August 1, 2007  

The wrong weapon

TO THE PENTAGON for its decision to replace the Iraqi military’s AK47 assault rifle with the M16 and M4. The stated reason is that the switch came at the request of the Iraqis. But there’s a logic gap here. The M16 and M4 are more complex weapons that require additional training and maintenance. The AK, though a simpler weapon, is more reliable in conditions where training, care and maintenance might be less than ideal. Moreover, parts and ammunition for the ubiquitous AK are far more easily available. But it’s the AK’s ubiquity that may point to the Pentagon’s true reasoning for the switch. An M16 is far easier to spot if it gets in the wrong hands. With the Government Accountability Office’s recent report highlighting that the Pentagon has lost track of more than 100,000 US-supplied AKs meant for Iraqi security forces, the swap to a more traceable rifle might have seemed smart. But the fledgling Iraqi military lacks the discipline to effectively maintain these weapons.