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Nato's rebuilding effort in Afghanistan

By Alex Thomson

Updated on 22 April 2007

Alex Thomson has been with the forces responsible for rebuilding Sangin where soldiers and local residents are trying to repair the damage left by decades of war.

They see the heavily protected convoys in their villages, they watch the Chinooks dropping mysterious cargoes behind the fortified walls, they note the new forts being thrown up in the desert, and the Afghans and Nato ask the same question: how is this going to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans?

In Sangin bazaar, one man says they have fled the fighting to the desert and they need food, the Nato soldiers are stumped.

But it's hardly the soldiers' fault, Nato is not an aid organisation but it recognises that shooting the Taliban unless this country is rebuilt and in Sangin, captain Tony Cheales has to do it.

He says: "We are here to support the people here and the local government."

"They talk about security but surprisingly the second priority for them are roads and this is key to them for hospital but also Sangin is a trade centre and they want to travel in out easier with no threat of mines."

On base, his briefings are often interrupted by artillery barrages. Guns, armours, translators with faces disguised because of Taliban reprisals, it is not the happiest look for the locals but the stop and chat patrols are building up a picture.

'We are here to support the people here and the local government'
Captain Tony Cheales

Money is no problem but finding a trusted contractor is.

It's not true that Nato had to destroy Sangin in order to free it of the Taliban but they did have to destroy some parts of it.

When you come to parts like this it is pretty obvious that in addition to security, people want their homes, their businesses and their schools put back together again and that is a military and political imperative because the quicker they put that in place, the more likely the allegiance of the Afghan people will stay with the Karzai government and not with the Taliban.

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