Bombing Alters Afghans' Views of USExcerpted from the Monday, November 5, 2001 Los Angeles Times
QUETTA, Pakistan -- Sardar Bibi Khan, a farmer from southern Afghanistan, never thought much about America other than as a place that helped his country overthrow the Russians, but one month into the U.S. bombing campaign his view has changed.
Khan, 35, said he came to Pakistan to find medical aid for a sister whose arm was shattered when an American helicopter fired a missile at her house. When the rest of the family rushed outside to seek safety, the helicopter fired on them, killing six of her seven children and her husband, Khan said.
Plumes of smoke rise over Bagram airport after U.S jets bombed Taliban positions north of the Afghan capital Kabul October 30, 2001. U.S. air raids on Kabul paused through the night but persisted apace on the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar according to witnesses. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)
"Before the bombing, most people were not in favor of the Taliban," said Abdul Wahab, a shopkeeper in Kandahar, the city in southern Afghanistan that is the spiritual headquarters of the fundamentalist Islamic regime.
"But now that America is bombing, people are saying, 'We were your enemy, but now we are with you and will support you.' I was not in favor of the Taliban, but now that they are fighting to save our soil from foreign troops, I have some sympathies with them."
Wahab arrived Sunday in Quetta, a city about three hours from the Afghan border, to see if he could find enough work to support his nine children. Like many Afghans who illegally cross the border, he is staying with an Afghan tribal leader-in-exile who functions as a kind of mayor of a community of Afghans on Quetta's outskirts.
Abdul Qudar, 35, had a similar story. "Now people are angry at America because they have destroyed our houses and they are forcing us to leave and to come here in Pakistan as refugees. I brought my family, but I couldn't bring any of my belongings. I have nothing now," Qudar said.
Ghazi Mohammed, 19, who farms outside Kandahar, said, "When they started the bombardment I joined the Taliban." Mohammed said he was particularly upset when he saw that the U.S. had bombed the cars of civilians as they were driving.
"Did they think that Osama [bin Laden] or Mullah [Mohammed] Omar [supreme leader of the Taliban] was in one of them? I do not like America. They are bombing families and hitting vehicles," he said. The animosity is a warning sign that the international alliance fighting terrorism risks driving Afghan civilians into the arms of the Taliban, aid workers said.
Abdul Sattar, a longtime Afghan exile who lives in Pakistan and runs a nongovernmental organization that removes land mines in Afghanistan, is saddened and resigned to the plight of his countrymen. He sees it as a continuation of the last 22 years of war and devastation in his country in which the biggest losers have been the Afghan people.
"When there is bombing in people's villages, of course they are not happy. We are the victims of Washington and New York's World Trade Center [disasters] just as we were the victims of the Cold War," Sattar said, referring to the former Soviet Union's ultimately unsuccessful effort to maintain control over the country, which lasted from 1979 to 1989.
"We are a Third World country, we have very little education, but still we have our own way of life. We have had our own government, we are not terrorists [and], if it were up to us, as Afghans, we would ask all non-Afghans to get out of the country, all of them, and leave us alone."
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times