When Khan's father had been alive, they'd worked as shepherds, but after his father died Khan acquired a wheelbarrow and worked as a porter in the market at Do Aw. His mother had told him he could make more money that way. At the end of a good day, he would have the equivalent of $1.40.
He explained that he didn't have enough money to get married or even buy bedding. He and his mother didn't have electricity. He had never been to school and had visited a mosque only once.
The date September 11, 2001, meant nothing to him. Nor did he know who Osama bin Laden was. He couldn't name the president of the United States and didn't recognize the name of the president of Pakistan. He said his happiest memory was of when his father was alive and the family regularly had enough to eat.
Sitting in the room, his right hand repeatedly grabbing and squeezing the edge of the desk in front of him, Khan explained the series of events that had brought him there.
Taliban suicide bombers-most of them reportedly trained in terrorist camps inside Pakistan-have recently come to pose more of a threat to American lives than their allies in Al Qaeda do. May of this year was the first month in which casualties among the American-led NATO forces in Afghanistan were higher than casualties among coalition forces in Iraq. "The enemy thought the best way to suffer less casualties on their side and inflict more casualties on the government and foreign forces was suicide bombing," said Major General Manan Farahi, head of the counterterrorism forces of Afghanistan˙s Interior Ministry. "They've turned it into almost a tradition in the region."
According to the United Nations, there were 160 suicide attacks in Afghanistan in 2007 (another 68 were thwarted). That's the highest number of suicide bombings since the war began in 2001-up from 123 in 2006. The year before that, there were only 17.
American and Afghan officials say one of the main reasons for the Taliban's resurgence is that Pakistan failed to prevent the fighters from using the country's tribal areas as a safe haven in which the militants could regroup after their defeat in Afghanistan in late 2001. The region's size and lawlessness, coupled with security services' inertia, are contributing causes. However, Afghan forces have managed to catch some bombers-like Khan-who have entered the country from Pakistan.
Last year (according to the Afghan calendar, which begins in the spring of each year), 14 prospective suicide bombers were arrested. By three months into this year (which started in March), eight had been detained.
Rahmat Khan was friendly with an iman named Manan. One day in April the two of them were chatting in a bazaar. "I asked him if he could find me work to help me make more money," Khan said. "He said, 'Don't worry-I will find you better work.'"