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1st July 2002
Jeremy Ball : Our man in Afghanistan
Jeremy Ball : Our man in Afghanistan

Jeremy Ball : Our man in Afghanistan
A team of Notts soldiers is flying out to Afghanistan to construct shelter for hundreds of our troops.

BBC Nottingham's Jeremy Ball has been on a reconnaissance mission to find out what conditions they are likely to face. [See Jeremy's pictures of Afghanistan]

The team of Nottinghamshire soldiers is flying out to Afghanistan on the 14th July 2002.

The 14 engineers, based at Chilwell, will construct accommodation and washing facilities for hundreds of peace-keepers.

Life for the British troops
The British troops have been nicknamed "The Flintstones" because they're living in tents and bombed-out buildings. They don't have running water or flushing toilets. As a result, many of them have become ill.

Soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment - which recruits in the East Midlands - have spent four months restoring order to some of the poorest, most lawless districts of the capital, Kabul.

Soliders keep watch over the city from the Kabul Gates observation pos
Soldiers keep watch over the city from the Kabul Gates observation post

The city has been virtually destroyed by almost two decades of war. Most local people own guns and the area was plagued by violent crime.

Their commander, Lt. Col. Phil Jones, told us: "There were lots of policemen deeply embedded in armed criminal gangs and lots of corruption. They were part of the problem and we worked hard to turn that round."

"We made them patrol with us. We forced them to accept responsibilities. We worked very closely with them so that we could scrutinise them and stop them doing badness. One of our greatest achievements is stamping out armed crime".

For 20 year old Private Neil Jackson, arriving in Kabul was a shock: "Within twenty minutes of landing my platoon was on duties."

"The hardest things were getting used to the smells and the heat. We were always getting lost in the maze of streets."

Within weeks, Neil and his comrades were involved in a gun battle: "It was bandits firing at us and the rounds were flying over our heads. You're being shot at. The lads just fired back. It wasn't scary, it was more of a shock!".

Life for the people of Kabul
The devastation in Kabul is hard to take in. Parts of the city have been flattened by the fighting. But people still live in the bombed out remains of buildings which look like Roman ruins. We came across a four-story building with no outside walls, which was still being used as a makeshift school.

The people of Kabul
"Take my photo" : The people of Kabul

Everywhere the British soldiers go, children wave and greet them with the only English they know - the phrase: "How are you?".

They know the Royal Anglians have come to help them. The regiment has worked hard to rebuild local communities.

One school, which was destroyed in the war, is about to reopen after the soldiers organised a rebuilding project. And a local orphanage has a new adventure playground which was built by the soldiers.

Our makeshift school in a bombed-out four storey building
One makeshift school in a bombed-out four storey building
One in four children in Afghanistan still die before their fifth birthday, and it will take a long time to get the country back on its feet.

But the Royal Anglians are delighted that they have been able to make a contribution. Private Jackson said: "It's been a big experience just knowing we've helped out."

And what was he looking forward? "The beer. Seeing my mates and my girlfriend. And going to Nottingham to do some shopping!"


Shots of Afghanistan
Below are some of the photos taken from Jeremy Ball's journey to Afghanistan. See what conditions the Nottinghamshire soldiers are likely to face:

Local children come to shake hands with the patrolling British peace-keeping troops
Local children come to shake hands with the patrolling British peacekeeping troops.
"Home sweet home". Families still live in the bomb-out remains of one of Kabul's wealthiest suburbs
"Home sweet home". Families still live in the bombed-out remains of one of Kabul's wealthiest suburbs.
Back to basics. The British peace-keepers have to collect their washing water from these tanks
Back to basics. The British peace-keepers have to collect their washing water from these tanks. The Chilwell engineers will improve these facilities.
Soliders keep watch over the city from the Kabul Gates observation post
Soldiers keep watch over the city from the Kabul Gates observation post.
This orphanage has been taken to heart by the British soliders. They've built the children an adventure playground
This orphanage has been taken to heart by the British soldiers. They've built the children an adventure playground.
Many women still wear the traditional burkha
Many women still wear the traditional burkha.
Local people all ask us the same question: "How are you?"
Local people all ask us the same question - "How are you?"
The bombed out remains of the King of Afghanistan's palace
The bombed out remains of the King of Afghanistan's palace.
British soliders watch the World Cup between patrols
British soldiers watch the World Cup between patrols.
A former Taliban HQ which has been taken over by the British Army
A former Taliban HQ which has been taken over by the British Army.
The football stadium which used to be used for public executions
The football stadium which used to be used for public executions.

Jeremy Ball's series of reports on life in Afghanistan will be featured on BBC Radio Nottingham's breakfast show, 95.5FM and 103.8FM, every day next week (Monday 1st July - Friday 5th July).

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