1 Mar 2010

Stopped by an IED in the road in Afghanistan

Alex Thomson is stopped by an IED in the road ahead in Afghanistan.

Progress here for Nato come at a heavy price in terms of human life. Our patrol this morning south of the Shawqat base was held up for some time.

The reason? Yes, you’ve guessed it, insurgents had buried an IED in the road ahead.

Only the sharp eyes of one Coldstream guardsman on the morning patrol alerted his people to the threat.

As it happened, unusually, there was an American bomb disposal unit not a mile away at the time. But you get the point here, the Taliban may not be interested or even capable in this zone of making a fight of it but they are still out there and more than able to bury bombs in the road by night, trail out a command wire, lie low in a nearby compound, and watch and wait.

So it is in to this delicate area that somehow Nato has to create trust. Created a simple notion with the locals that it makes more sense to throw in your lot with the local police, army, Nato, and the distant government in Kabul – than leaving things to the Taliban.

You might think that’s a simple choice. But it isn’t. For eight years in the area I am in there has been no government at all. The ANP – the so-called Afghan police force – hated and rightly hated by Afghans here for corruption.

They say the new police are not like that, but many Afghans will need some convincing of that. This takes time. Time which the West, America and Britain particularly, do not have.

Both countries under Nato now desperately trying to rebuild security here because they want to leave. Ambitious enough to try that at all – let alone against the clock. The police here and the Afghan army know that the Americans are hell bent on leaving Afghanistan as soon as they can.

Oh yes, and others know that too – the insurgents.

No wonder they are content to melt away, plant their IEDs and wait.