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Women are being trained to serve at the sharp end of Afghanistan's frontline

  • Additional filming by Iqbal Sapand and Abdul Ali.

The National Police Academy in Kabul is used to producing the men who will form Afghanistan's thin blue line.

The recruits undergoing training are in many respects a key part of Nato's exit strategy. As British soldiers stand down, these policemen will have to step up and help fill the security void.

But one thing is radically different about this new look Afghan police force, because for the first time women are playing a central role.

The Afghan government has made it a priority to recruit more women. Credit: ITV News

They form only 1% of the force, short of the 5% target President Hamid Karzai set, but the government has made it a priority to recruit more.

This is a lot more than a simple PR exercise to show how women are being given a more prominent role in Afghan society.

Afghan policewomen are being trained to serve at the sharp end of the frontline - from anti-narcotics operations to searching for Taliban fighters and weapons.

Tamana, one new recruit, told ITV News: "My husband served in the intelligence service and he was killed in action. I have come to serve my country in his place."

Many say they have joined for duty - others because they needed the job - whatever the reason, the bottom line is they're desperately needed.

That's because in some of the most recent attacks in the heart of the Kabul, including the attack last week on the national electoral commission - overseeing the presidential poll at the weekend, Taliban fighters have disguised themselves as women by wearing burqas.

They use this tactic because with a lack of policewomen, they know male police officers in a conservative Muslim country won't search women.

Major General Abdul Raziq, police chief of Kandahar told ITV News:

We need female police in searches in the city and on many other jobs. They can help us win people's hearts.

When we want to search a suspect, they go along with the male officers to search women. Men would not be able to search women, that's why we need them.

Detective Nugis wears a burqa as she carries out inspections at a roadblock in Kandahar. Credit: ITV News

Detective Nugis prepares for a day on the beat in Kandahar, which means having to wear a burqa.

She's part of a team carrying out inspections at a roadblock.

Kandahar is where the Taliban movement was born and they have tried their best to target women police officers.

Malalai Kakar, Kandahar's first senior female police officer, was assassinated in 2008. Credit: ITV News

Nugis has more reason than most to be fearful - she served with and was a close friend of Malalai Kakar, the city's first senior female police officer, who was assassinated in 2008.

"Of course policewomen are scared. They go to insecure areas ... when they come out of their homes they worry about being confronted by somebody. They're scared of being shot," she said.

Nugis is also worried about the future once the Nato troops leave.

"The situation will deteriorate when the foreigners are not here. The situation will get worse," she told ITV News.

Given that under the Taliban, women played no role in public life and education for girls was ended - Afghanistan's women have more reason than most to ensure that a deterioration in security does not end up with a return to the past.