• U.S.

Putting Arms In The Afghan Army

2 minute read
Michael Ware

Almost daily, sniper bullets and small bands of fighters threaten American soldiers hunting al-Qaeda and Taliban members left behind in Afghanistan. But a more benign task entrusted to U.S. special forces stationed in Kabul–training the fledgling Afghan national army–is also proving dangerous. Funds for the endeavor are scarce, and weapons and ammunition are “not the quality you’d want at Fort Benning,” says Lieut. Colonel Kevin McDonnell, who is responsible for the training. The Green Berets have resorted to tossing rocks to teach grenade handling and scrounging al-Qaeda and Taliban leftovers. Sometimes the troops launch risky operations in recalcitrant villages, engaging in fire fights to capture dusty caches of arms. “It’s not a stretch to say they’re putting their bodies on the line,” says McDonnell. “It’s simply the price of doing business in Afghanistan.” From each hard-won haul, only a few items are usable. Soldiers have to sift through the duds, carefully X-raying weapons like mortars to identify ones worth salvaging. Funding from the U.S. Office of Military Cooperation is coming in waves: $6 million has already been spent, but a further $70 million has yet to be approved. The timeline is short, McDonnell says, but the Green Berets “were sent here to do this because they don’t fold their arms and say it’s too hard.” Eventually, he says, “we will get the grenades.” For now, rock throwing will be a way of “imparting principles.”

–By Michael Ware

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