Here’s a key factoid from the accompanying story:
When in 2008 the much loved and trusted AK-47 (the Kalashnikov had previously been the ANA’s standard issue weapon) began to be replaced by the American-made M-16 rifle, there were loud cries of complaint.
The M-16 may be a reliable gun in the hands of a well-supplied and well-trained US soldier, but in dusty and dry Afghanistan the weapon is a disaster. Its lubricant-hungry parts soak up the dirt causing the weapon to jam and stick persistently.
Coalition trainers say that with proper cleaning and maintenance the M-16 is reliable and effective – but most Afghan army veterans are quick to point out that they already had one of the world’s most reliable weapons. They add that ANA supply lines are poor and getting the necessary cleaning oil out to where it is needed on the battlefield often proves impossible.
In fact, many consider that the issue of the M-16 is actually just another sign of coalition mistrust. The AK-47 takes a 7.62mm round, whereas the M-16 uses the standard NATO 5.56mm bullet. Yet because the AK-47 is widely-used both by the Taliban and elsewhere in the region, the ammunition for it is readily available. M-16 rounds, of course, are that much harder to obtain. It means that if an ANA soldier deserts to the Taliban with his newly-issued M-16 in tow, he will struggle to find bullets for it. Spend any time with ANA troops and cynics among them will tell you that they are being forced to fight (sometimes with dangerous consequences) with a rifle that jams, purely because their allies want to stop it of being any use to the other side.
So the M-16 bullet is like an Apple cable. Jeebus, we’ve even got a rentier military. Why do I get the feeling this will end very badly?