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Monday, August 3, 2009

What is the Real Story?

Yesterday The Washington Post had a story on the rebuilding of the Afghan Army.  The Article, by Ms Pamela Constable, is "'You Have to Learn This Now'  To Battle Taliban, Afghan Army Steps Up Recruiting, Training."

It included these three paragraph:
One recent source of friction has been the decision by the U.S. government, which funds most of the army's training and equipment, to replace Soviet-made Kalashnikov assault rifles, the standard Afghan weapon for the past 30 years, with American-made M-16s. Since February, Afghan troops have been required to train with the M-16.

U.S. officers here said the M-16 is lighter and more accurate, and is highly effective at long distances if properly cleaned and maintained. Afghan officers said they understand the advantages of the M-16, but many soldiers at the training camp grumbled that it is harder to keep clean and to aim, and is less durable.

"They tell us it is better than the AK, but it's just a piece of plastic that can break down after a few rounds," said Abdul, 24, a trainee from Helmand province, as his buddies nodded in agreement. "It is not good for conditions in Afghanistan. Do they really want us to stop in the middle of a fight to clean our weapons?"
It sure looks like another dumb move by the US military.  This move looks even worse because of the fact that this argument over the M-16 and the Soviet designed AK-47, the current weapon of the Afghan Army, has been going on since the Viet-nam war.

But, it is always good to look for the rest of the story.  Here is a comment from a knowledgeable, but anonymous source:
The decision to switch was made at the request of the Afghans.  Bottom line is that the Afghan leadership asked, indeed pressed aggressively to switch from the AK-47 and other former Soviet weapons to a NATO standard, including the M16, in order to pull the Afghan Army away from its past, more closely tie it to the West and move it to the future.  Interestingly this change is reintroducing the Afghans to their marksmanship past and the Taliban have in some cases been heard to be afraid of Afghan Soldiers with the "black" rifles . . . in part because they can shoot more accurately and at greater range than with the AK-47.  There are always naysayers to be found, but it was my experience in the field that the Afghan soldiers were very proud of and positive on their new weapons, including, now, the M249, M240B, and in small numbers—to be grown as available—the M2 .50 Cal.
So, who to believe?  I am going with the second quote.  One reason is that by having the Army equipped with the M-16, it sets it apart from the Taliban.  For another, I think the psychological factors are very important.  An Army isn't a bunch of people who have learned to shoot.  An Army is a cohesive, disciplined organization that follows orders.

You have just been promoted to Colonel, US Army  Congratulations and when is the party?  And, you have been posted as an advisor to the Afghan Army.  Good luck!

What would you say to the Afghans regarding their basic weapon?  What would be YOUR advice.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Anyone can play.  In today's US Army a woman might well find herself assigned to this role.


The New Englander said...


Nice point about ROE. I'm sure that some M-16s and M-4s will find their way into bad guy hands, but it's nice to know that, in general, if you're hearing concerted M-16 or M-4 fire, it's coming from people on your side. That's a big deal to the soldier on the ground, but not something that most wonks thousands of miles away might not appreciate or think about.

And of course just because you hear AKs doesn't mean the shots are in anger. I might have to fess up here to a time or two I *thought* a firefight was brewing outside but it was celebratory AK fire (still actually quite dangerous, kills many Iraqis each year).


Craig H said...

I'd check to see whatever the Swiss army was issuing, and I'd go with that.

C R Krieger said...

Kad has a creative streak, doesn't he.

Regards  —  Cliff