At least it isn't the SA-80....
For a country with a fighting history such as Afghanistan, where invading forces have so often been humbled, there could be no greater indignity than to be told to hand over your guns and fight with the weapon of the infidel.
Yet the new recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA) are being asked to swap their beloved Kalashnikov AK47, probably the most famous weapon in the world, for the American M16.
The reason for this dramatic change in the fighting culture of the average Afghan soldier is not to boost the coffers of the American manufacturer of the M16 —- although it undoubtedly will.
Rather, it is designed to improve the efficiency of the ANA and teach its soldiers how to preserve ammunition to ensure that, when a battle is fought, the enemy is defeated before the bullets run out.
Traditionally, the Afghan will fire his Kalashnikov from the hip as he advances, spraying the enemy in all directions on automatic mode until every bullet has been expended.
But that is not the way of the British or American soldier who uses his ammunition stocks with greater husbandry and fires to kill, rather than to deluge the enemy with a wall of bullets.
The M16 is fired automatically but in triple bursts, not a constant stream, and never from the hip but with aimed shots from the shoulder. It is against the very nature of warfare as practised by an Afghan soldier, but at Camp Tombstone the first attempts are being made to consign the AK47 to history.....
The reaction of the soldiers of the ANA's No 3 Kandak (battalion) of the Afghan 4th Brigade, normally based in the southern province of Uruzgan and now spearheading the switch to the M16, said it all.
“This is made of plastic, it will break,” one cried. They held up the M16 in ridicule.
“The Kalashnikov is cleaned just by covering it in diesel. It comes out looking spotless,” Major Robert Armstrong, the Royal Irish Regiment officer responsible for training the Afghan soldiers, said.
“But we tell them that the M16 is lighter and more accurate than the AK47 and I think they'll come round. There's no question, though, that the AK47 is a good rifle. You can bury it in the sand for 100 years, dig it out and it'll fire first time.”
Sergeant Rab McEwan, of the 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, had the task of introducing the Afghan soldiers to the M16. “I'm happy with the way it has gone so far but for the Afghans, the Kalashnikov is a cultural thing —- they'll take time to get used to the M16,” he said.
Colonel Neshat had one reservation. “I'm concerned whether there will be enough ammunition with the M16. My soldiers are used to firing hundreds of bullets.”
The British military instructors nodded and smiled.