BBC World Service, but there are just as many who get their news by word of mouth.

I asked an ironmonger I met in the small town of Hojibahodin what he thought had happened to bring warplanes to his country.

There is no evidence that anyone is listening to what the US is telling people

"Bin Laden killed many donkeys and many people and animals of people, and they killed Massoud [former Northern Alliance leader]. That's why they are attacking," was his answer.

If the propaganda and information is going awry, the humanitarian war is also failing to reach its targets. We took one of the US aid packs that had been dropped around the country to a nearby refugee camp.

It was the first pack any of the refugees had seen. It was opened and its contents digested, but the response was derisory - "It's tasteless!" said one man.

Aid 'inadequate'

The more serious point that the refugees made was that this food was entirely inadequate to help them feed their families. What they need is wheat or rice or flour.

US HDR packages
Emergency air drops have been described as a drop in the ocean

The only moment of clarity came when we played some of the music that was being broadcast from the new radio station - a folk song that everyone knew.

However there is no evidence that anyone is listening to what the US is telling people.

Few have a clear idea why on earth their country is at the centre of a new war.

And there's little evidence that the country's humanitarian needs are being met.

See also:

16 Oct 01 | Media reports
Pro-US radio launched for Afghanistan
16 Oct 01 | Americas
The US war of minds
15 Oct 01 | South Asia
UN says US 'feeding Taleban'
24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'to welcome aid agencies'
18 Oct 01 | Education
A refugee's story
01 Oct 01 | South Asia
How Afghans became aid dependent
15 Oct 01 | South Asia
Thousands cross into Pakistan illegally
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