Armour in Afghanistan - Foreign Policy Article

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
It's got its places and uses. Mountainous terrain doesn't seem to lend itself well to the US MRAPS, and thusly not tanks either I would guess, so a different form of transport will have to be used instead. Horses for courses.

People on here have already mentioned what great force multipliers they would become if providing heavily armed watch on passes, MSR's, troublesome villages etc.

If some of the patrol bases actually had a tank parked within that could be rolled out to start punching the insurgents during an attack, they'd soon think twice when they'd been chased around by one, day or night.
 
#3
I agree with the article, that if the few working roads in Afghanistan were used less then we'd see less IED incidents. Roadside bombs are after all, static devices that would only work if there is an element in predictability in their intended targets.

Would this strategy work in Afghanistan?
1) Usage of lightly armoured, highly mobile and dispersed infantry with minimal encumbrance via (2)
2) Just-in-time resupply capability of infantry in the field (this is the subject of a MoD CDE proposal I have submitted)
3) In lieu of small arms let them carry an abundance of HE weapons + obscurants
4) Agile and swift fire support capability - rocket artillery + 155mm howitzers in outposts, followed by CAS
5) Further down the horizon are persistent/loitering munitions to reduce the latency of fire support

The purpose of infantry is basically to mingle with the locals, make contact with the enemy, inform on their co-ordinates and then bombard the general area to smithereens.
 
#4
If some of the patrol bases actually had a tank parked within that could be rolled out to start punching the insurgents during an attack, they'd soon think twice when they'd been chased around by one, day or night.
Which would damage the local infrastructure (such as it is) for example bridges and buildings and alienate the population.

Personnally I think that heavy armour could have a role in some ops, for example:

- control of strategic points
- mobile fire base
 
#5
Which would damage the local infrastructure (such as it is) for example bridges and buildings and alienate the population.
What proportion of firefights happens with them holed up in places where infrastructure or civilians may be hit?

In those instances would special forces be a better option?
 

Travelgall

LE
Kit Reviewer
#7
Surprise, surprise, an SF officer saying tanks are no good....
Yeah, I aimed off re the article because the guy is SF. Nevertheless it doesn't mean that his arguments are wrong. Still some interesting points. I don't know whether I agree 100% but perhaps its something that needs looking at again.
 
#8
He only talks about actual tanks towards the end and comes out with the cliche about knocked out Russian armour; ignoring the number of infantry who have perished in that sad country but whose remains are not so durable. His focus is obviously SF, as other posters have mentioned, so I'm not sure he should be commenting on line infantry who have learned the old truth that unarmoured troops cannot move or maneuver under fire.
 
#9
I agree with the article, that if the few working roads in Afghanistan were used less then we'd see less IED incidents. Roadside bombs are after all, static devices that would only work if there is an element in predictability in their intended targets.

Would this strategy work in Afghanistan?
1) Usage of lightly armoured, highly mobile and dispersed infantry with minimal encumbrance via (2)
2) Just-in-time resupply capability of infantry in the field (this is the subject of a MoD CDE proposal I have submitted)
3) In lieu of small arms let them carry an abundance of HE weapons + obscurants
4) Agile and swift fire support capability - rocket artillery + 155mm howitzers in outposts, followed by CAS
5) Further down the horizon are persistent/loitering munitions to reduce the latency of fire support

The purpose of infantry is basically to mingle with the locals, make contact with the enemy, inform on their co-ordinates and then bombard the general area to smithereens.[/QUOTE]

My bold.
You don't know what your're talking about.

IED's are not roadside bombs, they can be anywhere mainly not on something that we would call a road.

Find out what a road in Afghan is like for the "roads" are generally OKay the "tracks turning places etc arn't.

Just in time won't work (even in industry it bullies small suppliers)

In a hostile situation it could lead to deaths, we have long supply chains that are subject to various forms of blockage.
You can't just magic stuff there it has to be taken by variuos means down to indivdual level (ammo, water, food) and that's just the very basic's.

The enemy know how long it takes to bring this fire support on target and our ROE so they exploit that now.

No it is not our job to get them bombarded to smithereens it is to get the local forces to fight the insugents for themselves by mingling with the people, poviding security, training to help them fend for themselves.

If we engage the enemy it is to be done with as little damage to infrastucture as possible, ie the good old fashioned rife with a bayonet on the end of it.
 
#10
Hmmm.

So 'remote' villages are not getting patrolled for lack of vehicle access. These spots are at least occasionaly used by Terry as a base of operations/resupply. Surprise! I suspect The authors argument is that we should patrol them. Hmm. While this makes sense...the multi million dollar question is 'How?' The author didnt seem to sugest much here other than using whatever was to hand. If you go back to using Humvees or pickups to go into areas of known Insurgant activity you will face contacts. Terry will go back to using the tactics he knows work on those humvees and pickups.

So you can either build a road in...which creates a choke point for Terry to IED up. Or you could go down the platoon house route again, resup via heli? Or you could commit to a long march in on a regular basis...again resup via heli?

Or of course if you had infinite resources you'd cordon the entire area, stack up loads of OP's, Drones, Infantry, CAS etc and then move in. Then build several lovely roads, schools, medical facilities and leave behind local police/army in your newly subdued area. Pigs might fly as this will be slow and far from cheap. However if these 'no-go areas' are where the Talib are operating from then it stands to reason its also a opertunity to get to grips with them. Preferably without brassing up all the locals...and thats the hard bit of course. I doubt the political will exists?
 
#11
My bold.
You don't know what your're talking about.

IED's are not roadside bombs, they can be anywhere mainly not on something that we would call a road.
Thanks, I am already aware that roadside bombs are a subset of IEDs.

Just in time won't work (even in industry it bullies small suppliers)
I appreciate that some items soldiers carry (e.g. ammunition) might cause major problems if you run out in a firefight, but how often does one need things like food, water or fuel in the next hour or I'd die?

No it is not our job to get them bombarded to smithereens it is to get the local forces to fight the insugents for themselves by mingling with the people, poviding security, training to help them fend for themselves.
Yeah OK. But you can't deny there is a pressing temptation to do just that if they try to trifle with our forces :)

If we engage the enemy it is to be done with as little damage to infrastucture as possible, ie the good old fashioned rife with a bayonet on the end of it.
Having not been in Afghanistan and only able to judge by media and published reports, there are times when Taliban/AQ may be fighting from places where the risk of collateral damage is low, e.g. funneled roads for roadside ambushes, harrassment of forward bases or troops out in the open. Surely under these circumstances if there is no chance of collateral damage destroying non-combatants, infrastructure, crops or homes then it is OK to unleash HE to make short work of them?
 
#12
Here is a different opinion;

Tanks to Afghanistan, a Soldier Writes.

The United States military has announced that it will be sending a company of Marine Tankers to southwest Afghanistan, bringing a much-needed armor presence to an asymmetrical fight.

U.S. Tanks En Route to Southwestern Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone — American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2010 – Servicemembers in Afghanistan’s Regional Command–Southwest will receive 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks to aid in the fight against the Taliban.
The Marine Corps tanks, which pack a super-accurate 120 mm main gun, will begin to arrive in January.

Despite serving in an infantry company and performing infantry patrols during my 12-month tour in Afghanistan, I am actually an armor officer trained to command tank and scout platoons…and the news absolutely warmed my heart.

Most tankers with whom I served in Kandahar recognize the inherent value that armor assets can bring even to the most civilian-friendly counterinsurgency. It is often thought that heavily armored vehicles (Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, etc.) would be excessive instruments. This argument is not merely in the context of combat, or even intimidation of locals, but the tracks of a main battle tank would most likely destroy the few poorly engineered concrete roads that facilitate the Afghan economy.
Offense & Defense

Driving through minefields is one of the scariest parts of an Afghan tour. A 500-pound I.E.D. is comparable to the psychological effect of a tank’s main gun concussion. My body armor felt more like a pressure cooker around my sweaty chest. As vehicle design has attempted to adapt to this modern threat, the vehicles have inherently become more defensive in nature. They are elevated from the ground to make room for V-shaped hulls. They sacrifice visibility for protection, and combat effectiveness for survivability. But a more defensive vehicle is also an ample target for the enemy.

A battle tank is different. The tank is clearly an offensive vehicle, but with a mine-roller in front and 70 tons of steel to protect its crew, tanks are a fantastic combination of offense and defense on the battlefield. No vehicle is ever immune to the I.E.D. If there is a vehicle on the ground in Afghanistan, the enemy will find a way to blow it up. But tanks are weapon systems capable of taking the hit and continuing the fight.
The Army’s Mobile Gun System Stryker variant (MGS, see above) is the closest thing the Army has to a tank at its disposal in Afghanistan. This weapon system is rarely discussed when the issue of Stryker Brigade performance is on the table. In fact, I imagine few who have followed the Stryker’s progression in the global war on terror would even recognize the 105 mm main gun turret that rotates on an amplified Stryker hull…but I guarantee the Afghans in Kandahar province know it very well.

However, as I say, a battle tank is different.
Psychology

Driving a Stryker or MRAP down the Afghan highway is much like driving a bus down a crowded street. As Afghan locals become more aware of what behaviors they can get away with before soldiers will respond with their restricted levels of force, it becomes difficult to keep both soldiers and Afghan civilians safe during our movements. But tanks elicit a far different response from the average Afghan.

Most Afghans have distinct visions of the havoc that T-72 Soviet tanks (
)were able to produce from their occupation. As my MGS vehicle rolled through Kandahar streets, no motorcycles cut us off. No oncoming traffic tried to lure us into a game of chicken, as sometimes happened with the infantry carriers. People kept their distance, which kept them safe, and us free to control the tempo of operations.

I’m certainly aware of the argument that rehashing these memories of Soviet tanks to the Afghan people might not be in the best interests of earning their “hearts and minds.” But in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, we are still working on earning their respect. A tank demands respect.
The Power of Sight

Firefights are the bread and butter of daily life in Zhari District; and the enemy has nearly a 100 percent vote in when and how he engages us. Most of these skirmishes occur at ranges exceeding 750 meters amidst dense vegetation. Above all else, the power to see is the most limiting factor in an armed conflict. Currently, most American military vehicles are equipped with remote optics systems, which are useful for urban fire fights at short ranges but do not offer the depth necessary to fight effectively in southwestern Afghanistan. However, tanks offer optics systems that dwarf the traditional capabilities of an infantry carrier…and, oh yeah, these days each tank can acquire targets clearly in excess of four times as far.

Once a target is finally acquired, most people are unaware of just how diverse an array of ammunition choices there are to engage it properly. There are high explosive rounds for light targets, canister rounds for dismounts, which will preserve the local infrastructure, and of course anti-tank rounds in case the Taliban are able to fix up an old relic of previous wars. The tank does not have to be a source of complete destruction. But it is a game changer. And when that fearsome concussion reverberates, the enemy always second guesses its fight.
The Elephant in the Command Post
As I discussed with colleagues the addition of tanks to the Kandahar mission, I was not surprised to find a strong variety in responses and interpretations of how an armor company integrates with a counterinsurgency mission. A memorable quote from a colleague:

“One minute they’re saying minimize civilian casualties and let ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] lead the way; the next, we’re bringing in arguably the most fierce ground weapon system in our Army’s arsenal. I think we’re sending mixed signals.”

Another veteran of the Afghan war currently set to return as a civilian noted:

“Anything that separates us from the population makes us less likely to win the war. All the successful COIN initiatives in Afghanistan involve dismounted operations, living with the population, minimizing the distance and difference between us and them.”

But from a tactical perspective, a senior tanker NCO hailed the idea:

“We can talk about Afghans all day, but it’s really hard to go interact with locals when there’s a minefield and Taliban fighting positions in the way. Tanks will help us fill the gaps where the infantry cannot cover. Both are important.”

Thus, the real strategic question becomes, are these tanks a supplement to the counterinsurgency mission, or a diversion from it? If the latter, what implications arise for our approach to state-building?
Not the first. Not the last.

One of the most memorable moments during our 12 month tour was arriving on FOB Wilson in Zhari, Kandahar, for the weekly district security shura and watching the tanker half of my platoon swoon over the troop of Canadian Leopard 2A6Ms parked in the motor-pool. Memories of past I.E.D.s and firefights flowed through our heads. And of course, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if…”.

Perhaps in my excitement for these tanks I am personally still stuck in “survival mode” from my year in Kandahar; perhaps I’m failing to see the negative strategic implications that will follow these tanks into southern Afghanistan. But then again, the soldiers who patrol those sectors each day are always in survival mode. If a tank has any chance at keeping them safe during their dangerous tour, I’ll be the first to give it a fair shot.

These Marine tanks will not be the first to enter Afghanistan. But they will no doubt make a resounding impact when integrated with conventional infantry. This will no doubt be a game changer in our fight against the Taliban. From the sidelines here in the United States, the crossed sabers on my chest beat with tanker pride.

Rajiv Srinivasan of Roanoke, Va., is a lieutenant in the United States Army. He served for 12 months as a Stryker platoon leader in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province and has now returned to the United States. See his previous At War posts here.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the United States government.
(Shamelessly plagiarized from Tanknet )
 
#13
Why did the US SF get brassed up in Mogadishu?Because the politicians wouldn´t let them be backed up by Tanks,who saved their arrses?Pakistani´s in armoured cars!

Tanks used properly in Afghanistan would give our troops in most cases at least the option to loiter for longer periods and carry out patrols into more remote areas,the tanks in a static position covering and supporting the troops not trying to crawl up mountains etc.This scooting backwards and forwards with ATO clearing the roads every time a patrol leaves is slightly Pythonesque IMHO and no wonder the Afghans laugh at our armies futile attemps to hold ground.

As I´ve said on earlier posts the only real way to keep the enemy on the run and rid them of sleep is to have the Yanks provide huge helicopter support,the Yanks have hundreds of choppers parked up in the desert doing fcuk all,the British don´t even have enough to rescue their own wounded.The British squaddies can be carried around at their hearts content and do what they do best,killing the enemy or visiting the more remote allies in the mountains to remind them that they´re not forgotten;Not waiting till the roads have been cleared and then It´s time to go back as they can´t hold ground without armour support,simple as.

As Britain is leaving anyway It´s all been a total waste of time from day 1,the Taliban still terrorise the locals and Poppies are still being cultivated to poison our children in the future, Oh what a lovely fcuking War!-just to misquote someone!

PS,Independant Boffin.............You really are talking bollocks,sorry!
 
#14
I agree with the article, that if the few working roads in Afghanistan were used less then we'd see less IED incidents. Roadside bombs are after all, static devices that would only work if there is an element in predictability in their intended targets.
I disagree IB, the problem with Afg is that there are IEDs everywhere, they follow no logic or pattern. As an IEDD operator threat assessment was always quite simple - there are bombs everywhere and lots of them, even then it may not be enough to save you.
 
#15
Oh my god some of the comments on this thread are just plain silly. Tanks in Afghan ???? I presume most of you have never actually been there never mind left a FOB. Not a chance of them being effective.
 
#17
Full crewman on CR1 , last op tour that CR1 was involved in as a loader , CVRT commander on 2 Iraq tours including an IED strike and a tour in afghan with both armour and jackal . What is the relevance in my history anyway?
 
#19
5) Further down the horizon are persistent/loitering munitions to reduce the latency of fire support...
Didn't a certain monocular prime minister sign us up to some sort of accord banning things like that?

The purpose of infantry is basically to mingle with the locals, make contact with the enemy, inform on their co-ordinates and then bombard the general area to smithereens.
Wrong, the purpose of infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy, or words to that effect. Fire support is simply there to assist forces on the ground; it cannot take or hold ground or win a war by itself.
 
#20
Too old to have been in Afghanistan mate. Asking about your armour experience since you didn't state it, nor did you back up your "silly" statement with anything constructive. USMC are sending tanks to Helmand, Canada and Denmark have them in theater already; so the UK may well be missing something? I'm assuming the area(s) you were deployed in may have been unsuitable for heavy armour. Here is a wee link you might want to read.

@tally_target
 

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