Reflections on What 9/11 Meant in Afghanistan

Men look outside through a broken window at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 5, 2016. Mohammad Ismail / Reuters

Mohammad Sayed Madadi is currently getting a master’s degree at Stanford. But he spent part of his childhood under the Taliban, and he remembers the American intervention after the 9/11 attacks—which started 15 years ago today and ultimately toppled that government—as seeming to herald a new era for him. It did, but not exactly in the way he hoped. Sayed got an education that would never have been possible under the Taliban, and saw his sisters do the same. He has also witnessed continuing bloodshed in his country, and was himself injured in an ISIS bombing in Kabul this summer that killed some 80 people. “Afghanistan is a much better country than it was in 2001,” he writes. “Is that enough?”

When the Taliban were overthrown, it was as if the city I lived in was newer, brighter, more crowded; as if those American bombs that fell after September 11 really brought voice and light to a place that had been quiet and dark.