September 13th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

In rural Afghanistan, many don’t know 9/11

Most Americans probably remember the moment they first saw images of airplanes flying into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In rural Afghanistan, where the United States struck the Taliban and al Qaeda the following month, you may be hard pressed to find someone who knows what the attacks were.

Last year, when 1,000 men in the southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces were read a three-paragraph description of the attacks, only 8 percent said they knew about them, according to a survey by the International Council on Security and Development think tank.  The finding suggested a vast majority of men in those provinces a major area of conflict between coalition forces and the Taliban didn’t know about the event that precipitated the invasion of their country.

Journalist Adam Pletts went to see for himself. While on patrol with U.S. Marines in Helmand province recently, he showed pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers to Afghan men. In encounter after encounter, villagers and Afghan policemen said they didn’t know about 9/11.

“We don’t know, sir, because we’re farmers. We never heard anything else about the world,” one said, according to a translator with Pletts.

When Pletts showed pictures to several elders in one village, an elder said he thought the city in the picture was Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

“(He) clearly had never been to Kabul. Just shows you how isolated they are, even in their own country,” Marine Capt. Zachary Shore said.

The attacks, or at least parts of them, aren’t a mystery to everyone in Helmand and Kandahar. In the 2010 ICSD survey, 68 percent in those provinces said they did recognize pictures of the burning twin towers, even if most of them didn't recognize the three-paragraph description. The Wall Street Journal noted that the events of 9/11 “are known to educated Afghans, and to many residents of big cities,” and described interviews at Kabul University where “students said... they were fully aware of the September 11 attacks.”

But Shore isn’t surprised by the number of rural Afghans who apparently aren’t aware of the event that prompted the United States to attack the Taliban, which was harboring the al Qaeda terror movement. “If I’d just got here, I would have been surprised, but having been here now for six months, I’m not,” the Marine said. “This is pretty much the stone ages, where we are.”

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Pash

    1.5 million civilians have been killed in the war with Afghanistan and Iraq. i feel like a criminal for paying for these wars when this many civilians get killed, on top of that the lies our government tells us just to go to war. Iraq was uncalled for. Afghanistan was uncalled for. who asked the US to help with freedom? why go to afghanistan? osama? HA! look where they found osama! im not infavor or wars. US gives over 3 billions of dollars in aid to israel, for what? when there are millions of starving kids, families, homless soldiers who have came back from war to nothing, not even the government helping them. stop these unnecessary wars and stop killing young soldiers and civilians overseas.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bavaro

    Salerno, your comments are idiotic. The Taliban is not fighting for "freedom". Before the US invaded, they were the power in their country moron. They are fighting to keep that power and keep the people in their country oppressed. The US soldiers are paid, yes that is true. However, many if not a majority, of soldiers in the armed forces are not their for the money. Their pay is not exactly great. Many of them are in the armed forces because it is their best opportunity for a better future. Please research your comments before posting your idiotic remarks. By the way, if you are an American you need to reevaluate your ideals of freedom yourself.

    September 27, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. Christianna

    American atheists have no idea what atheists did all over the world until 20 years ago. What do you expect? These Afghans are better than the ignorant atheists in USA regarding knowledge.

    September 21, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |

    Salerno you are absolutely right neither majority of Afghans nor tribal in FATA know Alqaida and those who knew had been calling him a US CIA's manufactured character for justification of US occupation of Afghanistan. However Taliban are indigenous movement to fight against occupation therefore it is getting strength day by day. So the wise decision by the USA can be to finish this this evil game as it is already knocking at their doors and each passing day is getting them more closer to burial in Afghan soil.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      When we said that the warmonger trolls told we were wrong, but now the CNN news is showing that we were right !

      September 14, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • D. A. N.

      The majority of afghan do NOT want Taliban rule as they were repressive to most afghans as well as supporters of terrorism against the western world and our resolve against Islamic terrorism is greater than the evil within Islamic radicals!

      September 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        Your resolve against vietcong was great too, but you did not succed.

        September 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • D. A. N.

        So you admit that we are fighting evil Islamic radicals and Islamic terrorism? Tell ME what will be their destiny?

        September 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        No, you are fighting your illusion, creating enemies all the time. Taliban were US allies when the enemy was the communism.

        September 15, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
      • D. A. N.

        Wrong, the Taliban and al Qaeda used the Americans and took over by force, terror, killing and maiming the afghan people after we left. These beings are worse than animals and their destiny is in hell!!!

        September 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        Dan – study the soviet-afghan war. "After we left" ? Usa gave weapons, but was not on the ground and did not leave.

        September 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • D. A. N.

        After the soviets left Afghanistan we stopped helping the afghans and they began fighting themselves against the terror and killings from the Taliban and their terrorist allies. If we had not allowed them to rule in Afghanistan the country would be better off right now!

        September 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Bangash

        After Russia withdrawal you had intantionaly left Afghans at the mercy of warlords you had founded and funded and then you were the one sending Osama from Sudan and UNOCOL from USA to make Taliban rule Afghanistan the way to give you justification for occupation of Afghanistan. So for God sake leave this death merchandise and finding markets for your MIC. This has not only destroyed us but has also put you on the path of self destruction.

        September 16, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        You are the liar as America is not helping Afghanistan at all. Even their puppet Karzai admitted.

        September 25, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Ramo

      Do the american farmers and other kind of citizens know how many iraki civilians were killed by the US Army? Why CNN does not interview newyorkers and ask them if they know that USA Governsment killed 150000 human beings in Irak? Are five thousand americans more worth for honoring than 150000 irakies? Where are the monuments, the thousands of names on shiny stones and the "light towers" to honor the souls of those 150000 human beings that USA killed?

      September 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ira

    this is not their war...

    September 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. salerno

    For me it is an already known fact that most afghans are not aware about 9/11 and Al Qaeda. They were attacked and fight back for self defence.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • D. A. N.


      September 15, 2011 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno


      September 15, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
      • Matt

        Thank you, salerno. I was about to post the same thing here!

        September 15, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
      • D. A. N.

        The USA is not fighting for power or money, they are helping the afghans to build up an army and police force to combat these evil Taliban and their terrorist allies!

        September 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        All the US soldiers are paid to fight.

        September 16, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
      • D.A.N.

        Everyone that joins the armed forces are paid, IDIOT! But to fight it is their duty! And unlike the Taliban and their terrorist allies they DO NOT use drug money or corrupt officials to pay for their part in the war stealing billions of dollars from US funds designed to help the afghan people!

        September 19, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        The US soldiers are paid, so they are mercenaries. Soldier comes from soldo (money). On the contrary Taliban fight for free. They are not paid, but defend their freedom in their land against the Nazi.

        September 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |