Fresh off a new series of guidelines from Gen. David Petraeus admonishing troops to “fight the information war aggressively” in Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe is upgrading its Afghan footprint.
With help from the Afghan Air Force the US government-run organization began a flurry of activity this week to hand out massive numbers of free radios to Afghans in remote parts of the country ahead of Saturday’s vote, with the organization’s spokesman Julian Knapp saying “the objective is to help people become more informed about the democratic processes.”
But though the group claims its goals are to stand as a surrogate where there is no freedom of the press, their operations in Afghanistan began in the wake of the 2001 US invasion and their operations in the nation seem aimed primarily toward furthering the goals of the floundering NATO occupation, and countering a number of rival radio stations set up by the Taliban to spread their own message.
Which seems to be in keeping with their historical mission to transmit pro-US messages into Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War they have been struggling to reinvent themselves (and in doing so justify the nearly $100 million of taxpayer funding they receive annually), and convincing locals to tolerate the seemingly endless Afghan War requires no small measure of spin.
But given that the existing radio stations it is designed to compete with are, by and large, Taliban propaganda stations many Afghans are liable to be savvy enough to recognize that they are being pitched to, regardless of who is doing the pitching.