BAGRAM AIR FIELD — Today we hopped aboard a quick mission up to Charikar with Iowa National Guard soldiers from Bravo Troop of the 1-113th Cavalry Squadron.
The capital of Parwan province, Charikar is only a half hour or so north of Bagram, and the trip gave us a chance to stop by Radio Dunya.
U.S. forces set up what they call “radio in a box” operations, where they hire Afghan disc jockeys and newscasters and hand out little radios to the locals in an effort to influence the population.
In a country with an illiteracy rate of about 70 percent, radio is an important form of communication.
Radio Dunya is a privately owned station. U.S. military units buy air time from the station, however, to spread information. The station has about 40 workers, including 10 women.
Its 24-hour programming serves at times as a counterpart to another primary form of communication: the mullahs.
Ahmad Hanayish Saqib runs the station and is also president of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association. He said the station has aired segments about human rights that have drawn disagreements from the mullahs.
The most popular show is a call-in program. They also have programs devoted to music — and they still take requests.
The station’s live studio and production room are housed in the basement of a building not far from the center of town.
One of the top news stories of the day while we were there was the graduation of a training class of Afghan National Police officers. Also making headlines was news of a large agricultural grant for the area.
After our stop at the radio station, we walked with the soldiers down through the town’s market to grab some lunch from a local restaurant: rice and lamb or kebabs.
After lunch, it was back to Bagram.