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Radio Free Kabul: rallying the Afghan resistance

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''The radio you have brought us is worth more than a thousand Kalashnikovs,'' the partisan commander told French human rights activists in late August 1981.

Barely 15 months have elapsed since its first clandestine broadcast in Kunar Province on that warm summer evening, yet Afghanistan's Radio Free Kabul (RFK) has grown into more than just a vexatious burr for the Soviets.

Supported by a small group of European human rights activists and exiled Soviet dissidents, RFK now has 11 resistance-run radio transmitters (10 FM and one shortwave) in various provinces. The eventual goal is to install a network of 36 stations to cover the entire country. Compact and easily transportable because of the need to avoid communist detection, at least one of the 15-pound FM tranmitters has been established within a 50-kilometer radius of the Afghan capital.

Similar to the haunting ''V for victory'' signal from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony used by Radio London during World War II, RFK opens its nightly broadcasts of news, commentary, prayer, and music programs with the compelling drumming of a tabla (a small Indian drum) and the words in Farsi (Persian) and Pashto (the official national language of Afghanistan): ''Here is Radio Free Kabul of the Afghan mujahideen.''

Usually tagged at the end of each program is a 10-minute prerecorded tape in Russian by such leading dissidents as writers Vladimir Bukovsky or Vladimir Maximov aimed at provoking opposition among the 100,000 Soviet troops occupying Afghanistan.

This war of the airwaves has increasingly irked the Moscow-backed Kabul authorities. In particular, there is known to be growing concern among the Russians about the possibility of resistance broadcasts to the Soviet Muslim populations on the other side of the Oxus River, which delineates much of the Soviet-Afghan border.

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