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 (19 Responses)
  1. Ira

    this is not their war...

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

      BULLCRAP! THE TALIBAN ARE ONLY FIGHTING FOR POWER IN AFGHANISTAN SO THEY CAN PASS THEIR JUDGMENT UPON THE PEOPLE! WATCH OUT THE GOD POLICE ARE ON THE LOOSE! THE MUSLIM PEOPLE MUST PUT AN END TO THIS, NOW!!!

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

      AMERICANS ARE FIGHTING FOR POWER AND MONEY. TALIBAN ARE FIGHTING FOR FREE.

      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 |