I don't have a serious problem with Safire's point that we should find "neutral" clerics who will provide a different view of Islam than that presented by the Taleban. I also have no problem with the idea that we should not allow our broadcasts to be hijacked or "infiltrated" by Taleban supporters (if that, in fact, happened).
I have a real problem with the shortsighted view that
the VOA should promulgate America's message, rather than seek to be an unbiased news source
that would turn the VOA into "New York Fatima" (in adulation of "Tokyo Rose"). The message that we got back from behind the Iron Curtain was very clear regarding the original VOA: they were attracted by the "warts and all" honesty of the broadcasts. Had we turned the VOA into simply a propaganda tool, our broadcasts would have been derided as simply advertising without content or truth.
The only period when the VOA actually lost the confidence of its audience was a short period when a Reagan appointee leaned on the staff to quash some less than complimentary reports about the U.S. When that incident was called to the attention of the congressional oversight committee, it was corrected (over the blustering protests of a few rabid reactionary proponents of pure propaganda), and the VOA was somewhat able to rebuild the trust of its audience.
It is amazing how much trust is built by honesty as opposed to propaganda.