Bullpup Rifles of the Afghan Commandos and NDS

    Although exceedingly rare in service with any element of the Afghan National Security Forces, there are a very small number of 5.56x45mm NATO bullpup rifles in service with either the Afghan ANA Commandos or the National Directorate of Intelligence, or more commonly known as the Afghan version of the “CIA”.

    Specifically, there are two foreign supplied rifles currently in service. The first one is the L85A2 rifle with either a full or midlength Picatinny optics rail for the mounting of either an Elcan, Trijicon RCO, or an Aimpoint CompM4. Some of these rifles appear to be supplied as is from the British MoD with standard Grippods and a Rheinmetall LLM01 laser/light combo. Although we do not definitely know for sure that the British MoD sold/supplied L85A2 rifles to the Afghan Government, the British MoD is the only real “distributor” of the rifles, unlike Steyr which is a private company that won numerous contracts for AUGs across the world in addition to the famous Austrian Army’s rifle tender.

    These first two photographs were shared over Afghan Instagram channels and appear to be of an NDS officer with an L85A2 at the range. It would appear to be NDS because the Directorate receives a large funding budget for the personal equipment of the clandestine direct action division. Hence the gear, and also the CZ Scorpion that is known to be mostly in use by NDS officers.

    Unlike the previous officer, this is an Afghan Commando as evidenced by his green beret and patches. He has a standard L85A2 with Elcan optic.

    This is one of the few photos we have so far of a Steyr AUG in active service with an Afghan soldier. The image was shared by an Austrian journalist based in Kabul. Interestingly there might be more than an Austrian connection here as we will discuss below.

    Taliban Use

    Unfortunately as appears to be too often the case, the Taliban have captured examples of both of these bullpup rifles. Taliban images of captured rifles have appeared on numerous Twitter accounts of both Steyer AUGs and L85A2s positively in the hands of the Taliban insurgency.

    The image below depicts a Steyer AUG with a 40 round magazine inserted into the magazine well. The finish on the rigidly mounted/fixed power optic and the receiver just below it is badly scratched from years of use carrying it against web gear, indicating that this particular AUG is probably surplus stock from the Austrian Army. The Hungarian 7.62x39mm AMD-65 is most likely from an Afghan Uniformed Police capture as the Ministry of the Interior issues out the AMD-65 quite frequently, especially to regional outposts where this was most likely captured from.

    Upon a cursory search through social media, it appears that there are more Steyer AUGs in Pakistan with the Pakistani Taliban than there are with the Afghan Taliban. It is possible that these are Darra copies, but a large amount of polymer molding present in the AUG stock probably goes against this notion.

    Some examples are provided here with leaders from the TTP in Pakistan.

    Previous users of the Steyr AUG in Pakistan have included the SSG special operations forces. Not trying to infer on a connection here, but it might be possible that surplus AUGs from SSG might not have been disposed of properly and could have found their way through illicit channels to local armed groups.


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]