American Resistance To Empire

Radio Wars Along the Durand Line

IS radio beams propaganda, threats across rural Afghanistan


The Afghan reporters recognized the voice threatening them with death on the Islamic State group’s local radio station. It was a former colleague, who knows their names and where they work.

The threats were made during a discussion program on “Voice of the Caliphate,” an elusive radio station operated by one of the extremist group’s newest affiliates. The so-called Khorasan Province has battled Afghan forces and the Taliban alike, carving out an enclave in Nangarhar, a rugged eastern province bordering Pakistan.

It has adopted the media strategy of its mother organization in Syria and Iraq, including the production of grisly, professionally made videos showing battles and the killing of captives. But in impoverished Afghanistan, where few have access to the Internet, radio could prove more effective at recruiting fighters and silencing critics.

The group is actively targeting other media outlets to prevent them from competing with its chilling broadcasts. Militants bombed a building housing two radio stations in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, in October, and attacked the local offices of the independent Pajhwok news agency and Voice of America in July.

The menacing broadcast in mid-December, in which a former local radio broadcaster called on reporters to either join IS or risk being hunted down and killed, could be heard across Jalalabad.

“It is a great concern for us because he knows all the journalists who are working locally,” said Shir Sha Hamdard, chairman of the Journalists’ Union of Eastern Afghanistan.

“He also knows that as journalists we do not take sides and that our only weapon is the pen. We’ve tried to talk to representatives of IS to make sure they know this but we haven’t been successful,” he said. He and other Jalalabad-based reporters asked that The Associated Press not name the IS broadcaster for their own safety.

IS radio can be heard across Nangarhar on an FM frequency for 90 minutes a day in both the Pashto and Dari languages. Programs include news, interviews, vitriol against the Afghan government and the Taliban, recruitment propaganda, and devotional music in multiple languages.

The message is clear: the Afghan government is a doomed “puppet regime” of the Americans. The Taliban are a spent force hijacked by Pakistan. The caliphate is coming.

“Soon our black flag will be flying over the (presidential) palace in Kabul,” an announcer crowed in a recent broadcast.

The IS affiliate “is against everything — free media, civil society, education, all of which they say are secular, un-Islamic,” said Haroon Nasir, a civil society activist in Nangarhar. He said the message likely resonates among young men in impoverished rural areas, where after nearly 15 years of war many have soured on both the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban.

In those areas — which make up most of Afghanistan — Internet access is spotty at best, and computers and smartphones are a luxury. Just 10 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million people have access to the Internet.

But nearly everyone has a radio.

A 2014 study by Altai Consulting found that 175 radio and 75 television stations had been set up since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban — which had one radio network and banned television. Wind-up radios that operate without electricity or even batteries have been widely distributed since then.

IS militants are believed to use mobile broadcasting units and cross back and forth along the porous border with Pakistan, making them difficult to track. The National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency, did not respond to requests for comment.

Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, the spokesman for the Nangarhar police chief, said “Voice of the Caliphate” broadcasts had been banned and were rarely picked up, especially in Jalalabad.

But residents tell a different story. Jalalabad shopkeeper Janat Khan said IS radio is popular chiefly due to its novelty. “Most people are listening to them because they want to know about Daesh and its strategy,” he said, referring to the extremist group by its Arabic acronym. “The preachers are strong, their message is clear — they talk against the Taliban and against (President Ashraf) Ghani’s government.”

Although IS and the Taliban both want to impose a harsh version of Islamic rule, they are bitterly divided over leadership and strategy, with the Taliban narrowly focused on Afghanistan and IS bent on establishing a worldwide caliphate.

The U.S. State Department recently added the IS Afghan affiliate to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. It said the group emerged in January 2015 and is mainly made up of disenchanted former Taliban fighters.

Over the last six months the group has taken over four Nangarhar districts, where it has imposed the same violent interpretation of Islamic law championed by the IS group in Syria and Iraq, including the public execution of alleged informers and other enemies. In August, students at Nangarhar University staged a pro-IS demonstration. Security forces swooped in to make arrests and have since cracked down on campus activism nationwide.

As the group has expanded its reach, its media strategy has grown more sophisticated and more brutal.

“They have not only made every attempt to promote themselves through all mediums from mainstream media to social media, but they have also resorted to coercing tactics to force local media to publish their news and follow their agenda,” said Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee.

“In areas where the government cannot provide sufficient security, media might resort to compromising their editorial independence out of fear — something that could make media turn into the propaganda machinery of Daesh.”


Associated Press writer Humayoon Babur in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

Pakistani Taliban Fight To Impose Sharia Law, While Afghan Taliban Wage War for Afghanistan

[SEE: Sharia for Malakand as Zardari signs law]

Pakistani Taliban attack kills hope for talks


Latest strike leaves the United States with no good way to exit Afghanistan.

Students inspect a bloody room after a Taliban attack on Bacha Khan University in Pakistan on Jan. 20, 2016.
(Photo: Bilawal Arbab, epa)

The vicious, ISIL-style attack by the Pakistani Taliban on the Bacha Khan University campus near Peshawar has suddenly laid bare one of the nasty, unsung undercurrents of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, barely 25 miles to the west.

Quite simply, the United States has no path to an exit. Those forces of evil with whom we had been hoping to negotiate pale by comparison with their even nastier Taliban cousins further back behind the mountains of the rugged Hindu Kush. For years, America held firm to the hope that we had found elements of the Taliban with whom we could negotiate. But that has been exposed as the ultimate pipe dream. Perhaps they do indeed exist. But they don’t count for much when it comes to a search for peace, or at least an end to war, in that part of the world. It’s increasingly clear that the Taliban is not going to facilitate any graceful U.S. exit.

It had been a long-standing diplomatic tenet that Pakistan, through its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, had close ties with the Taliban. The regime in Islamabad saw that as a critical counterweight to the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which in turn maintained close ties to India. India and Pakistan, each with formidable nuclear arsenals, have viewed each other as mortal enemies. The theory went that if we could get the Pakistanis on the side of peace and coerce their Taliban friends to the bargaining table, the combined weight of the world could persuade the Taliban to stand down.

Now all these ideas have been smashed to smithereens by a series of attacks on Pakistan by at least some elements of the Taliban. Born in Afghanistan, but hosted for years in the mountainous terrain of Pakistan’s North West Frontier province, many Taliban leaders and their followers now want nothing short of imposing a harsh sharia law on the entire nation of Pakistan.

Little more than a week before the campus attack that left at least 21 dead, diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China (which shares a border with both  countries) and the United States met in Islamabad to discuss how best to revive talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Such a revival hardly appears likely at this point.

The last time everyone convened was last July in Pakistan. It was subsequently revealed that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who supposedly had approved the talks, had been dead for two years. At that point, no one knew who might come to the bargaining table, or what they’d be able to guarantee even if any agreement could be reached. Omar’s putative successor, his deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, might himself have been fatally shot last month in a battle with a rival, breakaway faction.

Moreover, for the moment, the Taliban writ large has the upper hand on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. Last month, a dozen  Taliban fighters killed dozens of adults and children outside the airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. There has been a string of similar terror attacks, many aimed at showing that even in the less hospitable rainy season, the Taliban is still a potent force.

America still has a major stake in all of this. First, there is growing evidence that the Islamic State terrorist group has taken root in some scattered stretches of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. That could be a game-changer. ISIL is even more ferocious than the Taliban, and it’s more attractive to any number of Afghan warriors — particularly if the Taliban is seen to be negotiating with the officials of their great foe, the United States.

Moreover, the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, its leaders gave carte blanche to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who planned the 9/11 attacks from the territory controlled by the Taliban.

So what is the United States to do?

We have little choice but to wait it out. Our forces must stay in some numbers on the ground for quite an indefinite future. There must also be at least the perception of a unified American position rather than a deeply divided United States slogging through a bitter political campaign for another year. The risk, otherwise, is another debacle along the lines of what happened when U.S. forces bolted from Iraq. Remember how that vacuum was filled. By ISIL.

David A. Andelman, a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.

Syrian Army Moves To Close Turkish Border To Militants and Supply Operations

[ Islamist militants in Aleppo, Syria, got reinforcements from Turkey – Russian Foreign Ministry]

New regime campaign aims for ‘total isolation’ of Idlib province

Syria Direct

AMMAN: Regime forces have launched a new campaign just west of Aleppo city to cut off neighboring Idlib province from the Turkish border, a correspondent on the frontlines with the pro-regime Lebanese al-Mayadeen channel told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The endgame is the capture of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, said Ridha al-Basha, who is currently embedded with Syrian army forces west of Aleppo city. If the Syrian army can take back the border post, it would “isolate Idlib from the Turkish border,” he said.

The army’s campaign, which began on Monday, aims first to capture the town of Khan al-Asal, approximately 2.5km west of Aleppo city, in a four-pronged attack, reported state-owned news agency SANA Monday.

Khan al-Asal was the site of a 2013 massacre in which rebel forces executed surrendered Syrian soldiers en masse. Pro-regime media reported at the time that up to 100 civilians were also killed.

From Khan al-Asal, regime forces intend to move west into the Aleppo countryside, said embedded correspondent al-Basha. The area is controlled by Jabhat a-Nusra, Feilaq a-Sham and Ahrar a-Sham.

From there, the Syrian army would move a few dozen kilometers northwest to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in Idlib province. Bab al-Hawa is the only rebel-held border connecting Turkey to Idlib province, as well as a crucial point on rebel supply lines originating from Turkey.

“Idlib is now a priority for the Syrian army…separating Idlib and isolating it totally, then liberating it,” said al-Basha.

The regime’s push towards Bab al-Hawa coincides with a campaign in the northern Latakia countryside to take rebel-held areas along the Turkish border, including Jabal a-Turkman and Jabal al-Akrad. Both offensive campaigns are unfolding just days before the international talks in Geneva to bring about a political solution for Syria, scheduled to take place on January 25.

That Latakia campaign also aims to isolate Idlib from neighboring rebel-held areas in the province’s north, namely Jabal al-Akrad, Mohammed al-Hassan, a citizen journalist from the Idlib countryside told Syria Direct Tuesday. On the same day, regime forces captured Salma, a rebel-held outpost in north Latakia that serves as the first line of defense for Jabal al-Akrad.

The Khan al-Asal operation in Aleppo province is occurring “in harmony and cooperation with the Syrian army operations room in the Latakia province,” said Ridha al-Basha.

As of Monday, regime forces had reached the outskirts of Khan al-Asal, reported the state-owned Organization of Syrian Arab Radio and TV Monday.

Osama Abu Zeid

Osama Abu Zeid is a native of Homs, where he served as a media activist and founding member of the Homs Revolutionary Council after the Syrian uprising began in 2011.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.

TOLO NEWS Identifies Mullah Rasoul Faction As Pro-Peace Talks vs Pro-Pakistani Taliban of Mullah Mansour

After the death of the Taliban’s former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban split into two main factions – the first one led by Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and the second led by Mullah Mohammad Rasoul.

TOLOnews reporter Sharif Amiri has assessed the issue in a special report.

According to him, Mullah Akhtar Mansour has two deputies – including Haibatullah Akhundzada and Sarajuddin Haqqani [If Sarajuddin Haqqani is Mansour’s #2, then the ISI is still running Afghan Taliban (SEE:  The Bear Trap, Afghanistan’s Untold Story)], the leader of Haqqani network.

He said the Quetta Shura (Council) has 18 members, which has the responsibility of making Taliban’s strategies. The council is considered as the main factor behind the war in Afghanistan, Sharif said.

Based on him, another group which is led by Mullah Rasoul has focused more on Afghanistan.

Mullah Manan Niazi and Mullah Baz Mohammad Haris are his deputies, Sharif said in his report.

He added that he has found that Pakistan has little control over the Taliban faction led by Mullah Rasoul. The group led by Mullah Rasoul is more interested to join the peace process – compared to other factions of Taliban, he added.

In addition he said there are a number of key Taliban leaders in Qatar, including Abbas Stanikzai, head of the office, Mullah Jan Mohammad Madani, Mullah Shahabuddin Dilawar, Suhail Shahin, Mohammad Zahid Ahmadzai and Abdul Salam Hanafi.

According to him, the Qatar Taliban office has the responsibility of Taliban’s foreign policy. This office takes orders from Quetta Shura, the report said.

According to the report, there are five key members of Taliban – including Mullah Fazil Akhund, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah, Mullah Abdulhaq Wasiq, Mullah Noorullah Noori and Mullah Mohammad Nabi Omari.

Sharif said that the Taliban is not the only problem for Afghanistan; there are up to 5,000 foreign rebels, including Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters, fighting against security forces in Afghanistan.

It is believed that if the Taliban agrees to peace with the Afghan government, the groups will still pose a threat to the country’s security.

Taliban Stage Suicide Attack Against TOLO TV Personnel In Kabul
Afghan security forces check out the bus that was carrying employees of an Afghan TV network  CNN


Organizations from around the world have strongly condemned the suicide attack on Wednesday that claimed the lives of at least seven TOLO TV staff members and injured 26 others.

The incident occurred after a suicide bomber detonated explosives targeting the bus that was carrying over 30 TOLO TV staff members.

In a statement issued by the U.S Embassy in Kabul, they said: “We strongly condemn tonight’s [Wednesday] attack on a bus carrying media professionals on Darulaman Road in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time.”

“Murdering those who work to enlighten, educate, and entertain will not stop Afghans from exercising their universal human right to freedom of expression. A vibrant media is one of the great successes of the Afghan people over the past 14 years. We stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government as they work to build peace and security in the country,” read their statement.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a statement condemned the attack and said it extends its condolences to the families of all of those killed and wishes a speedy recovery for those injured.

“Strong and independent journalism, free from intimidation and fear of criminal violence, is essential for a healthy democracy and decent society,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Acting-Head of UNAMA.

“Afghanistan can be justly proud of its flourishing media sector. All steps must be taken to safeguard media professionals and freedom of expression against those who would use violence to impose their voice and views alone,” he added.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the attack and said: “Attacks aimed at crushing independent media organizations in Afghanistan are a direct assault on the very foundation of Afghan democracy – a free and open press.”

According to Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Today’s killings not only underscore the vulnerability of the media in the country, but the fragility of Afghan security under which the media must operate. We call on the government to seek out and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime as quickly as possible.”

Human Rights Watch meanwhile called on anti-government insurgency groups to immediately stop intentionally targeting civilians.

“The January 20 suicide attack on a minibus in Kabul transporting journalists affiliated with TOLO TV, Afghanistan’s 24-hour news channel, was an atrocity designed to undermine Afghanistan’s still-fragile media freedom,” they said in a statement.

“Both the Taliban and an individual who claims to represent a group that affiliates with the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed seven journalists from the entertainment channel TOLO TV and its production wing.”

“A Pashto-language Taliban statement described the bombing as “revenge” for alleged “false allegations” against the insurgency group. The statement explicitly listed both TOLO TV and its news channel rival 1TV as “military targets” for allegedly serving as “informational warfare tools of the American and Crusading forces,” their statement read.

“The targeting of journalists reflects a depraved strategy to make media freedom a casualty of the ongoing conflict,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Designating journalists and other civilians as ‘military targets’ does not make them so, and deliberately attacking them constitutes a war crime.”

Gossman said Afghan media has faced increasing intimidation and violence in recent years and that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have used the media as a propaganda platform, and actively court the media in their campaign against the government, including pressuring reporters to cover their statements or not to write articles deemed critical.

“Afghan insurgents should respect the right for journalists to operate without fear for their lives from deliberate targeted attacks,” Gossman said.

“So long as insurgents falsely categorize journalists as ‘military targets,’ media freedom in Afghanistan is in peril,” she said.

Reporters Without Borders also stated that after the TOLO TV attack, entire media organizations are under threat of attack.

“Journalists are targeted throughout the world but now entire news organizations are threatened by large-scale attacks,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Jihadists are among press freedom’s worst predators. As in Paris a year ago, killers decided to target a media outlet out of hatred for its editorial policies and hatred for free speech in general. We call on the Afghan authorities to assign all available resources to catching those responsible for this bombing as quickly as possible.”

TOLO TV and 1TV – Afghanistan’s two leading privately-owned TV channels – were named as “military targets” in a Taliban communiqué on 12 October last year.

The Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) also condemned the attack and passed on their condolences to MOBY media group and TOLO TV.

“All media and journalist community is shocked and seriously sad at hearing this sad news,” they said in a statement.

“AIJA leadership and members across the country are saddened and share their condolences and sympathy with MOBY group and all media family of Afghanistan.”