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For three centuries, faraway empires have come to conquer Afghanistan -- the British in the 19th, the Soviets in the 20th and now the Americans in the 21st -- before retreating in humiliation.   © Getty Images
The Big Story

Two decades after 9/11, how delusion led to defeat in Afghanistan

America's war on terror yields to a new era

ANDREW NORTH, Contributing writer | Afghanistan

Late on Sept. 11, 2001, Najib was at home with his family in Kabul listening to a radio bulletin on the Pashto language service of the BBC. There was no such thing as the internet in Afghanistan then, and with almost no other information sources apart from the Taliban's Voice of Sharia radio, the BBC's evening program became known as the "sixth prayer" of the day.

The newsreader said planes had been flown into buildings in New York City and Washington. Just 13 at the time, Najib turned to his uncle for answers. "We hadn't heard of America then, and I asked him: 'Where are New York and Washington?' My uncle said he did not know, but he thought maybe New York was a country."

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