Monitoring the fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government on shortwave

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


This post comes on the heels of the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. When it became clear on Sunday that the U.S.-backed Afghan government would be unable to sustain itself against the Taliban's rapid advance into the capital city, I grabbed my portable SDR-based spectrum capture combo and headed to a nearby park. The set-up comprised of my newly purchased GPD MicroPC, AirSpy Mini, SpyVerter 2 and the 2x6m dipole antenna, which I managed to spread out across some tree branches. Using this set-up I was able to make a 3-hour long, 6 MHz wide recording between 1600 and 1900 UTC. This included the 39, 31 and 25 metre bands in their entirety. Below is a preview of what the tail end of that recording looked like when played back in SDR#:

When I returned home, I quickly scanned the spectrum capture to identify the most relevant individual shortwave transmissions. These turned out to be the BBC World Service in English and Pashto, out of Singapore, the Voice of America Deewa Radio, also in Pashto and out of Udon Thani, Thailand, and a new and seemingly unidentified transmission in Dari on 7600 kHz, continuously mentioning the Taliban. I chose 1800 UTC as the starting time for extracting individual station recordings, as by then the presidential palace had already been captured.

The BBC World Service in English has an eerie ending, as the Voice of America in Korean goes live on the same frequency before the BBC's broadcast is finished. Almost two days later, the mystery transmission on 7600 kHz was identified by Alokesh Gupta as the audio feed of Afghanistan International Television, run out of the UK by Volant Media:

The next day, I returned to the same spot – this time with a GPD Win handheld laptop, AirSpy HF+ Discovery and the same 2x6m dipole antenna as I used on the previous day. I recorded the 39 metre band between 1700 and 1900 UTC, for which HF+ Discovery offered much greater sensitivity. When I returned home, I extracted the same stations as the day before, starting at the same time:

Unfortuately I do not understand Pashto or Dari, so cannot fully appreciate most of the broadcasts that I have recorded. However, I hope they turn out to be of value and historical significance to those who speak these languages.

About the author

This blog is written by a shortwave radio enthusiast based in London, UK. You can follow him on Twitter at @LondonShortwave


  1. Push the recordings into something like Google translate via speaker and mic and see what comes up.