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Afghanistan's Government Really Wants to Shut Down the New Islamic State Radio Station

The IS station is broadcasting on the 90 FM frequency throughout the eastern province of Nangarhar, where IS controls several districts it took over from the Taliban. The aim is to increase the group's appeal among young Afghans.
Photo via EPA

The Islamic State terror insurgency has launched a radio show in eastern Afghanistan in a bid to win fresh recruits to its cause.

VICE News spoke with Gulab Khan, a shop owner in Jalalabad, located in the eastern province of Nangarhar, who said that the IS radio station is currently broadcasting on the 90 FM frequency throughout the province. The station plays propaganda messages and "asks people to support IS fighters as they are fighting to bring peace," he said. "They encourage youth to take action and join them in the fight against government until they raise their black flag on the Afghan and Pakistani presidential palaces."


The provincial government is doing its best to locate the radio signal and shut it off, officials told VICE News.

"They move from one place to another," said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar. "It makes it difficult for us."

The broadcast can be heard throughout the province, where IS controls several districts that it took over from the Taliban. There's a concern that the propaganda could encourage some young Afghans to support IS.

"Most of our people are jobless, and this radio will encourage lots of people to join their ranks," said Ahmad Ali Hazrat, head of the provincial council in Nangarhar.

"Now Daesh are seven kilometers outside Jalalabad city and if the government doesn't act soon it will expand its broadcast and recruit even from Kabul," he added, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym.

Locals report that the radio station broadcasts a 90-minute daily Pashto language program called "Voice of the Caliphate." It presents a mix of interviews, messages, and songs about IS — the latter a cappella, since the group does not condone the use of instruments.

During one program, a self-identified IS member said that the broadcast was designed to counter negative stereotypes about the group.

"There are many projects to defame us," the member, identified as Jan Aqa Shafaq, said. "Most of our young generation, these 'lipstick young' who shave closely and wear the kind of clothing that does not distinguish them from females, create such propaganda."

IS is a relatively new force in Afghanistan, and very little is known about the size of its fighting force, the depth of its local support, and the extent of its operational links with its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. In one of the most detailed assessments of IS strength in Afghanistan, US General John Campbell, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, estimated last week that between 1,000 and 3,000 members of the movement were active in the country.

It is believed that many of the IS commanders in Afghanistan are former Taliban officials who have defected because of internal disputes among the group, which experienced a leadership crisis after it was revealed over the summer that Mullah Mohammed Omar, its longtime chief, had actually died in 2013.

Follow Avi Asher-Schapiro on Twitter: @AASchapiro