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Friday, March 11, 2011

Eight weeks to face the Taliban

Eight weeks to face the Taliban
Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Can you train an Afghan army recruit, in eight short weeks, to play an effective role fighting the Taliban insurgency?
The success of US and UK strategy in Afghanistan hinges on the answer to this because that strategy involves training and equipping the Afghan National Army to play an ever greater role, so international combat troops can eventually leave.
We wanted to find out what this training process is actually like for the raw recruits entering the Afghan armed forces.
Screenshot of Eight weeks to face the Taliban website
From initial concept to finished product
With the help of the BBC Persian and Newsgathering teams in Kabul we decided to follow four young men through the eight weeks of basic training they receive before being deployed.
It took Kabul producer Bilal Sarwary weeks of negotiation with the Afghan authorities to get permission to film and spend time with the recruits, accompanied by BBC Persian reporter Daud Qarizadah and cameraman Abdul Hameed Karimi.
The Afghan army told us no other foreign media organisation had been given such a close-up look at the training facilities or process.
A Taliban attack right at the start of our reporters' assignment highlighted the dangers the recruits face just by wearing their country's uniform. The militants are doing their best to dissuade young Afghans from joining the military.
On the Sunday morning when our team was due to arrive at the training base, attackers ambushed an army bus outside. It was only because our reporters were held up that they were not caught up in the assault, in which a suicide bomber also detonated explosives, killing five soldiers.
The BBC's high risk advisers had already made clear that our team should confine themselves to reporting only from inside the heavily guarded base, as spending time with the recruits outside, whether in uniform or not, was deemed too dangerous.
So this report focuses on life inside the base, the eight week journey from arrival, through basic training, to the moment when they hear where they are to be posted.
We hear from the four young men about why they joined up, what their families think, and their own hopes and concerns, and we begin to get a sense of what facing the Taliban means for them.
We recently published another special report on the BBC News website - Life with the Lancers looking at the training, challenges and day-to-day lives of UK troops in Afghanistan.
This report complements that UK perspective with a view from the Afghan soldiers who are being prepared to take their places.
The report is also running in two separate instalments on BBC World News, and on BBC World Service. If you get time to have a look, let us know what you think.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

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