WASHINGTON — Appearing before a House hearing on South Asia strategy for Afghanistan in early October, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that Afghan forces had been supplied with U.S. Stryker vehicles and that they were having an impact on the battlefield.
“But here is what I want to tell you — is the glimmers of hope. You know we bought the Stryker vehicles — those are being employed right now, and they have actually provided a competitive advantage to the Afghan forces over their counterparts,” Dunford said responding to a question about the U.S. weapons program for Afghan forces.
But there’s a major problem with that statement — Afghans don’t have Stryker vehicles, according to U.S. officials at the Pentagon.
Dunford may have been confused with a similar armored vehicle that Afghan forces are employing on the battlefield.
“DoD has bought 678 Mobile Strike Force Vehicles, an upgraded variant of the U.S. Army’s M1117, for the [Afghan National Army] beginning in 2012,” Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Andrews told Military Times.
The MSFV is an appropriate fit for the Afghan battlefield as it features a v-shaped hull that provides similar protection to the MRAP, Andrews said.
Only five percent of the vehicles have been lost to battle damage, he added.
“Most of the MSFVs are troop carrier variants with .50-caliber machine guns, some of which also have the Mk19 40 mm grenade launcher; the rest are ambulance variants,” Andrews told Military Times.
Two Afghan National Army brigades operate the armored vehicle as a primary weapons system, and the unit is now being assigned to Afghanistan’s new Special Operations Corps, Andrews said.
Military Times has reached out to the chairman’s office for comment and has yet to receive a response.
An Afghan defense official told Military Times that Stryker vehicles have been requested by the government, but that process is still ongoing and the request has yet to be approved.
After spending nearly $70 billion on training and equipping Afghan forces, according to figures provided by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, they continue to lose ground to a resurgent Taliban threat.
U.S. supplied up-armored Humvees have been captured in droves by Taliban fighters and are routinely featured in the group’s propaganda videos. They’ve also been used as powerful suicide vehicle improvised explosive devices, which have caused considerable damage and forced U.S. aircraft to target the stolen U.S. equipment, military officials have told Military Times.