Why are these soldiers carrying paint brushes?

There was a picture of British soldiers in Afghanistan in yesterday’s newspaper It’s the third one here. Why are they all carrying paint brushes in their vests?

It’s not as clear to see on the web, but he guy in the foreground has one in his left pocket, the guy to the left of the picture likewise.

I don’t think those are paintbrushes.

Is that a rolled-up spool of parachute cord?

Or are they just glad to see you?

They’re definitely brushes. I saw the same thing much more clearly in a different photo the other day (can’t remember where, sorry), and was curious just like the OP. Have no idea why they’ve got them, or why they’re in such an easy-to-hand position. Is impromptu archaeology common in warzones?

The paintbrush is used to get sand out of the their weapons sights.

There is a green nylon-handled paint brush/shaving brush thing around which appears to be an issue item for cleaning dirt out of the rifle. I’ve never felt moved to buy one - they don’t look all that effective and I’ve got other things for that sort of stuff. Typical of our ‘one pound shop’ British Army.
There is also a copper wire brush which is moderately useful in the workshop.

They also have a special comb to clean the paintbrush when it gets covered with sand; and they have a spray bottle and a cloth to clean off the comb after it gets dirty; and a small tub of cleaning fluid to clean the cloth; and a little battery-operated heater to dry it; and a tiny toolkit to repair the heater when it breaks down, and a tiny bottle of oil to lubricate the tools when they get rusty, and

Come on now…they’re British, not German.