Courage in Afghanistan despite ever present danger

There's plenty the British troops could complain about from their bases here in Helmand.

They're a long way from home, for six months at a time, doing a dangerous job in the most challenging conditions. But they rarely moan, not in my experience at least. They get out there and get on with it.

The past week, though, has been difficult. The deaths of six of their comrades cast a shadow over all the British bases.

They need no reminder of the danger they face but the fatalities the 3rd Batalllion The Yorkshire Regiment sustained, just a few miles from here, really sent it home. In every sense.

Many squadies will tell you that they can handle their own concerns, privately or by talking together. But the worries of loved ones are more difficult to deal with. Trying to convince a mum or a wife or a child back in Britain that everything will be all right.

That job gets a lot harder at times like this.

Martin Geissler with British troops in Helmand Credit: ITV News

The battle group I'm with, 5 Rifles, have lost two of their number on this tour.

Their Commanding Officer, Lt Col Tom Copinger-Symes, explained the impact to me:

It doesn't matter how much preparation you have, when you lose somebody it's a kick. A really hard kick, it hurts. But equally, we are trained to cope with this. We have a whole system built around being able to cope with these blows. We bounce back and sometimes we bounce back even stronger, even more cohesive and even more focused on our job. It's an irony that's really hard to explain but all I can tell you is that it works."

But now there's an extra threat, forced upon them by a fellow NATO soldier.

An American serviceman who went rogue and on the rampage. The Taliban have promised reprisals and the troops here are taking the threat as seriously as you'd expect.

British troops are away from home for up to six months at a time Credit: ITV News

A few weeks ago, when copies of the Koran were burned on another US base in Kandahar, the situation became equally tense.

Protest outside the US military base in Bagram Credit: Reuters

Geographically and operationally there's a difference between American and British troops, but the truth is that many people here just don't understand. They see all foreign boots on their soil as forces from NATO.

The trust of the Afghans has been hard to win and incidents like this do untold damage the hard work that has cost so many lives already.

We may never know what was in the mind of the Killer in Kandahar last weekend. But maybe one day the full impact of his actions will dawn on him.

Not only has he claimed 16 innocent lives, slaughtered women and children in cold blood, he's put thousands of his fellow troops in potential danger too.

Ask the British squaddies here what they think and they answer with a shake of the head and a shrug. What else can they say?

Then, once again, they get up, get out there and get on with it.

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