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Friday, August 12, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. M-16 to be standard for Iraqi commandos

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military's elite force is training on the U.S.-origin M-16 assault rifle.


Officials said Iraqi commando units were using U.S. light weapons in training courses. They said the Iraq Army's 15th Brigade's Commando Company was using the M-16 for basic marksmanship skills and other operations.

"We are not experts with the M-16 yet," Iraq Army Pvt. Amar Abdul Hussein, a member of the company, said. "For some of us it is the first time we have trained with our personal weapons."

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U.S. military instructors have been working with the Iraq Army's 15th Brigade since June 2010. The instructors said the commandos quickly absorbed rudiments of the M-16.

"This was one of the most disciplined groups of Iraqi soldiers I have worked with so far," U.S. instructor Cpl. Brandon Lamb said.

For several years, the U.S. military has sought to make the M-16 the standard assault rifle in the Iraq Army. But the U.S. effort ended in 2009 as the Army decided to remain with the Russian-origin AK-47 Kalashnikov.

Instead, the M-16 was supplied to Iraqi special forces units, including the commandos. Officials said the U.S. military provided several thousand M-16s to the Iraq Army.

"They seem to have grasped a pretty good working knowledge of what we have been teaching them," Lamb, who took the Iraqis through the four marksmanship fundamentals of the M-16, said. "Now it's up to them to take this knowledge and run with it."

Officials said the U.S. instructors would end M-16 training later in 2011. They said the governments in Baghdad and Washington were discussing an extension of the U.S. military program.

"I am excited that Iraq is beginning to stand alone," Brig. Gen. Abdullah Amir, commander of 15th Brigade, said. "I look forward to the day when Iraq is strong on its own and our two countries move forward as partners."

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