KABUL – More than 90 per cent of young Afghan men in southern provinces home to sustained fighting between U.S. and Taliban forces do not know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11," The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
According to a survey of 1,000 15 to 30-year-old men in Kandahar and Helmand -- where U.S. President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops -- 92 percent of respondents said they were unaware of 9/11 after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.
"Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story -- and it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don't even know why the foreigners are here," said Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, which conducted the survey.
"There is a vacuum -- and it's being filled by Al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."
The events of September 11, 2001, are known to educated Afghans, but elsewhere in a predominantly rural country where 42 percent of the population is under the age of 14 and 72 percent of adults are illiterate, many people have never been told about the atrocity.
Even in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul -- near the country's eastern border with Pakistan -- there are people who have never heard of the terror attack that led to their nation being invaded by Western armies, the Journal reported.
Teacher Mullah Said Nabi Agha, 22, was vaguely aware that some kind of explosion had occurred in America. "I was a child when it happened, and now I am an adult, and the Americans are still here," Agha said. "I think the Americans did it themselves, so they could invade Afghanistan."
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the deputy chairman of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, a body created to negotiate a peaceful solution to the war, was in New York when the two jets struck the Twin Towers -- in his capacity as the Taliban regime's semi-official envoy to the U.S. and the United Nations.
While Mujahid said he was saddened by the attacks, he said he still does not believe Al Qaeda was responsible for "the unfortunate incident" -- and he added that after high hopes for change and prosperity when "the whole world rushed to Afghanistan," expectations have died and "the people are asking: When will the foreigners finally leave?"