Instead of equipping Afghan soldiers with AK-47 rifles, which Afghans are well versed in firing, the U.S. military gave them M-16s, which are far more complicated to maintain and tend to jam when not cleaned properly. The decision was the result of pressure from former defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who argued to Pentagon officials and members of Congress that American weapons would make his army appear more professional, despite concerns from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan that the soldiers would be unable to care for the guns.
Numerous senior U.S. military officials contend that the army’s development has been hindered by Wardak’s insistence on making his force appear as American as possible — a goal that found ready support from U.S. commanders — and designing it to repel a foreign invasion, not wage a domestic counterinsurgency fight. He urged the Pentagon to give Afghanistan F-16 fighter jets and M1 Abrams battle tanks.
Although those requests were rejected, he succeeded in beating back other U.S. efforts to reshape the security services for counterinsurgency operations, including proposals to make the police larger than the army. He also sought to deploy the army into many remote areas, creating enormous logistics burdens. Because his commanders lack the ability to provide supplies and air support to those forces, U.S. and NATO troops have been forced to fill the gaps and probably will have to keep doing so for years.
Wardak, who was removed by the country’s parliament this summer, told Americans that his approach to weaponry and battlefield tactics was aimed as building a close relationship with the U.S. military. “He figured this would be the best way to get us to keep supporting them for years and years,” said a senior U.S. military official who has had numerous conversations with Wardak.
The U.S. and NATO training command in Kabul did not cut corners to reach the 352,000 goal, but several veteran U.S. officers and civilian experts involved in the force development effort contend that the rapid expansion foreclosed approaches used by the military to more successfully build armies in other parts of the world.