The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


June 09, 2008

Name: CAPT Doug Traversa
Posting date: 6/9/08
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Afghanistan Without A Clue

It was over a year ago that Hamid and I had our last conversation and said our goodbyes. We have kept in touch sporadically by e-mail, but Hamid’s notes are usually short, as he is not comfortable with e-mail. Perhaps one day we will meet again, but he was very disappointed to hear I would be retiring soon and would not get to come to Afghanistan again. Here are my notes on the last two meals we shared:

Hamid was able to come by for lunch, so he, Drew, and I sat down for another philosophical discussion. Drew and I talked about all the great things we were looking forward to once we got back home. I told them how beautiful Germany was (I lived there for three years) and how it was green year-round. Drew was unaware that there is grass that stays green even in the winter (yes, there is) and then we both talked at length about real rolls and bread with real butter.

Yes, our minds were elsewhere. We could barely bring ourselves to eat anymore. The quality of food had been going down steadily, and it would be good to leave. I intended to eat large quantities of pizza and many hamburgers when I got home.

Drew left after a while, and Hamid and I discussed his marriage prospects again. His sister-in-law knew someone who was a possible potential wife candidate.

“Do you know her?” I asked.


“Will you get to meet her?”

“Probably not.”

“Won’t you get to talk to her, get to know her?”

“No. I will get to see her once, that’s probably all.”

I wasn’t really surprised, but I’ve been a lot more candid with Hamid lately. “That’s stupid. I can’t think of any other word for it. You are expected to marry someone you don’t even know, and you can’t get a divorce if she turns out to be a monster? That’s just crazy.”

Hamid tended to agree, but what could he do? “Sir, I was talking to my friend who is married, and he is not happy. He says I should be happy to be single, because I can do what I want, spend money the way I wish, and I don’t have to take care of a wife.”

"That’s a good point,” I agreed. “If you do decide to get married, it is very important that you do it for the right reasons. If you are just getting married to be able to have sex, you will probably have a bad marriage. It is important that you want to put your wife first. If you have children, they must be a priority too. You can’t keep living like you are single. If you do, the marriage will fail.

“The problem is that you don’t even get to know the girl, so you may have nothing at all in common.  If your choice is marrying someone you don’t know, or staying single, I’d stay single.”

“So what do you think I should do?” he asked.

“Do everything you can to get to America.”

“How would I find a girl in America?”

“You’d have to go on dates, talk to girls, get to know them. Would you be willing to date and marry a non-Muslim?”

He immediately shook his head. “No.”

“Well, you might as well just stay here then. Frankly, I have no advice for you, other than staying single.

"Unless you can actually find stuff out about this girl, and really determine if you two would be a good match, I’d say you shouldn’t get married. If she turns out to be a bad person, you whole life is ruined. Do you want to take that risk?”

He looked crestfallen. “No, I suppose not.”

The next day Hamid came by for what turned out to be our last lunch together, though we didn’t know it at the time. He talked a great deal about how sad he was, yet he always kept a smile on his face. He was making friends with the new team, and he seemed in good spirits. We talked more about his marriage prospects, but I’ll keep most of it between us. He did manage to surprise me one last time, when he told me the girl he might marry was 15.

Of course, that is pretty normal over here, and in many places girls this young are married off to men in their 40s and 50s. I think she will be getting a very good husband, so the age difference is not a big deal (Hamid is in his late 20s). If this happened in the states, people would be shocked and outraged. Over here, she is a very lucky girl, assuming they do get married. I hope it all works out; too bad I can’t be here to see the wedding.

I walked him to the front gate, largely in silence. What do we say after all we’ve been through, all we’ve shared (and you haven’t heard a tenth of it). He’s been able to talk to me about anything and everything, and I with him. I told him that’s the type of relationship he should try to develop with his wife, as I have with mine. She is the one person I can confide in and share anything with. He is hopeful he can have a wife like that too.

We got to the gate, I hugged him and told him I’d miss him, and then the guards frisked him and let him pass. That may be the last time I see him. Ever. May you find happiness, my friend.

It turned out that we never met again. I did call him one last time to say goodbye, but he was not able to get out and see us off. For security reasons, I could not tell him when we were leaving. Months after my return home, I received an e-mail from a heartbroken Hamid. His mother had lied about trying to arrange a marriage, and one of Hamid’s friends ended up marrying the girl Hamid wanted to marry.

This was the last straw for Hamid, who had been willing to stay in Afghanistan to support his family. After this betrayal, he decided to try to immigrate. I wish him the best, and hope he can make it here.


What are his chances of actually getting in the country? And doesn't anyone realize how valuable he is to Afghanistan? He is bilingual, and by Afghan standards, bicultural. He is exactly what Afghanistan needs to become a modern nation. Over here he would have a low status job, unless he got really lucky. Wouldn't his background be considered much more valuable in Afghanistan? This seems like a terrible waste!

Who is going to supply Hamid with snickers candybars now?

Hamid's another tragedy of this @#$* war. He & those like him are central to the development of Afghanistan. But the economics are set up to force him out. A sad sign of the future.

The value in moving to the U.S. is in escaping the family's control of his matrimonial prospects. He should be able to find a very nice muslim girl here -- if he is adamant about marrying within his faith. Not that he couldn't in Afghan, but here he would be autonomous, and has a better crack at finding someone to suit. As far as I know (and I'm fairly well informed on such things) there is no prohibition in Islam against this; the arranged marriage thing is mainly cultural.

If he can't make it out of Afghan how about simply moving to a calm area within the country and starting out on his own?

As a previous commenter noted, he's valuable property in this country if it ever finds its feet. If all the decent folks move away as soon as they have a chance, the country will not have a chance.

Study leave is a possibility for both getting out and for finding a decent muslim girl here. Maybe even one from back home -- there are plenty studying in the west. Get an education and go back home and make a difference. A good wife would help him stay the course.

But if his educational prospects are slim, unless he's a candidate for refugee status (which would take years) his best chances are probably there, but cutting the apron strings a bit. Hard to do in that culture, but not impossible I'll wager.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference HAMID SAYS FAREWELL:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »

Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog



My Photo