Soviet Use Of M16 During Afghanistan War


Over the weekend one of the boys on the Colt AR15 Resource FB page shares some pictures of Soviet military personnel using M16 and M16A1s during the war in Afghanistan. Captions made best guesses on units. Mainly paratrooper and special forces troopers. The guns seen using M60 machine straps as slings oddly enough.

that’s right Kommrade, the M16 is better than the AK

I don’t really know any context about these. There could be many reasons for seeing Russians using them during the war. Interesting none the less.


  1. It would be enlightening to know what the serial numbers were on those rifles. The 20-round magazines during that era make me suspect that the majority of them were probably from stocks gifted to the ARVN, along with the ammo.

    Why they’d be in Afghanistan? False flag operations. With American weapons on display there, they could make credible claims for US involvement in “stirring up trouble”, which may or may not have been true. I don’t think the US was ever engaged in any serious way in Afghanistan until the Soviet invasion. There was desultory foreign aid, our ambassador was killed (Adolph Dubs, Valentine’s Day, 1979) during a hostage situation ably “managed” by the KGB. It was always questionable just what the hell was going on there, and it wasn’t ever anything other than a backwater–Until the Soviets invaded.

    If I had to guess, those serial numbers would trace back to Vietnam, and that G3 is probably a Pakistani-made version. Still, it would be interesting to know, for sure.

    • Kirk—Our foreign aid was anything but desultory in the pre-Soviet invasion period. Like with many non-aligned countries, the US and the USSR warred for influence through aid and infrastructure projects. If memory serves, the US did a lot of work to dam the Helmand river and electrify the Helmand Valley. The Soviets built roads. Really nice roads that could handle lots of heavy trucks. And a really nice bridge over the Amu Darya river from Termez, Uzbek SSR to Hairatan Afghanistan. They named it the “Friendship Bridge”, and you know what they used the bridge and the roads for a few years later.

      My grandfather considered joining the Peace Corps and going to Afghanistan in the late 1970s as kind of a retirement/service thing. It turns out that even in foreign countries, the past is a foreign country.

      • John, I wasn’t referring to the naive “international development” stuff, but the military aid end of it all. I don’t think that there was ever even a military aid package put in place by the US at any point–It was all economic and agricultural development.

        We put in less than a hundred million dollars of aid, mostly in the form of loans. The Soviets pumped in a billion-plus, and that was a large reason they freaked when the locals started going all fundamentalist on them. The fear was that the contagion would spread from Iran, into Afghanistan, and from there into the Soviet Central Asian republics.

        Thus, those M16A1 rifles and 20-roung magazines almost had to have come in with the Soviets, not from any US aid.

        • Yes, heh, we were talking past each other.

          I know a lot more about development aid to Afghanistan than military aid, but I’m not aware of much military aid. And as I explained, for the Soviets, development aid *was* military aid. Well, “aid.”

          But I’m inclined to agree. The Soviets probably sourced those M-16s from Vietnam. I wonder if those were special forces trying out US weapon systems in combat to learn strengths/weaknesses. Alternatively, I wonder if they were having some of the issues we were having there 30 years later: If dudes were taking pot-shots at me from 500 yards with .303 Enfields, I’d rather have an M-16 than an AK.

          I’m reading a book right now by a Green Beret in Vietnam, and they were rocking some Soviet equipment because it was superior to the US equivalent equipment, and the Soviet special forces might’ve done the same in Afg. Interesting stuff, anyway.

        • And who are you calling naive? Knowing my grandfather, he probably could’ve prevented the Soviet invasion singlehandedly if they’d gotten him there in time. Ha!

          • When I say “naive”, I’m talking about all the folks who thought that the Arabs and other Muslims were gonna adapt to the modern world ohsoeasily ‘cos they were wearing Western clothes, and picking up Western culture. You look at all those “Oh, look what Kabul looked like in the 1960s…”, and all you can say is “Yeah, well look at who was up in the mountains and out in the country, and quietly seething…”.

            We thought we were doing so well, what with the pretty clothes and the record players. Then, the counter-reaction took hold, and all those weird Imams and Mullahs came out of the woodwork like so many aliens in a bad sci-fi movie, and all that thin veneer of “modern” evaporated.

            I’m of the opinion that a significant chunk of the issues we’ve had with Islam over the last fifty years have been caused directly by our hubris and cultural chauvinism. Yeah, there’s a big piece that’s their fault, too, but the way we have gone about dealing with them has been really foolish. It’s like Afghanistan–That used to be a destination for all our hippies and counter-culture freaks, and what do you suppose the locals took from seeing those people up close and personal? Do you think they had the takeaway that we’d be hard to fight? That they shouldn’t pick a fight with us?

            I think the seeds for what we’re dealing with today were sown back in the days when Islam seemed a quaint irrelevancy, and that the reason it shifted from that to what it is today was in no small part due to things like us allowing the dregs of our society to go slumming in their countries. If nothing else, that certainly enabled the growth of a certain amount of sheer disgust at their antics.

          • “Oh east is east and west is west and ne’er the twain shall meet” said a very Western man who was born and raised in the east.

            I don’t know how much the hippy trail kids mattered to the Afghans’ calculus of the US invasion. By the time we invaded in 2001, it had been solidly two decades since a hippy had set Birkenstock in Afghanistan, and there had been a LOT of water under the bridge. Every single Afghan I have ever met had at least one tale of woe that would rip your heart out. None that I ever heard featured a hippy, though Talibs and Russians featured prominently.

            Certainly we were not sending our best, but Afghans are mountain people fighting invaders from far away: All they needed to do was to survive and that’s what they’ve done. Even if we’d sent our SEAL and snake-eater teams to Afghanistan on vacation in the 60s and 70s, I don’t think our Afghan war would’ve turned out any differently.

            As for Western culture? Yeah, even lots of folks here think it’s garbage, and more so in the Islamic world. Using Women’s Lib as the barometer of progress in lands near and far is peak Northern Conservative.

          • Kirk — it was all the oil money that reinvigorated Islam. Full stop. Without that $, there would have been little change from the status quo of the first half of the 20th century.

            John M — check out Hammerhead Six. A book about a Green Beret A Camp in the Pech Valley. There was a better way. But history cannot be rewound.

  2. Your first 5 pics appear to be likely to be the same dudes and equal 2 rifles. The final is someone knew. Could’ve just been similar to the US’s foreign weapons familiarization…


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