Attacks Changed Afghanistan
AUDIE CORNISH, Host:
A memorial service today in Afghanistan for those who died on September 11th, 2001.
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CORNISH: Amullah (sp) reciting verses of the Koran opened a ceremony this morning at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. War in Afghanistan against al-Qaida and the Taliban government came quickly after the attacks of 9/11. More than 2700 American and international forces troops, plus thousands of Afghan civilians have died in nearly 10 years of fighting there. They were remembered today by the man who took over command of U.S. and NATO forces from General David Petraeus, General John Allen.
G: At times like these, I'm reminded of Lawrence Binyon's epic poem "For The Fallen" and the lines, they shall grow not old as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them. We shall remember them. And today, we renew that sacred pledge. We will not let this happen again. We will finish the job here in Afghanistan. Together with the Afghan people, we will prevail. We will prevail.
CORNISH: General John Allen this morning in Kabul. Morning Edition's Renee Montagne was at that ceremony and joins us now. Renee, what was it like there at the American embassy in Afghanistan on this day?
RENEE MONTAGNE: Audie, in many ways it reflected the poignant and painful moments that we've just been hearing on the program. There were prayers, there was "Taps", there was a moment of silence. We watched as two marines slowly lowered the American flag to half mast where it stood over the embassy today. Now, Afghan officials, embassy staff, top generals from the international coalition all sat together in the shade of a large canopy. The difference, obviously, is that in this place in Afghanistan this is where the war is and General Allen also talked about the fight.
ALLEN: We have ripped them from their strongholds and we have them on their heels. They have responded with a series of high profile attacks, a wave of terror, seeking to frighten the Afghan people into submission. It is not working. They offer nothing to the people of Afghanistan but a return to the darkness of the '90s and they will lose.
CORNISH: Renee, you first traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban regime had been driven out.
MONTAGNE: I did indeed and it's hard to imagine now almost how hopeful Afghans were in those early months. It seemed that peace was truly at hand. I mean, suddenly, millions of Afghans who'd fled the two previous decades of war began returning in an unprecedented flow of people coming home. And by the time I got here, you could hear music out being played all over Kabul. Men had cut off the beards that the Taliban had forced them to grow. In the countryside you talked to men rebuilding mud walls around their ruined orchards.
Women were going back to work occasionally. Some were taking off their burkas. You know, it was really a place where you could believe what the international community, at that time, was promising, which was a bright, bright future.
CORNISH: And there actually was...
MONTAGNE: And yet, Audie, ten years later - I was just going to say, ten years later, that hope a lot of it has evaporated.
CORNISH: That was going to be my next question, Renee. The idea of this conflict ending by the time troops are due to leave in 2014, do you get the sense that people believe that's the case?
MONTAGNE: Well, I do get the sense that people believe in the Afghan national army to the degree it's a work in progress, but it is something that, you know, there's a lot of talk about, first of all, people here - it's gained a lot of respect. And NATO forces here (unintelligible) leaving in 2014 or should be out and really the - what is being pointed to now is some sort of reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
CORNISH: NPR's Renee Montagne in Kabul, Afghanistan. Renee, thank you so much.
MONTAGNE: Audie, thank you very much.
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CORNISH: You're listening to live special coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks from NPR News.
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