Commandos Enable Spread of Afghan Radio

Commandos Enable Spread of Afghan Radio

By Dialogo
December 08, 2010

On the streets of Kandahar province walks Shakeel Ahmed, a 21-year-old, Afghan National Army commando trained in Afghan Information Dissemination Operations (AIDO), taking requests for a nearby radio station called “Radio Heela,” or “Radio Hope”.

He’s a “roving reporter”, quick with his microphone, one moment asking a shopkeeper who their favorite Afghan poet is, the next discussing Pashtu music with a taxi driver.

“Much of rural Afghanistan is without electricity and television,” said Ahmed. “Radio is the entertainment for people in Kandahar.”

“Do you listen to the radio?” Ahmed asks shopkeepers.

If they reply no or that they don’t own a radio, he hands them one, while spreading the word of FM 95.5, “Radio Heela.”

With a range of over 120 kilometers, Radio Heela delivers music and literature to Afghan listeners.

“When the Taliban was in power, we weren’t able to listen to music,” said Mohammed Mosa, a cellular phone shop owner in Kandahar. “Today we like to listen to the music and literature programs on Radio Heela.

Deejay Zazai and station manager Azad, run the station just outside of Kandahar Airfield, using two computers, poetry books and nearly 1,000 hours of music and input gathered by the commandos.

Zazai produces a daily call-in program where listeners can phone the station with requests. Some even use the chance to recite their own poetry.

The station averages more than 300 calls per day.

“These are just the nuts and bolts of running a radio station for Afghan citizens,” said Zazai. “The moments of extraordinary hope at Radio Heela makes it all worthwhile to the staff.”

Students who graduate from the four-week trained AIDO course at Camp Morehead, Kabul province, are trained to interact with the Afghan population and influence behavior through truthful and timely information.

“Their graduation represents another milestone in the commando’s effort to build this capacity within their kandaks,” said U.S. Army Capt. Dan McConnell, Afghan Information Dissemination Operations detachment commander. “These commandos will return to their units and provide a new tool to the commanders; and this tool is the most important harbinger of change in how the Afghan Army approaches its non-lethal operations.”