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Violence escalates in Kandahar -

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The southern Afghan city of Kandahar is the symbolic birthplace of the Taliban, one of the most
dangerous parts of the country and civilian casualties are rising as more Coalition forces arrive
as part of the military surge.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Now to the war in Afghanistan where civilian casualties are rising as more
coalition forces arrive as part of the military surge.

Officials say more than 170 civilians died in April - a 30 per cent increase over the same period
last year. But the United Nations says that the Taliban is responsible for most of the deaths.

Coalition forces have started a historic push into the volatile southern city of Kandahar.

It's the symbolic birthplace of the Taliban and one of the most dangerous parts of the country.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara has been embedded with the US Army's 97th Military Police
Battalion, the only US troops to patrol the streets of Kandahar City.

SALLY SARA, REPORTER: This is where the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost. The southern city
of Kandahar is the heartland of the insurgency. The people here have endured more than their share
of violence and uncertainty.

TOORYALAI WESA, GOVERNOR OF KANDAHAR: It's enough. Everybody's hurt enough on both sides.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON, 97TH MILITARY POLICE BATTALION, US ARMY: Hey {inaudible} just take the
soldiers and spread 'em out near the sides and ...

SALLY SARA: US troops and Afghan police prepare to patrol the outskirts of Kandahar. They're trying
to stop the insurgents smuggling weapons and fighters through this valley.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: So, 'cause they say they use a couple of routes into, to get to
Kandahar City for the Taliban and one of them is right through where we're going to go today.

SALLY SARA: Lieutenant Danielle Johnson has only been in the army for two years. She's one of the
few female officers commanding US troops out on patrol in Kandahar. Even as we talk, she's scanning
the streets for explosives and potential suicide bombers.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: Because I know if they put anything around this area that they would
call the AMP (American Military Police). Stop! Stop!

SALLY SARA: The Afghan and US troops don't take any chances. The biggest danger they face are
suicide attackers and hidden bombs known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

Bicycles and even donkeys have been used to carry the bombs.

KANDAHAR RESIDENT: {speaking in Afghan]

SALLY SARA: This man is happy to see the troops in the area, but says the Taliban still come here
at night and terrorise the people.

The Governor of Kandahar wants an end to the violence and intimidation. He survived an
assassination attempt by insurgents in October last year. He says both sides have spilled enough
blood and the time has come for negotiations.

TOORYALAI WESA: And the government side and the insurgency side. So, my message to them would be to
come and join the government and accept the constitution of Afghanistan.

SALLY SARA: The Coalition pushing Kandahar won't just mean more soldiers on the streets. It's all
about reconnecting the local people with the government and shutting out the Taliban.

TOORYALAI WESA: I mean it's not like bombing or explosions or tanks or artilleries, it's mostly,
like, extending the local governance from the provincial level to the district level.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: Does he have any traffic coming over his radio?

SALLY SARA: But many districts are still not safe. Every night Coalition and Afghan troops hunt the
Taliban.

So, the patrol have just had a radio message that some of the Afghan security forces may have come
under fire at their position, which is about a kilometre away from where the Americans and the
Afghans are at the moment. So they're just trying to determine exactly what's going on.

RADIO OPERATOR: {inaudible} ... not even half a click off of your location.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: Do they have any ANPs (Afghan National Police) out there right now?

SALLY SARA: The patrol is given the all clear and slips through the darkness back to its base.

US commanders are expecting more Taliban attacks as the Coalition build-up escalates.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL DAVID CHASE, 97TH MILITARY POLICE BATTALION, US ARMY: I think there is a an
anticipation by the enemy that there is something that's going to go on here and they're kind of
focussed on that. I think they see Kandahar as an area that they wanna, you know, exert influence
over.

SALLY SARA: The long term goal is to train up the Afghan police and army to fill the vacuum when
Coalition troops leave, but the locals are still inexperienced.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL DAVID CHASE: To say that they're ready by the end of this year to take over, I
think they'll still need Coalition help by the end of, you know, 2010 to do that. But I think
they'll be further along their way obviously than they are now.

SALLY SARA: It's a slow process. Just as US troops prepare to go on patrol, one of the Afghan
police officers accidentally fires his weapon, leaving a bullet hole in the ground.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: There's your bullet hole, {inaudible}.

SALLY SARA: But the biggest threat is from the Taliban.

LIEUTENANT RHAMAT ULLAH, AFGHAN NATIONAL POLICE (TRANSLATION): Taliban treat us very badly. 15 days
ago I received a letter at my door telling me to stop working for the government or they will kill
me. But I want to serve my country.

SALLY SARA: Lieutenant Johnson knows how dangerous it is to take on the Taliban in Kandahar. One of
her comrades, another young female Lieutenant, lost her leg in February when insurgents detonated a
motorbike packed with explosives as she walked past.

Lieutenant Johnson and her troops rushed to the scene only minutes after the blast.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: You still have to do your job. The important thing was getting her out
there and making sure we had security, so nothing else happened that night. So, you can't really
think about it then.

SALLY SARA: Does it hit you later on?

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: Yes.

SALLY SARA: Lieutenant Johnson still has three more months of her deployment to go. Her mother and
grandmother are anxiously waiting for her return back home to Louisiana.

LIEUTENANT DANIELLE JOHNSON: They tend to worry a lot, but sending them pictures and that type of
stuff eases it a little bit. Doesn't make it much easier, but it eases it a little bit.

SALLY SARA: The next few months will determine whether foreign and Afghan forces can take control
of the volatile home of the Taliban.

Lieutenant Johnson still has three months of deployment to go. Her mother and grandmother are
anxiously waiting for her return back home to Louisiana.

They tend to worry a lot, but sending them pictures and that type of stuff eases it a little bit.
Doesn't make it much easier, but it eases it a little bit.

The next few months will determine whether foreign and Afghan forces can take control of the
volatile home of the Taliban.