Osama bin Laden killed: What Afghans think

Although Osama bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan tipped off the Afghanistan war, most Afghans say they don’t see Mr. Bin Laden as someone who affects their lives.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP
Afghan men watch television coverage announcing the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a local restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, May 2. Bin Laden was slain at a fortress-like compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, early Monday in a firefight with US forces, ending a manhunt that spanned a decade.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

For many ordinary Afghans, the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is hardly worth mentioning. Although his presence in Afghanistan caused the US and its NATO allies to invade in 2001, most Afghans don’t see Mr. Bin Laden as someone who directly affects their lives.

“Since he was a Muslim, I’m saddened to hear the news that he got killed, but beyond that I don’t care about his leadership or his goals,” says Rangeen Kaman, a barber in Kabul.

Throughout Afghanistan, nearly 24 hours after a US special forces raid killed bin Laden, many Afghans hadn’t even heard the news, nor did they appear terribly interested upon learning it. Others say they were pleased about the revelation, or that the Al Qaeda leader did not represent them or Islam. Still, for a number of Afghans, the death of bin Laden is a cause of great sadness.

“I’m really happy today. Since I first heard the name Osama, he has never done anything good for Afghans or the Muslims of the world,” says Jana Khan, a musician in Jalalabad. “The ideas of Osama were completely un-Islamic.”

Bin Laden first came to Afghanistan to help the mujahideen fight against the Soviet occupation. Among jihadi leaders, he developed a good reputation. After forming Al Qaeda, he returned to Afghanistan in 1996 when he was expelled from Sudan. Following the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban refused to handover the terrorist leader, prompting the NATO invasion into Afghanistan in 2001.

After nearly 10 years of war and thousands of civilian and military deaths, some Afghans now blame bin Laden for the destruction of their country.

“When he arrived here it was good when he fought the Russians, but suddenly everything changed and he was the opposite of what he was before,” says Saleem, a bicycle repairman in Kabul. Mr. Saleem remains uncertain of whether his death will change the situation, “Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t. He was only one person and the insurgents come from everywhere.”

Found in Pakistan

Among Afghan politicians there was a palpable sense of relief that bin Laden had been found in Pakistan. President Hamid Karzai and other politicians have long contended that most of the terrorists who threaten Western interests are based in Pakistan and urged America and NATO to refocus their attention there.

“The Afghan people have made countless sacrifices to get rid of terrorism. The killing of Osama bin Laden in the Abbottabad area of Pakistan proved that fight against terrorism is not in the neighborhoods and houses of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the press on Monday.

Still, a number of Afghans were upset by the news. In Kabul Province’s restive Sarobi district, Malick Himmad says he watched with dismay as television news showed Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden. Speaking about the fallen Al Qaeda leader, he frequently had to fight back tears.

“Right now we know that the crusaders invaded Islamic countries and Osama was a hero in the face of these invaders,” says Mr. Himmad, a tribal elder. “There is no limit for my sadness. I have eight daughters and no sons. If I knew that the sacrifice of my eight daughters would save Osama, I would kill them all to save him.”

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