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British Soldiers Used High Profile Patrols to Keep Peace in Kabul

In an effort to curb more than 20 years of lawless violence, the Afghan government has ordered all private armies to disband and disarm.

Analysts believe the disarming of the private armies will strengthen the role of the national army in preventing the country from reverting to a haven for terrorists. For now, peace and order is being maintained by international peacekeepers.

For the last six months, the British have been maintaining order in the capital city of Kabul. As they turn over their duties to Turkish troops, crime is down and people are beginning to rebuild.

VOA-TV's Brian Padden recently went on patrol with Sergeant Smudge Smith and his unit from the Royal Anglian Regiment.

For Sergeant Smith and his Royal Anglian regiment, patrolling the streets of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, has become almost a routine assignment.

"Most of these patrols are just high profile confidence patrols for the locals," he explains. "The guys in the back are always on the lookout for the possible threats from extremist groups."

The British peacekeepers, part of an international security force, have been maintaining stability in Kabul since the Taleban fled the city. While Sgt. Smith's district, which extends from the bombed-out King's palace to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, has been quiet lately, he knows that danger still lurks amidst the vast destruction.

"The rubble is pretty much mined and is littered with unexploded ordinance as well," he said. "...when we find an unexploded ordinance, we mark the area. Obviously the important ones, the ones at risk, they remove straight away. If people are digging out the drainage ditches, if they find anything, they'll just put it by the side of the road. So every now and again when you're driving around there's always new stuff lying around."

The international security force has long since rooted out most of the hostile forces in the area. At one position on the outskirts of Kabul, a place they call Newman Hill, the soldiers now guard against terrorists or armed bandits trying to enter the city.

"We're peacekeepers, but we have, our company had two contacts, which is contact with the enemy, what we've actually returned rounds and their fire to us," Sgt. Smith said. "They are still out there, however what I think is, the people who've been driven by this, they're being motivated by people with money. As soon as they start realizing that there is money to be made in town legally, and it's not all to do with fighting, I personally believe that the infiltrations will stop."

But perhaps the most effective deterrent to violent crime, has been the foot patrols conducted in high crime areas of Kabul, such as in one area the soldiers call "the maze."

"It took us a while to realize what should be happening on a daily basis and what shouldn't be," explains Sgt. Smudge Smith. "You're looking for people acting, obviously, acting suspiciously, people that don't belong in the area."

Sgt. Smudge Smith notes that the peacekeepers have been successful because the people of Kabul, tired of war, want law and order and a chance to rebuild their lives.

"And now you know, it's quite a normal thing to see us patrolling all the time," he says. "But judging by the people's reaction, they are happy to have us here. I think they realize that it's for the better actually having us here. We're not going to be here forever. It's just a little stage they've got to go through 'till they can get on their own feet again."