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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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Stacks of folded carpets line every wall of Haji Mohammad Qul's rug shop on Chicken Street, Kabul's shopping destination for foreigners in search of Afghan souvenirs.

Though Mr. Qul sells predominately traditional Persian carpets, like most Chicken Street venders he offers a small selection of Sept. 11-themed rugs. These commemorative carpets are about the size of a doormat and feature crude, hand-woven images of planes striking the World Trade Center.

Despite selling several of these rugs each month, Qul says he doesn't really know where the image on them comes from or what Sept. 11 is.

"It's just an item in our shop that we sell to Americans and Europeans," he says with a shrug.

When pressed on what, if anything, he knows about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he changes the subject to a drought in northwest Afghanistan. Asked again, his teenage son, who everyone says is the most educated person in the family, reminds him about Osama bin Laden.

Qul continues: "Yes, I think it's from bin Laden. We were refugees in Pakistan at that time, and I had to take care of my family.... I was too busy to pay attention to the political events in the news."

A decade after Sept. 11, Qul is just one of many Afghans who say they have heard almost nothing about the attacks that led to the fall of the Taliban government and an ongoing, 10-year foreign military presence in his country.

As US policymakers debate keeping troops in Afghanistan as far out as 2024, the void of information among large swaths of the Afghan population this deep into the war may cast doubt on the ability of the United States to effectively accomplish its goals here in the coming years.


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