The Voice of the Caliphate, the Islamic State group's radio show in Afghanistan, was cut off during its nightly live broadcast on Monday night after it was reportedly hit by US-led coalition airstrikes.
The terror group expanded its operations into Afghanistan last year and by December had crowned its encroachment by broadcasting on the 90 FM frequency throughout the province of Nangarhar to attract fresh recruits. The group initially broadcasted in Arabic and Pashto, and then expanded their programming to include broadcasts in Farsi and Dari in an apparent effort to reach a wider audience.
On Tuesday, residents of Jalalabad said that the station remained quiet, suggesting that it had been destroyed during the previous night's raid. Attaulah Khogyani, spokesperson for the Nangarhar provincial governor, said that the operation had also involved Afghan ground forces and killed 29 alleged IS militants, including eight who worked on the terror insurgency's radio and online ventures.
After the emergence of The Voice of the Caliphate, Ahmad Ali Hazrat, head of Nangarhar's provincial council, fretted that Afghanistan's lurking unrest, as well as its high rates of poverty and unemployment, would make the province a fertile breeding ground for the group's radicalism.
"Most of our people are jobless and this radio will encourage lots of people to join their ranks," Hazrat said. "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."
Afghan officials had struggled to block the broadcast, noting that the source of the transmission appeared to regularly change locations.
Locals told VICE News when the station was launched that The Voice of the Caliphate presented a mix of promotional messages, interviews, and a cappella IS songs (the group prohibits the use of instruments). In one program, a self-identified member of IS explained that one of the purposes for the broadcast was to debunk negative stereotypes about the group.
"There are many projects to defame us," remarked the militant, who identified themselves as Jan Aqa Shafaq. "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."
The targeted strikes on Monday night reflect ramped up efforts by US forces to fight IS, particularly after a special order broadened the rules of engagement when striking the terror group in Afghanistan.
"We have increased the pressure, the US has increased the pressure against Daesh in the past few weeks," NATO's top spokesman in Afghanistan Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner said.
At a press conference at the Pentagon last Wednesday, spokesperson Peter Cook stressed that a cornerstone of the coalition's strategy to deliver a "lasting defeat" to the Islamic State would involve "targeting their use of the internet to spread their message of hate, recruit fighters, and inspire acts of terror."
US General John Campbell, commander of international forces in Afghanistan, had previously estimated that there were between 1,000 and 3,000 active IS members in the country. Another senior Western official, speaking with Reuters on the condition on anonymity, said that the coalition was most concerned about the terror group's potential to take root in Afghanistan — that its extremism would prove alluring for the country's young and disenfranchised, who have known nothing but war.
"We want to see Daesh contained and not become any more powerful than they currently are," said Shoffner.