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German town cast as Afghanistan in army training

world Updated: Aug 28, 2009 12:30 IST

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The Afghan village elder's home is actually a German town hall, the mosque is a ramshackle farmhouse and the devout woman in the all-covering burka is really a German soldier.

Welcome to Lengefeld, a remote mountain town in ex-communist East Germany that has been transformed into a training ground for soldiers who will join the around 4,000-strong German force in increasingly violent northern Afghanistan.

And for the first time, German locals have been enlisted to play a part in training lessons on reconnaissance, security and winning hearts and minds.

The United States and Britain have gone as far as to build entire training villages complete with real Afghans to help their troops get acclimatised. But the German programme is unique for using local civilians as stand-ins.

A Dingo II armoured vehicle rumbles into Lengefeld followed by a convoy of army jeeps carrying a MOLT (Mobile Observation and Liaison Team) of two dozen troops.

The Dingo is emblazoned with warnings in Dari and German for other vehicles to keep their distance. They barrel past the Morning Star Bakery, the kebab shop, the Lutheran church and pensioners taking their daily stroll through the town of about 5,000 people.