Remembering the Bombs: Kabul Five Years Later

A Northern Alliance commander looks up, as smoke from bombing rises in the background. i i

A Northern Alliance commander looks up as U.S. fighter jets provide air support to advancing Northern Alliance ground troops north of Kabul, Nov. 12, 2001. Reuters/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters/Corbis
A Northern Alliance commander looks up, as smoke from bombing rises in the background.

A Northern Alliance commander looks up as U.S. fighter jets provide air support to advancing Northern Alliance ground troops north of Kabul, Nov. 12, 2001.

Reuters/Corbis

Previous Coverage

Renee Montagne's earlier reports from Afghanistan:

This past weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the start of U.S.-led airstrikes in Afghanistan. For residents of Kabul, to whom war was all too familiar, the onset of the bombing offered hope that the oppressive Taliban regime would soon be gone, and that they would be free.

But the weeks of fighting that eventually led to the Taliban's ouster also brought tragedy.

Thousands of civilians were killed across Afghanistan. Five years later, Renee Montagne speaks with Afghans who lived through the bombing campaign.

In Afghanistan, An Anniversary Is Hardly Marked

Moments in Time in Kandahar

Horse and buggy

On this anniversary afternoon, a photographer stood on a Kandahar street corner and snapped a picture every 10 seconds or so. The photos show how these Kandaharis live now -- at least for this moment, passing by this street corner -- five years since coalition bombs rained down on their city. Jim Wildman, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Wildman, NPR

It is 9 p.m. in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Five years ago at this very hour, the first bombs were dropped on this country by the U.S.-led coalition.

A large plane actually just flew overhead. That's not normal, since the only flights in and out of the city are small U.N. planes. And they run about twice each week, during the day.

In 2001 — with the time difference — the launch of the bombing campaign at 9 p.m. here would have been around lunchtime on the East Coast. It would have been time for a late breakfast on the West Coast.

Then, it was evening. There was a nearly full moon.

Now it is also evening in Afghanistan. And my hotel room is partially lit by the dusty glow of a nearly full moon.

Perhaps, though, we American journalists are making too much of this anniversary. Perhaps we're making too much of an effort trying to compare then with now.

Renee Montagne and I spent an entire day reporting in and around the city of Kandahar today, but not one person we met said anything about what happened five years ago. They were either concerned about homes destroyed during NATO's recent military operations against the resurgent Taliban, or they were concerned about keeping their village safe, or they were looking forward to breaking today's Ramadan fast at 6 p.m.

There's even a popular song on the radio called "Kandahar" by musician Habib Qaderi. Our hotel manager played it over and over again in the lobby last night. Qaderi sings about a man bringing his lover to this city of romance. It says nothing, of course, about bombs, bombing anniversaries — or anything else about Afghanistan's hard, war-torn past.

People do have memories from Oct. 7, 2001. And we photographed them as they talked to us about that day.

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