In Afghanistan, September 11 is remembered as the trigger for decades of war which this year closed a dark circle. The Taliban who controlled the country and housed Osama bin Laden at the time of the attacks are once again in command of Kabul and most of the country.
“This is the day the bad weather started for Afghanistan and the Afghans,” said Haizbullah, a grocer from the southern city of Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban and the home capital.
Like many in Afghanistan, he is skeptical that the vast American investment in the war was only a response to the tragedy of that day. “The Americans came here to show the world that they are the superpower and that 9/11 was just an excuse they made up to occupy Afghanistan,” he said.
When the Taliban were overthrown that fall, millions of Afghans returned from exile. With them back, and the economy already collapsing, those who can be gone, or who are trying to do so.
“We came back to our village when the Americans arrived, started a new life and rebuilt everything from scratch. But now I’m trying to help my family members leave the country once again, ”said Bilal Nimati, a 32-year-old businessman who fled to India last month.
A generation of Afghan women brought up with the right to education and work now fear losing even basic freedoms. Shakila, forced to drop out of school when the Taliban denied girls access to education the first time they took power, is in hiding after organizing a women’s protest.
“Twenty years ago, when I came back to resume my studies in 6th grade, I could never have imagined that I would go into hiding to do such a simple thing,” she told the Observer. “I went to school, to university, then I worked in several places, but now I’m just hiding. I feel suffocated.
Afghans who oppose the Taliban feel abandoned. “I am sorry for those who were killed in the attack,” said a resident of Kabul. “But I’m angry, they shouldn’t have left us overnight. They didn’t help us build the country, they just rebuilt Afghanistan for the Taliban.
Taliban leaders, seeking international recognition for their government, let the anniversary pass without comment. For their infantry, it was a day of celebration.
“The Americans invaded our country for what someone else had done,” said Gholam Yahya, a fighter from the western province of Badghis. “But we knew we had to fight back and kick them out of the country. And we did. We fought and died for what a foreigner (Bin Laden) had done.