WASHINGTON — Meet Commando Solo, a souped-up U.S. military cargo plane beaming regional tunes and American commentary over Afghanistan, the latest weapon in the White House’s campaign for the hearts and minds of the Afghans.
The airborne radio station broadcasts on one shortwave band and two AM frequencies, including one the Pentagon says was previously used by a Taliban-sponsored radio operation. That station was bombed out of existence by U.S. military forces a little over a week ago.
“We own that frequency now,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
Two cargo planes refitted with electronic gear are making at least one five-hour trip a day over the skies of Afghanistan. The propaganda birds provide a continuous loop of Afghan music and recorded messages scripted by Washington.
“It’s designed to tell folks what we are doing,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
The messages are several: America is not waging a war against Islam; it’s Osama bin Laden who’s behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; it’s bin Laden who’s responsible for the economic and political conditions in Afghanistan; it’s the Taliban that has robbed the Afghan people of their culture and heritage; America supports a free Afghanistan.
The message is recorded in the two dominant languages, Pashtu and Dari.
According to the Pentagon, the Taliban banned music. Thus, the idea of using Commando Solo to play regional music.
Commando Solo is the brainchild of a Bush administration coalition on public diplomacy. The coordinated effort, spearheaded by the State Dept. and Pentagon, could next involve dropping actual radios over Afghanistan.
This week, the U.S. military dropped thousands of leaflets over Afghanistan, instructing where and when to find Commando Solo.