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Monday, 24 December, 2001, 15:27 GMT
UK troops begin to rebuild Afghanistan
The marines must first check the ground for landmines before work can start on rebuilding bridges and roads in Afghanistan
Royal Marine Commandos at Bagram Airbase
Royal Marines have begun the task of rebuilding roads and bridges in Afghanistan.

The marines are checking the ground for landmines that pose a constant danger for soldiers and civilians.

People were friendly and even people saluting and cheering when we were in the streets

Marine Levon Sandercock

Royal Marines and Engineers are having to consider how to begin the task of reconstructing a bridge on the road linking Bagram airbase to Kabul.

It was destroyed in the fight against the Taleban, but is now a vital route for the movement of international troops and equipment into the capital.

While the Afghan people have the expertise for these projects, they lack the finances and equipment to carry them out.

The British troops are also building relationships with the Afghan people.

Warm welcome

They are keen to show the Afghans that they are there to help.

The marines believe they have made a good start and have already received an unexpectedly warm welcome.

Marine Leigh Godwin told the BBC: "When you come into a country like this and you help them build bridges and obviously, help them rebuild their country, then they don't look at you as an aggressor.

"They help you and they don't want to fight against you."

Marine Levon Sandercock said: "We expected it to be quite hostile, but generally the people were friendly and even people saluting and cheering when we were in the streets."

But it is the young Afghan fighters that the marines have to win over.

Young soldiers

At 16-years-old, some have been using weapons since they were 10 and it is the only skill they have.

British troops, as part of the multi-national security force, have already helped guard Afghanistan's first peaceful transfer of power in a decade.

Around 60 Royal Marine commandos ringed the interior ministry in the capital Kabul on Saturday as Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan's new leader.

Around 100 Royal Marines are already in the county to lead a force that will eventually number 3,000 to 5,000.

The multinational force will be under overall US military authority, with the promise of American assistance in an emergency.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"The marines feel they have made a good start"
British Ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock
"The British-led force must learn to be diplomats"
See also:

21 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan force takes shape
21 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Terror talks for Putin and Blair
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan security force's role unclear
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan holds senior Taleban official
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
19 Dec 01 | South Asia
Profile: Major General John McColl
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