KABUL (Reuters) – The U.S. military is to provide the Afghan army with armored vehicles and NATO standard weapons in an attempt to boost the capability of the fledgling force, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.
Violence has surged in Afghanistan despite some 64,000 foreign troops in the country battling a resurgent Taliban militants, and military experts believe that the Afghan army is the key to the nation’s long-term stability.
The Afghan army has now reached a strength of more than 62,000 and is to more than double to 134,000 in the coming years. The new vehicles and weapons will be a boost to an army that lacks guns, tanks and planes.
The army will receive more than 6,000 armored vehicles and some 75,000 NATO standard M-16 rifles over the coming year, the U.S. military unit responsible for training the Afghans said in a statement.
“The Afghan National Army will become a modernized army with Humvees and NATO weapons. This transformation will help usher their forces into the 21st Century,” Major Charles McPhail, chief of plans and requirements, said in the statement.
The M-16 rifle has been the primary weapon of the U.S. military for more than 30 years while the Afghan army uses the more sturdy, but less accurate Russian-designed AK-47.
“Our soldiers like these weapons,” said Afghan army Major Hasim Habiullah. “Some of them have already qualified with the M-16 rifle.”
Nearly 600 Humvees and more than 6,000 M-16 rifles have already been provided and training on the new weapons and vehicles has also been started.