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Terri Judd

Terri Judd is a reporter with The Independent, who writes regularly on defence issues, having repeatedly embedded with British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the next few weeks she will be working alongside US Marines, 10,000 of whom recently bolstered UK forces in the war-torn southern Afghan province of Helmand, offering an insight into daily life on the frontline.

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Kabul: living with war

Posted by Terri Judd
  • Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 12:02 pm
The smartest sight in any city in the world are the rows of neatly uniformed children sporting back packs on their way to school and Kabul is no different. In a capital still gripped by grinding poverty, the shiny 4x4s of western contractors and officials compete for space with demolition derby jalopies and horse drawn carts in the cacophony of rush hour. Locals hold laughing, animated conversations, fearlessly oblivious to the tonnes of metal that swerve within inches.

To someone more used to the deeply conservative, war torn south, it is refreshing to see so many female Afghan faces - women who have cast off the burqa in favour of a scarf slung casually over the back of their heads.

People smile swiftly or simply ignore westerners in contrast to the suspicious stares that often greet UK and US forces in villages in the south.

As Afghanistan’s capital prepares gleefully for the evening feast that breaks their Ramadan day time fast, stocking up at a kaleidoscope of groaning stalls, it is hard to believe that this is a city that has recently endured a resurgence in violence and bombings. But spin round 360 degrees and at every angle are men with guns in an array of uniforms - local police and army, convoys of NATO forces and private security guards all brandishing weapons. Periodically, the car horns are drowned out by the thud of military helicopters.

While I wrote, a small, home-made kite has drifted lazily into the compound. It should be a sign that the Taliban (who banned such harmless activities) have gone. But the locals know different as do NATO forces. Yesterday I headed south to join the American 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade - Task Force Leatherneck - in Helmand.

The official invitation read: "On behalf of Brigadier General Lawrence D. Nicholson, Commanding General of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, welcome to the experience of embedding with US Marines and sailors. The Marine Corps appreciates your willingness to live and work alongside US service members as they faithfully carry out their duties and to communicate to the American ( and one must presume British) public and the world your experiences and observations from this vantage point - looking over the shoulders of young Americans as they courageously conduct operations in Afghanistan."
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