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The Myth of Afghan Marksmanship

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Our good friend and frequent Kit Up commenter Jeff the Baptist provided the perfect segue into my next post with his note on today's earlier entry about the Afghan commando Kandak's kit.

He noted that the Afghan commandos have M4s because they can appreciate marksmanship, having been practically born and bread with an AK in their hand. He also noted that the Iraqis, on the other hand, have little appreciation for marksmanship and often fought to keep their AKs. More on that in a second.

I'd like to direct you all's attention to the remarkable series of posts done by Kit Up friend CJ Chivers over at the New York Times. He and photographer Tyler Hicks have been doing some kick ass coverage of the Afghan fight four the last couple years and were right in the bang bang during recent operations in Marjah. Chivers is a former Marine and understands marksmanship as well as anyone and he and Tyler compiled information from chats with company commanders, NCOs and experiences on the battlefield on the effectiveness of Taliban marksmanship.

Their conclusion: the myth that Afghan fighters are born marksman is bunk. They're terrible shots and the results prove it.

Chivers admits the Taliban are courageous, crafty and tactically sound. But they can barely hit the broad side of a barn. A lot has to due with a lack of an education and consistent practice in the fundamentals of marksmanship and there's also an equipment element to the problem. Their rifles are in horrible shape and their mags full of mixed ammo causes wide variations on the target.

Unfortunately, as Chivers follows up in his most recent post, the problems aren't limited to the Taliban, but are cropping up in the Afghan army and police as well -- which begs the question of whether all our training money is being well spent.

To The Baptist's point on the Iraqis and AKs. I saw it for myself back in '08 when I was with an Iraqi SWAT team and their American police trainer counterparts working on basic marksmanship with Tikriti police recruits. They barely knew which end of the rifle went toward the target. The myth spun by a media enthralled with the "insurgency" in Iraq that citizens were born with AKs in their hands might have been true, but that didn't seem to mean they knew how to use them.

Be sure to pay close attention to Chris's (CJ) blog entries over the coming weeks. He promises a look at the sniper situation in Marjah which we hear has galvanized the Corps' search for a 7.62mm resistant helmet at MICH weights.

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