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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Shahzadah

September 11, 2002

Shahzadah, 49, a militia commander who is now brigadier general in the Afghan army, was a zone commander on Sept. 11 in the Northern Alliance, the opposition force that helped the U.S. drive the Taliban from power.

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"Every human being on Earth was affected by the sad news. I was at my base at Jabal os Saraj preparing for a battle when I heard about it on satellite TV. I couldn't believe it. It didn't occur to me that Al Qaeda was responsible, because the attacks were so far away and I thought they were incapable of such an action. I thought it might have been an internal dispute in the United States. When it became known after a few days it was Al Qaeda, I thought, yes, because of their strong network, but [it is] still hard to believe they could have planned such a big plot.

When it happened, we had just heard about the injury of our commander, Ahmed Shah Masoud. We later learned he had been killed by Al Qaeda. The Northern Alliance didn't want us to know about it because of the battle we thought was coming in the Shomali plain north of Kabul, and they knew the news would hurt our morale. So they played a tape of his fighting orders that he had made previously over the loudspeakers, and for a while we believed he was alive.

Then Sept. 11 happened, and the Taliban just stopped fighting. A day later they withdrew. And then we found out that our great commander, whom we miss every day, was dead. So we felt the effects immediately.

If [the terrorist attacks] hadn't happened, we would probably still be fighting, and I wouldn't be here in Kabul. The event finally brought world attention to Afghanistan, that it would have to get rid of the Taliban.

It would have reacted eventually because Al Qaeda would have struck somewhere else sooner or later. They aren't gone from here yet. They bombed the power lines that bring electricity to Kabul from the east, and our division is providing security so that it doesn't happen again."

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As told to Chris Kraul

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