GARDEZ, Afghanistan — "Ahmad", who asked that his real name not be used for fear of retribution, was born in a small town in Pakistan's Punjab Province. He came from a large but poor family. Pakistan's notoriously poor education system meant that good schools were out of reach, and so instead he went to a madrassa, an Islamic school, in his home village.
After this religious schooling, he took a job in a bakery and supported his family. "Then one day a friend invited me to take a trip to Waziristan. I knew almost nothing about the Taliban or America at that time," he recalled.
His friend took him to a Pakistani Taliban camp, where his hosts welcomed him and gave him lodging. At first he wanted to leave, but his hosts asked him to stay for a short while and "learn about Islam."
In the morning and afternoon, they'd recite verses from the Koran, and in the evening they showed him hour upon hour of films of alleged American atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
"I became outraged when I saw video clips of what was happening to my Muslim brothers and sisters," he said. "After watching this for nearly two months, it became intolerable for me. I eventually decided to give my life for my (Muslim) country."
The camp was run by Maulavi Nazeer, a powerful Pakistani Taliban commander. According to "Ahmad", many of the fighters trained under Nazeer went to Afghanistan to fight with the insurgent group run by Jalaluddin Haqqani.
"Ahmad's" destiny wasn't to become a fighter, however: He told his hosts that he would like to become a "martyr," a suicide bomber.
Nearly seven months passed, and then one day Nazeer came to Ahmad and told him that he had a job for him.
Some of Nazeer's men drove Ahmad to the Afghan border. On the other side, he was met by Haqqani representatives who led him to a car full of explosives and a suicide vest.
"They told me to drive down a particular road for a short while, after which I would find some foreign soldiers who had killed many Muslims," he recalled.
"I drove and eventually neared a checkpoint with soldiers. My finger was on the trigger — but then I heard them speaking an Afghan language."
The checkpoint was manned by Afghan soldiers, not Americans.
"I realized that I had been tricked. I didn't want to sacrifice myself to kill other Muslims, only the foreign occupiers," he says. "I had my finger on the trigger, but I couldn't press the button."
Ahmad turned himself in and is now in the custody of Afghan authorities.
(Gopal is a Christian Science Monitor correspondent.)
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY