What Afghans think of the war: 'Why are you Americans here?'
Ten years ago, the US invaded Afghanistan to eliminate a terrorist haven and set up a stable government. But today, many Afghans don’t know why the US invaded, have never heard of 9/11, and are increasingly suspicious.
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"They know why they are here. I don't know the reason why they are here. You should ask them why they are here, to make peace or to destroy Afghanistan. I don't know why," says Momin, who sells tailoring supplies in Jalalabad and, like many Afghans, only has one name. He also has no idea what occurred on Sept. 11. "Something happened in Pakistan on this day, but I don't remember exactly what. I don't have details about it – maybe they had a fight with India," he speculates, adding that he is certain nothing happened in America on that day.Skip to next paragraph
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About 72 percent of the country is illiterate, and in some remote areas of the country there are small pockets of people who are unaware that the Soviet war ended – some 22 years ago. In rural areas that now have cellphone service, there remain Afghans who've never used a telephone and say they have no need for one.
During the Taliban regime, television was banned. Only a very small group of people had access to sets they'd managed to hide. Mohammad Kabir Raufi, another carpet vendor in Kabul, had managed to keep one hidden in his house despite the prohibition. He remembers watching the events unfold on Sept. 11.
"It's just the educated people who work and have knowledge who will recognize [images of 9/11]," says Mr. Raufi. "The ordinary people will not. They don't know where the twin towers were or what happened to them and what was the result of the attack."
More common are Afghans who heard of the attacks and sensed the inevitability of yet another war in their country. As US and NATO forces began pouring into the nation, though, the attacks in New York and Washington and the crash in Pennsylvania became an afterthought for Afghans who were understandably more focused on the troops in their own country.
Even among educated Afghans who know what happened on Sept. 11, there are still many who strongly doubt what they saw or heard and earnestly believe readily disprovable conspiracy theories.
Habibullah Rafi is a respected historian who specializes in Kabul history at the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, an academic research institute. On the morning of the attacks, he was with his family in Calgary, Alberta. Today he says that he believes America planned the attacks so it could invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
"After Russia was destroyed in Afghanistan, America needed a way to sneak in here," he says, echoing a popular theory.
Among his reasons that the US remains here, he lists America's plan to "steal Afghanistan's resources." Although the country could be sitting on considerable mineral deposits, the scope of these deposits is still debated, and many experts speculate that the cost of extracting them could severely diminish returns on the minerals. So far, China is the only nation conducting major mining operations here.