This article was originally posted on Thefirearmblog.com
In a recent propaganda video released by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Report Number 190 to be precise), a 7.62x51mm NATO MK 17 SCAR was spotted over the course of the propaganda video. Of course, there is nothing new about this development, we’ve covered the SCAR in use by the Taliban previously on TFB. But what is new is that we are starting to connect the dots on this particular MK 17, clearing up some of the misinformation and hope to even provide a possible explanation for its origins in Afghanistan.
If you have been keeping track of the SCAR rifle in use by the Taliban, you’ll know that this is actually the fifth time since 2015 that the rifle has surfaced in various media on the internet. Although unconfirmed as of now, we have a feeling that instead of five different rifles, we are actually seeing one rifle, five times, in Kunduz province. We’ll go into depth as to why that might be with a short chronology. There is also a possibility that there might be two or even three rifles in the hands of the Taliban in Kunduz, but without seeing serial numbers, this just isn’t possible to confirm.
In May of 2015 photographs came to light of a successful Taliban attack on what appears to be an ANA convoy in Kunduz Province. The MK 17 captured has an Elcan optic, Harris bipods, a forward mounted L-3 Insight LA-5/PEQ, a padded sling with tan buckles that is similar to a Viking Tactical Sling. Note the lack of a rear iron sight and the broken cheekpiece on the stock. One very important note here is that the charging handle has been reversed to the right side of the rifle. SCARs usually come standard with the charging handle on the left side of the rifle as this does make manipulation of the weapon much easier.
The next appearance is in June of 2015, barely a month later, in the province of Kunduz. Note the L3 LA-5/PEQ, short Harris bipod, and the same tan buckles on the padded sling attached to the rifle. Also note the that a L-3 Insight WMX200 VBL has been added to the rifle on the right side, in addition to a L-3 Insight M3X Dual Pressure Switch with dual wires that can be attached to the light and the LA-5/PEQ. In this photograph both wires are pointing down. Again, notice that there is no charging handle on the left side of the rifle, because it is most likely been switched to the right side.
The LA-5/PEQ is different from the AN/PEQ-15 in the dimensions of the adjustment turrets. With the LA-5/PEQ the elevation adjustments are raised unlike the AN/PEQ-15 where the user has to use a tool to make adjustments.
Then in July of 2016, a year later the same rifle appears in a propaganda video in Kunduz, yet again. Lost Weapons on Twitter actually made the spot on his Twitter page. We see all the same accessories as before, but in this case we can’t get a good view of the sling or buttstock because the fighter holding it is blocking it. Notice again that the charging handle appears to be on the right side of the rifle.
Then in June of 2017, almost a year later, the rifle surfaced in yet another propaganda video, this one called the Umari Army No.5. This is the only recorded instance where we don’t have a specific lock on the location of the particular video segment. But as we see in the next video that is in Kunduz and features a rifle with the same composition as this one, in addition to the previous iteration being in Kunduz, it appears that the sample in between would also be in Kunduz.
In this shot, the rifle changes somewhat. A leather wrap has been added to the broken buttstock in addition to a sort of camouflaged covering over the Elcan optic. The sling appears to have been traded out for one with black buckles as well. But the charging handle is still configured on the right side of the rifle and the dual pressure switch wires are plugged into the LA-5/PEQ and the WMX200 VBL. In addition, a rear sight has been added.
An important note on this is that this rear sight doesn’t appear to be a factory FN Herstal rear sight that SOCOM forces are seen with when they have a MK 17 on them. It appears to be a MaTech BUIS which has seen significant issue in the U.S. Army and most likely has found its way to the Taliban via ANA Commando capture.
And finally, just released last month is the Report 190 from the Islamic Emirate. Unlike the previous video, this one specifically mentions that the video was taken in Kunduz Province. We can get a somewhat clear view of the wrapped buttstock, what appears to be the mounted rear sight, Elcan optic (appears to be unwrapped now), Harris bipods, the WMX200 VBL, and the LA-5/PEQ. The charging handle is hard to discern which side it is on, or even if it might be locked back on the right side.
Clearing up some misinformation here is another aspect of this SCAR search. When the June 2017 image hit the airwaves, a number of news organizations became interested in it. Among them Military Times on July 17, Task & Purpose on July 18, and SOFREP on July 18. Some of the misinformation actually began with an article in the Washington Post discussing a number of captured equipment from a SOCOM soldiers when they were wounded in Nangarhar province in July of 2016. The propaganda video showing this equipment was through ISIL-Khorasan’s media network. The writer of the Post article never mentioned that a SCAR was definitively captured, only that the serialized information had showed up as one of the captured items. T&P went on to describe the Post article as
Washington Post reporter and Marine vet Thomas Gibbons-Neff identified the firearms features in the video as Mk. 48 medium machine gun and an FN SCAR”
When this is what the Post author actually wrote-
From the picture, the Islamic State appears not to have captured any rifles or night vision equipment
The EDL card he is talking about. Judging from the equipment captured and information about this soldier, it appears that he might be from the Ranger Regiment, and some online have ventured to guess 3/75th out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
Another odd conclusion is about the connection between the lost gear in Nangarhar and the appearance of the MK 17 in Kunduz. T&P suggested that there might be an alliance between the Taliban and ISIL-K, whereby such equipment would be exchanged.
“an alliance of convenience” to wage war against U.S. military personnel and Afghan security forces amid the jihadi resurgence that followed the official end of NATO-led combat mission in 2014. That relationship could account for the flow of captured SOCOM equipment from ISIS forces to Taliban militants over the last year.
Although both groups are violent extremists, the Taliban are a pro-Pashtun group while ISIL-K is pan-Islamic. Both group are very much at war with each other almost as much as they are with ANSF forces. In addition, the two provinces are several hundred miles from each other as displayed on this sectioned Google Map with Kunduz in the north and Jalalabad (capital of Nangarhar) in the southeast.
So if the MK 17s didn’t come from SOCOM, where did they come from? Although cursory, a thorough look through various Afghan Special Forces social media reveals very little about any presence of the MK 17 in use by the ANSF Commando forces. Precision rifles are in use with them, but these are more along the lines of .50 BMG Barrett M107s, Accuracy International designs, and Remington M24s.
However, there is an element of the Afghan Security Forces called the National Directorate of Security or NDS. This force is akin to an Afghan CIA and FBI rolled into one, mostly focused on internal counter terrorist. Below are photographs on some Afghan social media sites that describe the men in the photographs as a part of NDS direct action teams.
Note the broken or at least modified cheek rest at low left.
How these rifles would have gotten from NDS hands to being captured by the Taliban in Kunduz during 2015 is unknown. However, it does appear to have been a battlefield capture judging from the initial photographs of ambushed HUMVEEs.