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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 12:53 GMT
Tough task on the Kandahar beat
New recruits in training
The new recruits lack basic equipment
Susannah Price

Kandahar's new police recruits are learning how to march in time. They struggle just to keep in step, let alone turn in the same direction.

This new police force is being trained from scratch. There are no entry requirements and no salary is on offer. Their trainer Noor Muhammad admits he has an uphill task.

He says the recruits need uniforms and shoes - and they also need better education and training.

A few weeks after signing up, the new policemen are out on patrol in the crowded city streets, keeping law and order.

The new policemen on patrol
The new policemen are attempting to maintain law and order in Kandahar
A motorist who has parked his car and blocked the road has his tyres let down. The police also strip off tints from car windscreens - and carry out checks for illegal weapons.

But they are ill equipped for one of their most serious tasks - tracking down al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects.

The director of police Mohammad Akram admits they have had little success.

"In this last month we tried our best, but we didn't find anyone from al-Qaeda or the Taleban." Any that were left, he said, have probably escaped from the country.

US support

The Americans based at Kandahar airport outside the city are focused on destroying the al-Qaeda network. It is their main reason for staying in Afghanistan.

Their special forces concentrate on the hunt while others maintain the base - a necessary task after gunmen attacked the base last Wednesday.

It is a huge operation. But despite the massive resources being poured in, Osama Bin Laden remains at large.

American spokesman, Major AC Roper, still believes they are making some progress.

Taleban prisoner
Taleban fighters "blend into the woodwork", according to Major Roper
"We have had a lot of successes and of course there are difficulties. It's because they blend into the woodwork - they blend into the local population. You need to identify the enemy first. And identification is often the most difficult part."

The Americans appear set to stay in their fortified base - until they track down their most wanted criminals.

But it could be a long haul. And the local Afghan authorities appear to be losing interest in finding al-Qaeda and Taleban members.

They are more concerned with ensuring peace and security in this extremely volatile region.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | South Asia
US base in Kandahar attacked
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