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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2010

Georgia Guardsmen set up radio stations for Afghan villagers

By Sgt. Tracy J. Smith CJTF-82 PAO

SHINWAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - In a perfect world, accurate information would be as close as a radio. For a country at war, accurate information is invaluable.

Georgia Army National Guardsmen of 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment are giving the Shinwari and Muhmandari Mountain border villagers of Afghanistan their own voice through the gift of radio.

The two stations, located in the Shinwar and Muhmand Dara provinces, will give outlying villages communication security and while countering Taliban propaganda.

Popularly known as the Radio in a Box, the new media program is one of the initiatives of the International Security Assistance Force counterinsurgency process, and will belong entirely to the Afghan people.

"It will not be a facilitator of military or security mandates," Afghan Border Police, 6th Kandak commander, Col. Niazy said. He punctuated the importance of the mission by stressing how the station's messaging will embrace the needs of the community. "It will be a powerful tool to give our people a voice - a resource. Our mullahs, district government leaders, or our local shop keepers and villagers will have full access and know that they can come to us in a crisis for honest information."

The Kandak headquarters is a temporary location for the Shinwar radio station. It was also once the site for Radio Spin Ghar, part of a 2005 independent media opportunity project called Support for Independent Radio Stations in Afghanistan, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Agency for International Development.

Both stations are fully funded by the coalition with Afghan National Security Force partners offering security, and employ full-time local Afghan station managers and on-air personalities.

"The Gate" (102.1 MHz FM) began airing full-time Jan. 17 at Forward Operation Base Torkham in Muhmand Dara province near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The Shinwar station [95 MHz FM] celebrated its debut Jan. 21 during the anti-Taliban Shinwari Pact jirga. The gathering of about 170 tribal representatives, a first of its kind, was organized by the 6th Kandak ABP and prominent tribal leaders. It was held embracing the strictest traditions of the six district Shinwari tribal councils to denounce Taliban tyranny and passive governance. The radio station gave prominent Afghan leaders and security forces a new media platform to announce their solidarity during the station's first broadcast.

"It brings us together as one community," Malik Usman said of the opening and the reading of the council's decision to stand with their uniformed brothers in arms. "We can share information with the people immediately when a crisis is identified and ensure their safety."

Council elders received gifts of hand-held radios at the conclusion of the jirga. The same radios will also be distributed by ANSF and coalition forces during patrols to outlying villages.

Niazy welcomes the new media as an extension of service to the people and says programming will be created by local people with call-in segments and unique on-air radio talk shows that will engage government and village officials.

"The station will have a strict traditional format, from the reading of mourners' names, to jirga results and the distribution of public service information," Niazy said. "They will celebrate with music programs, but we can reinforce their personal security with information."