In Afghanistan, Sept. 11 Marked

Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Quil Lawrence in Kabul about the impact of the attacks there, and how the longest war in American history has changed that country over the past 10 years. She then talks to Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation and a writer for the New Yorker.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

You're listening to live, special coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, on NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

T: to destroy terrorist training camps and capture al-Qaida leaders. The fall of the Taliban regime and the flood of international aid raised hope in Afghanistan. And we're going to talk next to NPR's Quil Lawrence, who joins us to talk about life in Afghanistan 10 years later. Quil, hello. Hi, Quil.

QUIL LAWRENCE: Hello. How are you?

CORNISH: Good. Can you tell us exactly where you are?

LAWRENCE: Hi. Can you hear me?

CORNISH: Yes.

LAWRENCE: Oh, I'm in Kabul, Afghanistan, the capital here, at the NPR bureau.

CORNISH: And today, there was actually news of an attack at an American base in eastern Afghanistan. At least 77 U.S. soldiers were wounded. What can you tell us about this attack?

LAWRENCE: That was news trickling out from an attack yesterday just west of the capital, just west of Kabul, in a province called Wardak, which has all throughout the 10 years - almost 10 since years America arrived here, remained partially under Taliban control. And what we know so far is that it was a massive truck bomb that rammed into a small American base. It was masquerading as a truckload of firewood.

And we don't have that many details. The military says that a blast wall absorbed most of the force of the explosion. But there are scores of Americans who were wounded, and a few Afghan civilians who were killed, in the blast.

CORNISH: And I was reading one report that was saying that a statement emailed to the media by the Taliban did link this to the September 11th attacks, to this anniversary.

LAWRENCE: The Taliban claimed this one a little late. We always wonder when they don't get their PR machine out in front. Sometimes, they'll claim credit for these tasks, claim responsibility for these attacks just as they're happening, and then we're sure it's them. There are several different insurgent groups operating in the center of the country, so we're not really sure if it was the Taliban. The Taliban did send out a September 11th message denouncing the American invasion, the continuing occupation, and questioning who really carried out these attacks, claiming that there was no proof that it was Osama bin Laden, etc.

CORNISH: So then what - if anything, I guess - does a day like this say about the status of this nearly 10-year-old war?

LAWRENCE: It's a normal day, really, here in Afghanistan. I think that Afghans have moved on from that day, although you can't really overstate how 9/11 changed Afghan history. It's as big an event here, really, as the British conquest of Afghanistan or the Russian invasion. Nine-eleven, 10 years ago, for many Afghans in the diaspora, was a moment of horror, of course, as they saw these attacks. But then it was a moment, many of them admitted to me at the time, of hope because they thought, well, perhaps now we're going to get some attention from the world. So many of them had been campaigning for years that we have al-Qaida forces in our country, we have an oppressive regime called the Taliban, and they hadn't gotten any attention. They were hoping now that perhaps they would get some of that attention.

And here on the ground, it changed very drastically. It went from complete isolation - even most aid groups weren't getting money in; just some U.N. functions were working here - to a bonanza of international aid promising to rebuild the country.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Quil Lawrence. He spoke to us from our bureau in Kabul, about life in Afghanistan 10 years later.

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