November 19, 2010
THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, TANKS WOULD BE ROLLING THROUGH AFGHANISTAN: And they were right! “The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, defense officials said, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.”
UPDATE: A reader emails:
Heavy battle tanks in Afghanistan?
I am pretty worried about this development. It seems that we are following the Russian plan. That turned out well. Are we sure we aren’t just putting valuable ( and expensive ) targets into the fight so the Taliban can get some propaganda points? The loss of helicopters is bad enough, but at least they also represent a mobile mountain hopping capability. A burned out tank covered with “freedom fighters” creates a different PR visual.
Is Obama turning into LBJ? Is he trying to recreate the Vietnam experience? Is this part of the vaunted “Smart Diplomacy” we were promised?
I want to back our troops 110%, but the first step is a great plan. I hope this is part of one. I don’t really trust the political cats we’ve got right now.
Let’s pray for a good result to all of this.
I’ve never thought of tanks as a good counterinsurgency tool, but General Petraeus has been right in the past.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A military reader emails:
A couple of things stand out about the tanks to Afghanistan story. First, it is a single company, which should have 14 tanks. Second, it is the Marines bringing them in. This is the same group that ignored the conventional wisdom that tanks couldn’t possibly operate in the jungle and sent its tanks to Vietnam. Of course, this was because they had an institutional memory of actually using tanks in the jungle during WW2. Eventually the Army realized that they were right and followed suit. I think the Marines are right again. They are not following the Soviet model, which was a large and at first almost totally mechanized/armored force, but they do recognize that the protected firepower of a tank is sometimes impossible to replace. I expect that the Army will follow suit again if we stay much longer.
Well, stay tuned.
MORE: Reader Dave Parmly writes:
Coming from a guy who commanded a bunch of them, let me say that you get a lot farther with a kind word and a 120mm gun than with a kind word alone.
The commenter who referenced the Marines was correct, though a more recent example is the 2 BDE/3d ID use of tanks in the assault in Baghdad, counter to lots of “conventional wisdom”. Used as stationary pillboxes? We might see the propaganda uses as they get picked off at the enemy’s time/place of choosing. However, this is to fail to use the M1 at its most lethal: On the move, disrupting things at 40 MPH.
Still, not sure what sort of target the enemy in A-stan presents that needs a tank, but better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.
Well, those 120mm guns outrange most snipers. . . .