Home after Years S in the War Zone; IT'S the 10th Anniversary Today of the Invasion of Afghanistan by the Armed Forces of the US, the UK and the Afghan United Front (Northern Alliance) as Part of Operation Enduring Freedom. since Then the Familiar Images of the Country Are a Grim, Desolate Killing Field. However Geordie Aid Worker Andrew Kidd, Who Has Spent Three Years There, Has a Different Story to Tell. MIKE KELLY Reports

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Byline: MIKE KELLY

FOR a man who has spent three years in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Andrew Kidd seems surprisingly disappointed about having to leave it.

While the Newcastle-born aid worker is of course delighted now to be spending more time with his family, you sense he felt he was part of something important which in some way he would have liked to see through.

That's why he spent three years in Afghanistan with the Department For International Development (DFID) as part of the British Government's humanitarian effort there, while the usual time period for his peers is between one and two years.

Andrew, 50, said: "I have mixed emotions about leaving. Going back to the family was a big part of it. But I've made a lot of friends in Afghanistan and the work I've seen get underway was starting to deliver the goods."

It was in Helmand Province Andrew was based from October 2008 to August this year.

"Lawless" is the word most closely associated with it as it is a Taliban stronghold and the focal point of much of the fighting.

While the security forces have brought a measure of stability to the province, stability is a relative word in this part of the world.

However because of their efforts, the work of DFID and aid workers from the international community have achieved notable success. In 2001, under the Taliban, less than one million children attended school - almost none of them girls. Today, over five million children attend school, and more than a third are girls.

Women now make up one in four of Afghanistan's teachers. Around 85% of the population now have a healthcare facility in their area, compared with under 10% in 2002.

In all 74 schools have reopened across Helmand since December 2008 taking the total to 133 from a low point of 47 in December 2007.

Pupil enrolment is rising in there. Figures taken in April 2011 show that 93,173 pupils are attending school, an increase of 76% since 2007. Of these 21,431 are female students, an increase of 50pc since 2007. In 2001 there were no girls enrolled in schools.

Andrew said: "The transformation of the Helmand Province has been quite amazing.

"I took a trip there a week before leaving to show my successor around.

"We went to Lashkar Gah (the capital of Helmand During I was British men and were many Province). It's been handed over to Afghan security forces.

wanted something "I remember just two or three years ago, heaps of household waste piled everywhere, an environmental nightmare. Local people got together and said we're going to change this and made a water park. You could see the smiles on the kids' faces."

Developing the Afghan National Security Forces has been a key part of the counter-insurgency strategy both to provide security and governance in Afghanistan and they are currently ahead of schedule for meeting the target of 171,000 Afghan Army and 134,000 Afghan Police.

Andrew added: "When I went there were 14 districts and five district governors. By the time I left there were 12 governors out of 14, working with the armed forces. We've seen the number of deaths of British troops drop dramatically.

"There was a period in 2009 when there seemed to be a body bag coming home every day. There is still a threat but that's changing."

the time 200 service women and He added: "One thing I was really were I to give pleased about was the way the Afghan government was raising tax revenue ... about $1bn.

back" "It's got to learn to look after itself and pay for its armed forces, health, and education."

Where previously there were ghost towns, markets have opened up, things are moving forward, he says. …

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