On the At War blog, C.J. Chivers, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, inventories a Taliban gun locker. Taking stock of what kinds of weapons insurgents use, he writes, "can yield information about how insurgents equip themselves and fight, and how the Taliban has been able to maintain itself as a viable force for more than 15 years."
In Marja, he looks at 26 firearms and an RPG launcher.
"Of these weapons, 12 were variants of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, 8 were bolt-action rifles from World War II or earlier, 4 were variants of the PK machine gun, and 2 were small semiautomatic pistols," Chivers notes. "This was in some ways a typical mix for Afghanistan, although the ratio of bolt-action rifles was higher than what many units outside of Helmand Province have seen."
Chivers examines each weapon carefully. One bolt-action rifle had a date stamp from 1915.
This rifle was made while Kitchener’s New Army was being drilled and sent to the Western Front. It was 95 years old when it changed hands once again, and ended up in the custody of the Marines.
What does he conclude?
All of these facts and factors might seem arcane. They are not.
Together the technical qualities of these rifles and the thinking behind them, along with the quality of their manufacture and the relative simplicity of their ammunition resupply, have helped a largely illiterate insurgent movement not just to exert its will on its own country, but also to stand up to the most sophisticated military in the world.