An astonishing survey reported today by the Wall Street Journal claims that 92% of 15 to 30-year-old men didn't know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11" after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.
A think tank called the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) carried out the survey of 1,000 Afghan men in eight districts of Kandahar and Helmand, the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops.
Norine MacDonald, President of ICOS, said that this lack of awareness among fighting-age Afghan males has created:
"a vacuum—and it's being filled by al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."
Of the eight percent of Afghans who were familiar with the 9/11 attacks, many of them could be believers in the conspiracy theories abound in the Middle East.
As an example, the Daily Mail cited a quote from Maulvi Abdulaziz Mujahed, a religious leader who served as chairman of the Kabul provincial council in 2008 to 2009 who recently explained in an interview his belief that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy and a fabricated pretext for invasion:
"I saw the photos of all those who have been killed in the attacks, and I saw people bring flowers for their loved ones. But I couldn't find a single Jew among them. The superpowers wanted a good pretext to invade Afghanistan, and these attacks provided it."
The WSJ noted that university students in Kabul, for example, believe the Coalition has dramatically improved the country and they do not want the Taliban in power under any circumstances.
While the rest of the country is likely more supportive of the Coalition, the south and east provide the majority of Taliban recruits, and have been the focus of U.S. military efforts during the Obama administration's tenure.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the deputy chairman of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, told the Journal that the tide of public opinion has turned, and many Afghans have ceased to believe the Coalition can turn things around.
"Expectations have come down, and now have reached the point of zero. The people are asking: When will the foreigners finally leave?"