2 years, 10 months ago
They even sound a bit mad.
They say their M16s are dust-prone antiques. Their boots fall apart after a couple of months, they complain, and many of their helmets are cracked and patched. Yet they set out on patrol.
They are the men of the Afghan National Army, the critical part of the huge machine being built to protect Afghanistan’s security after the NATO alliance is gone in less than three years.
With Afghanistan topping the agenda at a gathering of NATO leaders in Chicago on Sunday and Monday, an Associated Press reporter and photographer traveling with Afghan army forces in Logar and Paktia provinces are hearing a mix of messages from dozens of officers and enlisted men.
The foreign forces are leaving too soon, the men say. Why then are attacks by Afghan soldiers on NATO forces increasing, killing 35 last year and 22 so far this year? Because the Afghans feel disrespected, the soldiers say. Handing out inferior equipment is disrespectful; burning Qurans, however accidental, is disrespectful; urinating on dead bodies, even Taliban, as video that emerged in January showed U.S. troops doing, is disrespectful.
Washington spent more than $20 billion in 2010-2011 on training and equipping a 352,000 strong army and police force — one of the costliest projects ever undertaken by the Pentagon.
Yet the foot soldiers don’t have night-vision goggles to go after the Taliban under cover of darkness.
At the rock-strewn firing range of the 203 Thunder Corps in Paktia province, Sgt. Said Aga recalled his M16 jamming in the middle of a fierce firefight with the Taliban, and grimaced as his young charges aired their gripes about the Vietnam-era firearm.
“The Americans have really much better equipment than us,” he said. “Our vehicles and weapons are very weak compared to theirs.”
A soldier named Abdul Karim said he’d prefer a 30-year-old Russian-made Kalashnikov to an M16. The Americans “are giving us old weapons and try to make them look new with polish and paint. We don’t want their throwaways,” he said.
In Kabul, Lt. Col. Timothy M. Stauffer, U. S. Army Director, Public Affairs, rejected the complaints about aging weapons, saying the Afghans get basically the same firearms that U.S. soldiers have. “I am not sure their complaints are valid,” he said. “The equipment they are asking for and are being issued is sufficient to meet the current threat.”
Most American troops in Afghanistan carry the M4, a shorter version of the M16. Both models have been criticized by some in the military for jamming in harsh conditions and requiring greater maintenance. The Kalashnikov is known as an easier-upkeep, all-conditions weapon, fueling its popularity in the developing world.
Meh. My rifle, a Rock River Arms Elite CAR A4, has had thousands of rounds put through it without any failure to feed or failure to eject. It is in a competition with my Springfield Armory XDm .45, which, above all of my other handguns, could sustain a beating with a sledge hammer and still keep functioning. My rifle (think M4) is one of the most well-functioning, precise machines I have ever owned.
It takes a little bit of effort, and instead of smoking hash and laying around while the coalition troops do the work, they might actually have to maintain the weapons. Their precision makes them needful of attention. My son, who operated an M249 SAW in Fallujah, Iraq, would take along a paintbrush with him on patrol, and during breaks he would clean the [open] bolt and other accessible components of the weapon, while he also removed and reseated each, individual round in the belts (sometimes the motion of running or walking jiggled the rounds loose in the belts). At least partially as a result of his efforts, his SAW never malfunctioned in Iraq – not even once (perhaps prayers of his father also had something to do with it).
Just give them AKs and don’t pretend that precision or accuracy matters. The problems are much larger than what kind of weapon they tote. This scene below depicts some of them, and we have covered it and many other examples in Afghan National Army.
So as you see, discussions like the one we had above aren’t really relevant, are they?