By Martin Fletcher, NBC News correspondent
What to do when a young man, with a student's fine fingers, in a land of rough farmers and mountain men, breaks down and cries that he just wants to go home to his mother and father?
The name Hamza is not his real name, but it's the name this alleged suicide bomber goes by. He's an Afghani who says he spent eight years studying Islam in a Pakistani Madrass, that he did a favor to an Arab, and now he's in jail in Kabul, facing a possible death sentence, or decades in a smelly prison.
When he walked into the room, a tiny prison cell, his wrists red and swollen from the metal handcuffs, his eyes shyly averted, I could only think - what a dope! He didn't have to say a word for me to understand. I've met a number of failed suicide bombers, in prisons around the world, and they mostly have the same kind of story: young men sold on paradise by radical Islamic fighters. The men who give the orders wouldn't kill themselves; after all, they're too critical for the struggle, but are happy to send naïve young people to their deaths. And here was another victim.
As Hamza told his story, and talked about his old parents who need him, tears coursed down his cheeks and he gulped back sobs. He's 28, six years older than the other guy we spoke to, Abdel Marouk, who was much more hard-core. He admitted freely that he belonged to Al-Qaeda, wanted to be a suicide bomber, explained why in a coherent, calm manner, and will certainly soon be killed: that's the way it is in Afghanistan.
But Hamza? I felt that I understood him, but that he was doomed. He said that an Arab trained him for two days on how to operate a video camera, and then asked him to go to Afghanistan with Marouk to film an explosion: a landmine in the road. I believed him when he said that he was tricked. But what I believe doesn't matter because the Afghani interrogator didn't believe him. The security official said that Hamza, like Marouk, was an al-Quaeda fighter who had fought in Iraq, trained in Pakistan, and had been on his way to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
When Hamza left the little cell, his head bowed, his eyes glistening, I shook his handcuffed hand and wished him luck. His eyes locked briefly onto mine, searching for encouragement, for a sign that he had a future, but I could only look away.