The good news is that Omar will be released in 11 weeks and will have only served half of his 18 month sentence. He will doing a useful DIY workshop soon and is getting on well with everyone.
Please continue to write to him. You can also find his contact details on his blog: http://bangedupforprotesting.wordpress
Afghanistan is a desolate place when we observe it from a comfey chair. Its people seem either enraged or broken. The poverty comes caked in the dust and blood of endless warfare. It is a fertile land that can produce more than enough to feed its population, but its recent history denies the human spirit from flourishing there. As far as we can tell it is even crushing the spirits of those who come to enforce their values, however noble they are.
Over the last few weeks negotiations with the Taliban broke down when US soldiers were found to have incinerated copies of the Quran. There was mass outrage and opportunistic rallying. Demonstrations raged over the borders in Iran and Pakistan whilst the heady war drums of jihad beat out their nostalgic rhythms. Within days six British soldiers were killed and the atmosphere in the entire region was palpable from our armchairs.
There’s no doubt Kandahar was full of vitriol whilst the occupying troop encampments shook with their own indignation. A soldier abroad, on duty became a terrorist in the midst of this. A cold, battle hardened mind, having completed two tours in Iraq, went from house to house killing civilians in what can only be called a psychotic episode. Immediately it is the action of a man used to shock and awe strategy and unable to work with a withdrawal strategy. Then it has its own place as a result of America placing its values in an imperial war chest.
South and Central America, Asia and Africa had the USSR investing arms and intelligence resources and the USA did not only the same but sent their military to fight billions of dollars worth of wars. This went on for just over forty years with both sides getting returns on their investment. The American policy of troops on the ground did not raise any any questions until Vietnam. Still, the US never considered their military presence abroad may cause the locals to despise them. Their culture is adored the world over but their military might is even more widely disdained. This Cold War two superpowers which still maintained the military apparatus and foreign interests and Afghanistan had been one of these political pawns.
The USSR invaded Afghanistan in the early eighties planning to expand its territory in Asia and the heroin trade was something their Mafia would have enjoyed assisting with. The Afghan resistance came from many backgrounds and across genders as women trained and formed their own resistance movements. The whole nation put on the war paint. America's involvement in supplying arms and intelligence fanned the religious flames in this question. Ronald Reagan would suffer no godless heathens from Russia. Then came the camps of foreign volunteers from the Muslim world who shared the local faith and, at least, the language of the Quran. With US arms and intelligence on their side and after a long war Russia withdrew in the early 90s.
The country was still recovering from this as the Taliban were elected to power. Their laws enforced the denial of education, and segregation, for women. There is no doubt this group was made up of veterans of the was, including some who decided to settle. They had lived war for several years and saw this as more a way of life than civilian life. They had no treatment for PTSD but the training camps stayed open. Wars in Bosnia, and Kosovo, where NATO troops would be supplemented by a Mujahideem resistance, had people volunteering to be trained and fight. People from across Europe and the world trained in camps in Afghanistan preparing to defend Muslims against the Serbian genocide. This is the calibre of the Afghan resistance, but it resulted in the madness of 9/11.
Since then the war paint has reappeared and the Americans and Brits have been in Afghanistan. The country has little identity or sense of nationhood or self-governance. President Karzai's regime is rejected by much of the country outside Kabul. After tens years of this the average twenty one year Afghan is probably pretty angry about the situation.
We see the Afghan police and army, that those occupying forces have trained, on our televisions. They seem weak and malnourished. British troops have described them as 'lazy and incompetent'. The problem is that no Afghan with any heart could commit himself to work with forces that had subjected his backyard to the force of shock and awe. There are tough Afghans out there but it is more likely they are helping the Taliban. They would probably relish being trained by some of the most experienced guerilla fighters on the planet. Even in Somalia they have only been operational since the late 90s. The Viet Cong have nothing on these guys.
The concept of the Mujahid training and praying and fighting as one is a nostalgia dream to most Muslims. The 7/7 bombers, the 9/11 bombers, that French bot who went crazy in Toulouse; they fail to graspe they are alone. In Afghanistan the dream is true as it has been harvested by Western Interventionism. Across the Arab world there is a push towards democracy and equality on gender. In America, as in Afghanistan, there is a move towards religious fervour. A nation founded on freedom of religion and independence from empire is selling itself Scientology, The Tea Party and Mormonism. There seems little room for charity on health care. America intended to share its ideals with the world. In Mecca there is a Starbucks and a Burger King but slavery is still legal. American values it seems are only as deep as your pocket these days.
The American soldier, even a CIA agent, signs up to protect his country. The late Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne wakes up having forgotten that he has dodgy connections with different companies. He fights for his autonomy, his freedom, his identity. I hope that struggle bears fruit for all Afghans soon.