"Solo" tells Afghans they are not alone
October 21, 2001
hen you decide to surrender, approach United States forces with your hands in the air. Sling your weapon across your back, muzzle towards the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival."
Booming down from the sky to the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, this message, and others like it, are the United States's new front in its war to bring down Afghanistan's Taliban rulers and wipe out Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. If there was ever any doubt US ground forces would be used in Afghanistan, the broadcasts end such speculation.
Transcripts of the messages were released by the Pentagon on Thursday. In them, Afghan civilians are advised what to do when ground forces arrive, how to avoid harm during the present bombing raids and are warned not to stand under food drops the United States is making to feed Afghanistan's near-starving population.
Delivered in an operation named 'Commander Solo', the messages, broadcast in local Afghan dialects from a slow moving EC-130 CE plane, are the centrepiece of US psychological warfare efforts, along with dropping of millions of leaflets with similar messages.
"Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories or bridges," warn the broadcasts. They started earlier this week once the US controlled the skies over Afghanistan and the planes could operate without worrying about anti-aircraft fire.
"If you are near these places, then you must move away from them. Seek a safe place, and stay well away from anything that might be a target. We do not wish to harm you." The broadcasts vow to give no quarter to Taliban soldiers and Al Qaeda supporters who do not surrender. "Attention, Taliban. You are condemned. Did you know? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death."
The messages poke fun at the Taliban's military prowess and outdated weapons, saying they are no match for the United States's "state-of-the-art military equipment". They add: "What are you using, obsolete and ineffective weaponry? Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them right through your windows."
"You have only one choice. Surrender now and we will give you a second chance. We will let you live. If you surrender, no harm will come to you."
Afghans are advised that once US ground forces arrive, the safest place to be would be in their homes. "Attention. People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through your area...Please, for your own safety, stay off bridges and roadways and do not interfere with our troops or military operations," the broadcasts advise. "If you see United States forces, you need to find shelter and not leave it until we have left the area...Your home will be the safest place."
The broadcasts call for passive resistance against bin Laden and the Taliban "by not supplying him or his supporters with food, water or lodging. Small things such as these will make the biggest impact."
The broadcasts are scathing about bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, describing them as "cowards" who do not represent Afghanistan or Islam. "If dying for this form of Islam is noble, why doesn't Mullah Omar go to the front. He is enjoying his luxurious quarters and his wives while you are asked to die."
The Pentagon is coy about why the day-and-night broadcasts are named 'Commander Solo' but there has been speculation 'Commander Solo' was named after the film character Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, who was the hero of the Hollywood Star Wars series.
Text source: Indian Express, 19 October 2001