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A View Of The September 11 Attacks From Pakistan

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Our colleague Steve Inskeep is spending this September 11 in Pakistan, which, of course, was allied with the U.S. in its war in Afghanistan. It also suffered an insurgency of its own and is deeply involved in the aftermath. Steve, thanks so much for being with us.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Scott, always a pleasure.

SIMON: And help us understand how people in Pakistan may be reflecting on 9/11 today.

INSKEEP: They're doing it less overtly than in the United States, which is to be expected because the attack didn't originate from here or take place here. But as we've spoken with people of all walks of life in the past 10 days around Pakistan, most people have an opinion about what's happened since.

This country, you'll recall, had been aligned with the Taliban back in 2001 and then had to choose the U.S. side, which cost Pakistan a lot. There was a Taliban insurgency that spread in Pakistan, killed tens of thousands of people. Pakistan was also accused of continuing support for the Afghan Taliban, but it still doesn't quite have the stability next door that officials here say they'd been hoping for.

SIMON: And how do many Pakistanis view the Taliban, particularly right across the border?

INSKEEP: A little bit differently than a lot of Americans do. And this is a bit jarring to hear on this morning of 9/11, but it's part of reality, so I'm going to play it for you. We talked with a businessman in the city of Peshawar. His name is Mansoor Elahi (ph). He sends trucks back-and-forth across that Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and he feels things are not getting worse, but better. He says the Taliban have yet to demand bribes, as the old U.S.-supported government did.

Was the old government generally corrupt in your experience?

MANSOOR ELAHI: It was 110% corrupt. I've been dealing with Afghanistan since the last 50, 60 years, and my forefathers were doing business since hundred years. So I have not seen in my life the corrupt government, which was 20 years in Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: So is business already better than six months ago?

ELAHI: It is improving.

INSKEEP: How do you feel about the future?

ELAHI: The future is good because I'm looking to the Central Asian market.

INSKEEP: Afghanistan is a highway to other markets. Now we should note there's a lot of opinions in this very large country, and there are people across Pakistan who are concerned about the downside of the Taliban. We've encountered Pakistanis who are working to find ways, for example, to help people flee Afghanistan, especially women.

SIMON: In all of this, Steve points out that this - the story of the U.S., Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Taliban, refugees, prospects for the future is hardly over.

INSKEEP: Which is exactly what I heard from Steve Coll, who knows the background of the moment really well. He wrote a book about the years leading up to 9/11 and another one about his aftermath - its aftermath.

You know, I'd been thinking of the 9/11 anniversary as a bookend, the end of the story. Is it the end of the story for you?

STEVE COLL: No. I think 9/11 itself was part of a story that really began years before, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the United States fostered a rebellion that ended up producing radicalism and the Taliban, and that led to al-Qaida's incubating in Afghanistan, and that led to 9/11, and 9/11 led to our intervention in Afghanistan and all that's followed. So I'm afraid Afghans and Pakistanis have been fighting this war before and after, and they're going to now enter, I'm afraid, another dark chapter.

INSKEEP: And whatever that chapter is, Scott, will build on the ruins of the past.

SIMON: Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition is in Islamabad. Thank you, my friend, for joining us.

INSKEEP: You're welcome, my friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.