Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Bring on the tanks, they’ll come to like them in Afghanistan

November 21, 2010
(File picture of a M1 Abrams tank deployed in Iraq)

(File picture of a M1 Abrams tank deployed in Iraq)

The United States is introducing tanks into the fight against the Taliban in the Afghan south for the first time since 2001, but the logic behind the move is still being hotly debated.

One of the reasons advanced is that the arrival of the M1 Abrams tank, propelled by a jet engine and armed with a 120mm gun that can destroy a house  more than a mile away, is going to shake up the battlefield.   “The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower,”  The Washington Post  quoted a senior U.S. officer based in Afghanistan as saying. “It’s pretty significant.”

What is even more significant is the end-result that the U.S. military is hoping to achieve by unleashing such firepower in the Taliban stronghold. The aim is not just to destroy the Taliban, but also in a rather convoluted fashion show ordinary Afghans that the government and its Western backers call the shots in the countryside, not the Taliban. Over the past several months,  as Wired blog reports the US  has already stepped up air strikes, Special Operations raids, and artillery attacks, as part of General David Petraeus strategy to turn the heat on the Taliban with a view to forcing them to sue for peace.

And so while civilian casualties have been avoided, people have lost homes and farms in the U.S. military offensive in the south which clearly has been reshaped into a sustained series of deadly attacks, rather than a big-bang high profile  operation of the Marjah type earlier this year. In one operation alone last month, U.S. planes dropped two dozen 2,000-pound bombs near Kandahar, the Post reported. You can imagine the impact of such firepower on the countryside.  Trees, crops and huts – everything is going to be swept up under the weight of the assault.

Farmers have been asking U.S. military officers during community meetings why so many of their fields have been blown up in recent months. In public, the military has been apologetic about these attacks, but in private they are saying something else, the Post said.  The destruction of homes and farms is forcing people to file claims for damaged property with the provincial administration and that is seen as a big gain because it reasserts the power of the civilian authority. “In effect, you are connecting the government to the people,” the newspaper quoted a U.S. officer as saying.

A rather extraordinary way of fostering links between the people and the administration. First, their property has to be damaged which will in turn compel them to approach the administration for help. 

What if one, or several of them, turn to the Taliban for help,  or indeed join the group having lost their homes and farms ?

Comments

The U.S. Armed Forces have never learned a very important rule. Tanks are large targets and a single RPG can imobilize one. Even if the unit has Venetian Blinds, the tracks are vulnerable.

They also require a large support force.

What should be used is a smaller unit with the 105mm short recoil cannon. Those would do the same job of destroying a building at a mile.

The U.S. of late seems to think that those will make the Tailiban fear them, HA! It gives them a much better target and a chance to start using very large explosive devices to destroy them, which in-turn hrms the forces and civilians nearby.

Random thoughts on stupid military ideas.

Posted by Bear90 | Report as abusive
 

Leopards would have been better than the old slow moving abrams. what a pity the Pashtoons now need more powerful IED whch they used against the Russian Tanks!

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

Bringing tanks into afghanistan is a great idea, for many reasons. Ops would not have to be built in order to secure routs that are known as taliban strong holds. Also it provides a manuver element against the enemy rather than just fighting off an attack from an op like we do now. Tanks would also offer the ground pounders another asset or option to employ against the enemy rather than waiting for birds to come on station…. If you think a sigle rpg can take a tank out your wrong. tanks are more than capable of with standing 5 10 and in some cases 15 rpgs it dosent even dent the armor because of its reactive nature. Not to mention the taliban cant hit the broad side of a barn. there are many reasons you should bring a tank over to hemland province and those are just a few off the surface. -lcpl from marjah usmc-

Posted by sparky388739 | Report as abusive
 

The ISAF appears to be in for a long haul. Whatever happened to Obama’s withdrawal talk ?

Posted by kiran123 | Report as abusive
 

I wonder if the USA or NATO military brass have ever thought of receiving training from the Pashtoons tribesmen? One does not win a war if one’s army is inferior to that of the opponent.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

Now they are on the run; the repeat of the vietnam has started. The blame game is on. The Brits sacrificed their youth and according to the Americans and Karzai, they are not upto mark! This is how the americans treat their allies. This is no different than what happened during ww2. Montgomery had to face similar critic from the yankees.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

I would imagine its fairly easy to disable an Abrams, just try to shoot at the tracks, once the track is broken, its a sitting duck….The afghans are are more than adept at taking out Soviet tanks, so with a combination of HE IEDs and RPGs, the tanks should not pose much trouble, especially in close quarters.

Posted by m1ldbrew | Report as abusive
 

Fellows, your comments have not been overlooked by the Peiagon. It would seem that the Abrams would be displayed infront of the Bagram base and in Kabul in front of the Presedent Palce. The secretary of defence admits to have made a mistake and decided to leave his post at year end..

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •