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Afghans Unfamiliar With 9/11, Survey Suggests

911 Afghanistan

First Posted: 09/08/11 02:08 PM ET Updated: 11/08/11 05:12 AM ET

While the United States prepares to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, half a world away the name "9/11" may not ring a bell at all.

In fact, ask young Afghan men and you're likely to find that nine out of ten respondents in two southern provinces of Afghanistan have never heard of the attack at all.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to an International Council on Security and Development survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in Kandahar and Helmand, 92% of those interviewed were unaware of "this event which the foreigners call 9/11." While their country has been occupied by U.S. forces since 2001, many Afghan civilians are unaware of the al Qaeda strike that prompted the invasion in the first place.

Yaroslav Trofimov explains:

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, of course, are known to educated Afghans, and to many residents of big cities. But that isn't always the case elsewhere in a predominantly rural country where 42% of the population is under the age of 14, and 72% of adults are illiterate. With few villages reached by television or electricity, news here is largely spread by word of mouth.‬

Special correspondent Adam Pletts encountered a similar situation during his trip to Afghanistan, where he spoke with local farmers who claimed to know nothing else about the world. He shares his experience with PBS NewsHour:

"[A]fter showing the images to dozens of Afghans, I only found one person who clearly recognized them and could connect them to the U.S.' initial reason for coming to Afghanistan, and that was the police district chief in Marjah."

While the disconnect between perceptions of 9/11 at home and in Afghanistan is shocking, as the anniversary approaches, the U.S. has planned memorials to remember the victims and their families in many different forms, including the grand opening of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.

This morning, dozens of additional audio recordings from 9/11 were released. Watch CBS News' report on an exchange between air traffic controllers:


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Filed by Clare Richardson  |