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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, January 22, 2012

Radio Afghanistan Returns to the Air on Shortwave: The Years of Turmoil

After the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, a civil war continued with the Mujahideen fighting against the pro-Soviet government in Kabul. Two years later, the break up of the Soviet Union catapulted into increased factional fighting between various ethnic groups in Afghanistan, including Uzbek and Tajik and chaos reigned supreme with its resultant destruction of property and loss of life.

In 1994, the ethnic Pushtun Taliban began to take over much of Afghanistan until they occupied some 95% of the entire country. They also destroyed the two huge Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, and ransacked the government museum in Kabul.

However, the Americans invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 with the result that the Northern Alliance began to capture major areas of the country, and ultimately Kabul itself during the following month. Currently, the official government in Kabul is supported by the various countries that are associated with the Afghanistan Coalition.

During the 13 year era of continued turmoil and chaos, running from 1989 to 2001, a whole series of regional radio stations were noted on the air throughout Afghanistan. These stations operated variously on mediumwave, FM, and even shortwave, and they ranged in style from small low powered temporary operations to tangibly well established facilities.

For example, there was a series of small mobile FM stations carried on the backs of donkeys; and another, a mediumwave unit, was installed on a commercial truck. Substantial stations were inaugurated at different regional locations, such as a mediumwave station in Ghazni Province, and another, apparently mediumwave, with a Russian transmitter in Badgis Province. In April 1997, the mediumwave station at Jalalabad was reactivated.

In the confusion that reigned, some existing radio stations were taken over by the Taliban, and then later again by the Northern Alliance, such as the mediumwave facilities in Herat, and in Kunduz. In November 2000, the station in Ghazni was noted in Europe on shortwave.

Then too, a shortwave service, which identified as the Voice of Afghanistan, was on the air from Samara in Russia beginning on November 18, 2001. This service was noted by Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo with a strong signal on 9950 kHz. However, this version of the Voice of Afghanistan went silent eight months later.

The radio scene in Kabul during this same time period was more convoluted and chaosed than anywhere else in Afghanistan. All six of the radio facilities, two studio buildings in Kabul, three transmitter buildings at Yakatut, and the large building at Pole-i-Charke were attacked, and damaged, and or destroyed.

The Mujahideen took over the radio facilities in Kabul from the pro Soviet government on April 25, 1992, and at that stage, there was one mediumwave transmitter in use on 655 kHz, and one shortwave transmitter. These units were apparently located at Yakatut.

The BBC Monitoring service reported that a 500 kW mediumwave transmitter was activated on 657 kHz in 1994. A 100 kW shortwave transmitter, assembled from available bits and pieces from other transmitters, was activated at Yakatut on September 23, 1995.

The final transmission of Radio Afghanistan under the Mujahideen was a news bulletin at 1530 UTC one year later, on September 25, 1996.

The first broadcast under Taliban control in Kabul was on the air at 0330 UTC on the next day, September 26. Two transmitters were in use at the time 1278 mediumwave and 7200 shortwave.

There is a report that a 300 kW shortwave transmitter was installed under the Taliban, though monitoring reports do not seem to confirm this. However, another news report states that an American air raid destroyed the shortwave station on October 8, 2001, and photographs taken before and after, do confirm the accuracy of this event. From this time onwards, the Taliban Radio was noted on air only from low power mobile units.

The Northern Alliance took over what was left of the radio facilities in the Kabul area in November 2001, and immediately work began on rebuilding the infrastructure. BBC Monitoring states that the first new transmitter was brought in from a station located in the northern town of Charikar, apparently a 50 kW mediumwave unit that was noted on 1530 kHz.

Quite soon afterwards, a Russian made 100 kW shortwave transmitter, identified as R-118, was installed at Yakatut and activated on November 22, 2001, though the output from this transmitter, it was suggested, was considerably less than 100 kW. This unit was noted at first on 7087 kHz, though subsequently on 4775 kHz, and on air usage was quite intermittent.

That is as far as we go today in the continuing story of Radio Afghanistan, under the Mujahideen, followed by the Taliban, who were followed by the Northern Alliance. On the next occasion in this continuing saga about the radio scene in Afghanistan, we will present the story of subsequent off-site relays of Radio Afghanistan from shortwave transmitters located in other countries.