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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May 2008, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Afghanistan diary: day five
Newsbeat's Tulip Mazumdar and Andy Brownstone are on the front line with British soldiers. They're seeing how things have changed for the ordinary people there. In the fifth instalment of their diary, Andy finds out just how tense things can get in the picture postcard poppy fields.

Soldiers in poppy field

It seems to be getting hotter by the day.

I sleep in a shelter with three walls and a corrugated iron roof which is surprisingly cool. Except that I have positioned my 'cot' (army for camp bed) wrong, and I wake at six with the sun full on my face.

Ironically, after changing positions, I wake that night because the moon is shining in my eyes.

The chef at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Robinson is one of the most cheerful men around, which is remarkable considering the temperature in his cook tent.

Sometimes it's too hot to be hungry but you have to wolf down some 'scoff' to make sure your body keeps working.

I'm drinking a ridiculous amount of water to try to battle the constant threat of dehydration.

Extreme care

I was told today that a seemingly simple heat injury can finish a soldier's career.

We've been out on two foot patrols which has been immensely exciting, yet nervy as well.

Troops
The Taleban have been increasingly relying on roadside bombs
With the constant threat of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and IDF (Indirect Fire) you have to tread with extreme care.

I'm in the middle of 2 Para Patrols Platoon who have been here for around six weeks.

I'm struggling in the 40 degree heat with my helmet, body armour, five litres of water, camera, video camera and spare batteries.

But that's nothing compared to what these guys carry.

Taleban threats

Some of them will almost double their bodyweight with ammo, weapons and communications devices.

Soldier in poppy field
Helmand province is the world's largest opium poppy growing region
The poppy fields we wander through are beautiful, picture postcard perfect.

Close to the base the kids collecting the harvest smile at us and the farmers are happy to talk to the platoon leader, who tries to get intelligence from them about potential Taleban threats.

But the further from the FOB we get, the more hostile it seems. Young men in the fields won't make eye contact and often hide their faces as we go past.

There's a real feeling amongst the young troops here that as soon as the poppy harvest is over, things will really kick off.

They say the Taleban can't afford to have any crops destroyed, so are keeping quiet for the moment.

Unwanted attention

There are concerns they'll also make money from the sale of the raw opium, which will go towards weapons and recruiting new members.

Afghan national in poppy field
Many farmers in Afghanistan rely on poppies as a cash crop every year
At night we've had a few warning flares shot from the watch towers as the stags (watchmen) spot potential danger and do their best to put people off whatever it was they were doing.

Our patrols don't attract too much unwanted attention, but as they say here, "when it's quiet, that's when things happen".

A few weeks ago the medical team were running a clinic for local Afghans, when the Taleban launched a rocket attack out of nowhere.

You can sense the troops are itching for action, and there's a tense feeling as we fly out of FOB Rob that we've probably left just in the nick of time.



SEE ALSO
Afghanistan diary: day one
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day two
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day three
Monday, 28 April 2008, 17:16 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day four
Wednesday, 30 April 2008, 06:55 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghan people 'wish for life in peace'
Wednesday, 30 April 2008, 06:20 GMT |  Newsbeat
In pictures: FOB Robinson Helmand
Tuesday, 29 April 2008, 16:56 GMT |  Newsbeat
British forces 'treat injured Taleban'
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
The dogs taking on the Taleban
Monday, 28 April 2008, 15:39 GMT |  Newsbeat


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