[EDITOR'S NOTE: The picture above does not show the actual weapons examined by Chivers and Hicks]
Our good friend CJ Chivers, the New York Times' star war correspondent, is in Afghanistan and had another entry in his At War blog on the Taliban gun locker.
Chivers and photog Tyler Hicks have spent some time with the same unit Ward and I were with in May -- Task Force Iron of the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne. Reading the At War blog, TF Iron commander Lt. Col. David Fivecoat set aside some weapons for Chivers to check out on his embed.
Between Nov. 27, 2010, and Jan. 20, 2011, the battalion captured 43 rifles, two PK machine guns, two RPK squad machine guns, 6 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a shotgun, three pistols and an 82-millimeter mortar system. Of the rifles, 37 were Kalashnikov assault rifles of mixed vintage and varied provenance, five were Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles and one was an SKS. This was a familiar mix for the current Afghan war. Most of the equipment was superficially in disrepair, but otherwise functional, although one of the Lee-Enfield rifles had a loose, freely moving stock and was in no condition for accurate shooting.One of the Lee-Enfields was supposedly manufactured in 1881, but Chivers found that that rifle was a Pakistani knockoff manufactured years after.
Most disturbing, Chivers unloaded an AK magazine taken off a dead Talib and noticed that the cartridges were American-purchased rounds supplied to the Afghan police.
By comparison, the contents of 15 recently captured Taliban Kalashnikov magazines, inventoried by the At War blog, revealed that the Taliban’s magazines were full with ammunition identical to that carried by the Afghan police. The Taliban and the Afghan police carry the same types and calibers of weapons. And with police ammunition evidently leaking to the insurgency, ammunition for AK rifles, PK machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades would seem in abundant supply, helping to limit the use of the Lee-Enfield line.Chivers noticed that in the area where Iron is patrolling, snipers are much less prevalent than in Helmand, where he spent a lot of time chronicling enemy sharpshooter tactics and performance. His hypothesis is that the AK is easier to conceal under a salwar kameez than an Enfield, and with US REO allowing troops to shoot at armed Afghans, it's best for the enemy to keep his weapon under wraps until the last moment.