Marines Want Tanks for Route Security


Last month we reported that the Marine Corps was set to send over a company of M1 Abrams tanks to Helmand to help in its fight against Taliban insurgents there.

In an interview about a week ago with the former commander of RCT-7 in Afghanistan, we got another look at how the Marines plan to use the multi-ton behemoths and how successful they've been in the past. According to Col. Randy Newman, the tanks help in blowing up hardened positions.

From a firepower standpoint, we used Danish tanks up in Nawa, or up in Nawzad when we first went up there back in -- I think it would have been December of '09; I think December 14th, if I remember right -- that we went into Nawzad and we used Danish tanks to help us reduce some hard bunkers that the Taliban and that the enemy had established up there.
But as security takes hold in the south, Newman admits the bunker-busting capabilities of the Abrams tanks will be less in demand.
I think there's vast areas of desert in southern Helmand Province that the enemy have rat lines in and that the Afghans utilize for lines of communication. Those areas need to be secured, and they also need to have the enemy's freedom of movement limited on them. I think the tanks would be great assets to use in that area.
So let me get this straight -- you want tanks for a mission that's going away, then you come up with a new mission of route security after you've spent the time and money getting 14 of the 70 ton tanks thousands of miles across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to call into question the combat tactics of the leathernecks fighting in Helmand, but aren't there several other options available to reducing a Taliban bunker than an Abrams?

I have the sneaking suspicion that this tank deployment may have the makings of a PR stunt. There's been some talk about whether the Marine Corps really needs its tank battalions -- being as how it says its a lightweight, expeditionary force and all. Could this latest deployment to Afghanistan be a way of demonstrating some kind of relevance?

Seems overkill to me to be perching a  $4.3 million tank to kill IED emplacers along the ring road.

-- Christian

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