Kabul Reacts To Bin Laden's Death
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on many countries beside the U.S., among them Afghanistan. Bin Laden traveled there in the 1980s to fight against the Soviet occupation, alongside the Afghan mujahideen supported by America. By 2001, Afghanistan's Taliban was the last government in the world that would host bin Laden, with devastating consequences for their country and for ours.
NPR's Quil Lawrence has reaction now to bin Laden's death from Kabul.
QUIL LAWRENCE: Ten years ago, this busy street in downtown Kabul had a soon to be notorious resident.
(Soundbite of conversations)
LAWRENCE: Metal workshops line both sides of the street. Jan Agha has run one of these shops for 13 years, and he remembers when a group of Arabs lived around the corner, protected by Taliban fighters from the southern city of Kandahar. He says the guards once beat him up when he got too close to the house, and he's not at all sorry to hear about bin Laden's death.
Mr. JAN AGHA (Metal Shop Owner): (Arabic spoken)
LAWRENCE: I hope it can be a blessing, says Agha, and that it can bring some kind of stability to Afghanistan. We're praying for that.
Agha says the only good thing about bin Laden was that his attacks pushed the Americans to overthrow the Taliban.
But in the past several years, attitudes toward the American presence here have soured. Even in his reaction to the news, Afghan President Hamid Karzai still took a swipe at the international forces that support his government. Karzai said bin Laden had gotten what he deserved, but he chided the U.S. on the continuing issue of civilian casualties.
President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): (Arabic spoken)
LAWRENCE: Karzai said: Remember that the war against terrorism is not in the valleys and villages of Afghanistan, but in the terrorists training centers and camps. The fighting should be taken there, he said.
Afghan officials felt vindicated after years of insistence that Pakistan is responsible for harboring bin Laden, as well as Taliban leaders. But they stopped short of saying it would change the dynamics of the current war in Afghanistan.
Dr. OMAR SHARIFI (Director, American Institute of Afghanistan Studies): Apart from symbolism and all this kind of psychological impact it has, I don't see a very deep and sort of a structural operation effects on the Taliban and al-Qaida.
LAWRENCE: Omar Sharifi is an Afghan political analyst in Kabul. His comments matched those of the Afghan Defense Ministry.
U.S. commanders paused to watch President Obama's announcement this morning and then went back to planning their response to the Taliban's spring offensive, according to U.S. officials.
Bin Laden had long been isolated from any tactical role in the Taliban's insurgency, not least because he was believed to be on the run. Now that the Americans have killed him, however, many Afghans worry the international community, including U.S. troops, will pack up and go home before Afghanistan is stable.
Omar Sharifi says that's what started the problem last time.
Mr. SHARIFI: The absence of international community involvement in the 1990s at the first created al-Qaida and the Taliban. And I think that mistake should not be repeated. This is a place they were born, and I think this would be the place to bury them.
LAWRENCE: Many diplomats in Kabul, including the U.S. ambassador, issued statements assuring the Afghan government that their work here will continue.
The Taliban, despite a usually nimble press department, has made no official statement yet on the death of Osama bin Laden.
Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.
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