Friday, November 19, 2010

Tanks in Helmand: Great idea or greatest idea?

Well, I was going to follow up on this post on strategy, but didn't get to it. And then I was going to comment on this fantastic exchange at Kings of War, but won't be getting to it soon. But then I saw this Spencer Ackerman article at Wired and felt the need to comment.

Spencer apparently doesn't think much of the deployment of a company of USMC Abrams tanks being deployed to Helmand Province. While one of the original article's sources uses some misguided language (I thought we put "shock and awe" in the same discard pile with "mission accomplished"?), the fact is that tanks will probably provide an excellent tool in the COIN fight. I'm going to talk about this from a tactical perspective and then from the population-centric COIN perspective and why this is probably a good idea. As a caveat for our newer readers, I was a cavalryman in the U.S. Army in heavy units in Iraq. While this may cause bias, it also gives me the perspective and experience to understand how this actually works.

Tactically, an M1A1 Abrams tank can give you an edge. I'm not familiar with the terrain in Helmand, but save goat trails and narrow canal roads, these very heavy vehicles can get around surprisingly well. As far as firepower goes, it can put what is effectively an artillery round within a half a meter of where you intend it to go at targets of a few kilometers with relatively unobstructed fields of fire. I'm not sure why Spencer knocks the fact that the M1 is 30 years old and thus that it's precision is questionable. It is a line-of-sight weapon, not a bomb or artillery shell. If you can see it you can kill it. So yes, it brings a lot of highly accurate firepower that limits collateral damage.

You know what scares the hell out of dismounted insurgents? 70 tons of badassery that will make them dead if they mess with it. I could go on and on about this, but I'll cut this short. If the problem in Helmand is a highly-active insurgency that requires a firepower solution, then the M1A1 is what you want to bring to the fight. I'm sure the Marines will be pulling their hair out keeping this company running from a logistics perspective - they suck down fuel, spare parts are bulky and heavy, and recovering them off of the battlefield if they break down is a pain. But they pay professionals to figure that out and I'm sure they have it in hand. The bottom line is that the Abrams provides a highly mobile, well armored platform for long distance, highly accurate fire. To question that is to not understand tanks at all. It seems that the Marines need long distance, highly accurate firepower or they wouldn't be asking for it.

Now for how this behemoth of death and destruction fits into a pop-COIN operation. Tanks are designed to do two things: kill people and break things. That's it. What commenters like Spencer, who is hardly alone in this, often ignore about lessons learned from Iraq is that even the most population-centric COIN requires the killing of people and the breaking of things. Tanks were integral in defeating al Qaida in and around Baghdad in 2007-08, as were dropping bombs, etc. Tanks were often preferred because they could do these things with greater accuracy than bombs and with a smaller surface danger zone. This keeps the people happy, because they know as much as we do that we have to kill some people and tanks do it more efficiently with less impact on locals' lives.

So no, this isn't the opposite of Petraeus' "Get Out and Walk" guidance. This is part of the "kinetic" fight that needs to supplement the "hearts and minds" aspect of the fight. How a commander ties it in to his pop-COIN operations is by following up immediately after the tanks do their business with guys on the ground to take responsibility for anything that went wrong as a result of the engagement and to own the ground and deal with the locals and their issues. Does the Soviet use of their tanks make the use of the Abrams difficult? Yes, but that's why tactical controls are imperative. If the tanks are used for what they're intended - getting rid of the bad actors in Helmand with minimal civilian losses - then the Soviet legacy would become obsolete.

Will these 16 tanks "shock and awe" Mullah Omar into negotiations? No. But it has the potential to make individual Taliban groups not want to go to Helmand to fight the Americans while at the same time keeping civilian casualties to a minimum. Again, go back to the Surge and scrape away all the crap that US tactics were all hearts and minds. It was as violent as it was benevolent. We've tried mostly benevolence for the last year in Afghanistan and before that it was mostly violence. If the tanks are used correctly and commanders follow up the controlled and carefully applied violence with benevolence, then maybe the USMC has a chance of turning Helmand around.

36 comments:

  1. Dude, yes.

    I have a lot more to say about this, but I'm about to have a wisdom tooth removed and will prob spend most of the weekend in a narcotic haze. So for now: great post.

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  2. I think your bias is showing. The use of phrases such as "If the tanks are used correctly..." and "..used for what they're intended" makes it all OK, right?

    You don't think the Soviet experience in Afghanistan doesn't sort of paint the picture about how this will go? Or is it that American exceptionalism will somehow make this a better end game than it was for the Russians?

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  3. @Anonymous - No, I don't think so at all. Again, tanks were used in COIN very effectively in Iraq. The Soviets used their tanks to terrorize civilians as much as kill the mujahideen. From a purely COIN perspective (as well as a human one), I would call that "incorrect" use of tanks. If you want to call not slaying civilians as a tactical tool "American exceptionalism", sure it will have better effects than the Soviets saw.

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  4. Tanks are surely wonderous things, as you go to great pains to point out, but our problem in Southern Afghanistan is not a matter of firepower. The Canadians and Germans have had tanks in S Afghanistan for some time now, have they been a game changer? Have you heard of Taliban/affiliated fighters not taking up arms because of their presence? Moreover, was that the case during the Soviet occupation? Did the Soviets "scare the hell out of dismounted insurgents"?

    While there is certainly a need for killing people and breaking stuff in any COIN campaign, the notion that 16 tanks are going to help turn Helmand around looks to be more an exercise in wishful thinking than dispassionate analysis. Tanks are great for the killing people portion of COIN and I'm sure they will help to an extent, but they are not going to change the tide of the war.

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  5. Firstly, I have no idea if firepower is what needed in Helmand (yup, overstated my case in the last sentence). However, the Marines seem to think that they do and in this case I'm going to take their word for it. Breaking from my own tradition of never giving the USMC a chance to gloat, I will say that they've been pretty good at reading what they need to do in COIN. Also, if they're using firepower already, why not have an accurate weapon that gives a lot of punch, but not too much.

    Secondly, yes, there are some reports that the tanks have made a difference in the European sectors that had them. And you can't compare a Soviet T-72 with an Abrams tanks, so I doubt the Soviet tanks scared anyone other than the civilians in their path. There's no precedence in Afghanistan, but the use of tanks in COIN in Iraq did scare the hell out of the insurgents (per interviews after the fact with former insurgents and detainees).

    And lastly, there is no way in hell that 16 tanks are going to turn the tide of the war in Afghanistan - maybe not even Helmand. There are way too many problems beyond the Marines having dominance on the battlefield - porous borders and ineffectual local governance being the main ones. From a tactical perspective, however, tanks provide operational units with an effective tool against an insurgency giving those units some advantage. It is not always up to that unit if those advantages lead to some sort lasting advantage. But one does the best one can.

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  6. And somehow I've wandered off of my main point, which has nothing to do with Helmand specifically, but rather that I disagree with Spencer. By that I mean I do believe that tanks are useful as in a COIN environment and aren't antithetical to the theory of COIN.

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  7. I do grant that this would certainly be a large tactical advantage. One that would help keep our troops safe and be more effective in kinetic operations than NLOS fire is. And I'm all for that. My problem came from what I viewed as an over-optimistic reaction that failed to note that this is a mere tactical advantage, something we already posses in spades, and will have little effect on governance, tribal squabbling or borders or what have you. Heavy armour is certainly a boost to kinetic operations, but, as you grant, it will not help to solve our biggest problems in the area.

    The T-72 is of course a bucket of bolts compared to the M1 but the psyop effect was probably the same when coupled with the use of Mi-24s and such. Sheer firepower has not, to my admittedly limited knowledge, had a significant psyop effect on the strategic level for insurgents in any modern campaign I can think of.

    With this last paragraph, I find myself in complete agreement.

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  8. I agree that they have their place, but I don't think Mr Ackerman was necessarily expressing reserve at the effectiveness of tanks tactically speaking, but at their strategic usefulness and the eye-rolling bellicose rhetoric that suddenly is coming from Afghanistan.

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  9. @ 93 days - yup, it's all tactical and should have highlighted that more in the original post. To include psychological impact, possibly with operational level effects. And it's not the tank's firepower alone - armor and mobility have a serious impact. Especially given the Abrams' very quiet engine so all you hear as it approaches is the ground rumbling and the track. I never liked hearing those things drive around when I was dismounted and they were on my side.

    I read Spencer's article differently, but I guess that's just interpretation. I took some of the snarky remarks to be commentary on how armor goes against COIN theory. Of course I may be absolutely wrong there. And as Steve Hynd pointed out at Newshoggers, I'm not a big fan of the rhetoric. That doesn't help anyone.

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  10. Great comment a bit more optimistic.

    Is it the end of the use of tankers without tanks (TWOT) in Afghanistan?

    I don't know if a compagny of USMC Cavalry has already fought without its tanks. But with the use too high of British troops, I know that British Army engaged some Cavalry units (like Royal Dragoon Guards) as dismounted units during OP Herrick.

    In any case, this fact is an answer to col Gentile' discussions about The Death of Armor Corps in SWJ ( link . Even if, it's only sixteen tanks to Helmand.

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  11. Interesting how my name changed from anonymous to 93 days...

    Agreed but how much do you think this will really help overall mobility? I grant that individual M1s will be admirably mobile but with logistical concerns and god-less fuel consumption, I worry about the effects on already stressed logistics/supply lines. But getting down to the meat of it, it saves US lives and is a boot to psyops and kinetic operations. I'm all for it.

    I was no fan of the snark, of course but perhaps I was just getting from it what I wanted to. I do not know Mr Ackerman and am not familiar enough with his writings to comment intelligently (though that seldom stops me).

    I don't get the rhetoric personally, especially from someone like P4 who I had pegged as quite the opposite. I assume he's trying to build support and show progress for the Dec review?

    And I'm Sam Ballingrud. No idea why it was alternatively anonymous and "93 days".

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  12. This was the critical sentence for me: "If the problem in Helmand is a highly-active insurgency that requires a firepower solution, then the M1A1 is what you want to bring to the fight."

    The DfID poll cited at the end of this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/19/afghanistan-aid-programme-taliban) suggests that 70 tonnes of bad-assery may prove to be counter-productive.

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  13. To be specific: "The majority wanted a lifting of UN sanctions on senior Taliban so the government could get them back into Afghan political life and negotiate a withdrawal of foreign forces."

    Tanks may inflame a population already sensitive to the presence of foreigners.

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  14. Any population that hates tanks isn't worth "protecting."

    Rumble forward, Gunslinger. Rumble ever forward!

    SNLII

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  15. I absolutely agree, Jason. Setting aside the Marine experience with M1s in Anbar, since I don't know much about it, the successful counterinsurgency operations in Ramadi and Diyala would have been a whole lot harder without tanks' firepower.

    Commanders who fought in Ramadi 2006-7 have given me some intense statistics about how many main gun rounds they fired. And in Baquba and the DRV, those main gun rounds were very helpful in knocking down houses rigged as big IEDs, right? Having spent some time this summer tagging along with infantry units in both Sangin (where I suspect some of this tank company is going) and Zhari (where house IEDs are a HUGE problem, as another Post article that Spencers bemoans mentions), I'm pretty confident that tanks would be a very welcome asset in both places. If anything, they would LESSEN the overall damage done in abandoned villages that the Taliban has rigged as big booby-traps - an M1 round is a lot more precise than a JDAM.

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  16. (I should add that in Zhari, where the IEDs-in-houses-and-grape-huts problem is severe, the U.S. infantry company that I visited had already been receiving support from Canadian Leopard IIs based within sight across the Arghandab river in Panjwayi. When the Canadian tank company goes home, I hope the Army follows the Marines' lead and sends someone to replace them.)

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  17. Also, a fun fact: When the first MEU went ashore in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, the battalion landing team wanted to bring along its element (platoon?) of M1s, but was directed not to. Not that they would have been much use then.

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  18. And a quotation from a Navy SEAL sniper who fought in Ramadi in 2006 in support of 1/1 AD: "The best counter-sniper system is an Abrams main gun round."

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  19. A minor quibble with an otherwise on-target post:

    You said "This [the use of tanks] is part of the "kinetic" fight that needs to supplement the "hearts and minds" aspect of the fight."

    I think it's a misunderstanding to divide the two. "Hearts and minds" -- God, I hate that phrase -- isn't about getting people to LIKE you because you built a well or a fixed a school, it's about getting them to respect and submit to the legitimate government authority. That is, to get them to trust that the counter-insurgent will prevail and is capable of maintaining a monopoly on the use of coercive force in the society. It's Maslow's ladder; security is the lowest rung, and if you can't get a handle on that, nothing else matters.

    To that end, tanks can be a helpful part of a COIN campaign ... as demonstrated in Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Mosul, and Sadr City ... to help achieve tactical success and set the conditions to reach operational and strategic objectives.

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  20. "tanks were used in COIN very effectively in Iraq"

    These sort of sentences crack me up. COIN is a world unto it's own. Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory of COIN, and every eager little COIN-lover believes, just like Charlie did. One day you can wilve with Mr. Wonka in his amazing Chocolate World of COIN.

    Sorry mate, but COIN is like a working girl on her way home. The mascara's running, the lipstick's smudged, the eyeliner's faded. What's left is a tired old bird who's struggling, unhappy, and shagged-out.

    The COINloveis over. Wake up.

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  21. I'm just an idiot civvie, but I don't much associate Marines with tanks. Did the USMC use them a lot in the Iraq operations you mention, Jason? I know you by no means count yourself a historian of the Corps, but have tanks traditionally been a prominent part of their major operations and I just haven't been aware of it, or is this a relatively new thing?

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  22. @ Michael - The USMC has three tank battalions if I remember correctly. Which isn't a whole lot. In Iraq, I don't know what their tank battalions battalion did (I never served in MNF-W)but during the Surge they had heavy US Army brigades attached to them. So they do know how to do it.

    @Artful Aid Worker - Thanks for stopping by. If you have some sort of evidence for the sweeping statements you've made, I'd like to see it.

    @ Anonymous (between Tintin and AAW) - I hate those terms, too. Hence the quotes. As I'm sure you're aware, there are people that think you can use one type or the other and this post was aimed at the "hearts and minds" types. I think I've mentioned it before, but I think Challe had the right idea in the positive/negative. Not hearts and minds/kinetic. So yes, you're right.

    @ Tintin - Yup, great weapon for HBIEDs (a term dumber than "HAM" - House Borne IEDs). And snipers. And VBIEDs, IEDs, and concentrations of insurgents. They were used also in the belts of Baghdad as well as Sadr City in early 2008. And numerous smaller operations every day throughout MND-B and MNF-W.

    @ Plasticus Forkus - Quite possibly. But lifting the sanctions is slightly beyond the USMC's authority. In the meantime I guess we'll have to wait and see what their effect is. Thanks for pointing out the article.

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  23. Jason, I don't understand why the Marines sending 16 M1 tanks to Helmand is such a big story. It only 16 tanks.

    The Canadians and Dutch have used armored vehicles effectively. And as they pull theirs out, new ones need to be sent to replace them in the South.

    Agree that Tanks are better at close fire support than turboprops, helos, artillery and mortars. But are Tanks better at close fire support than other types of tracked armored vehicles?

    Given the logistics challenges in Afghanistan and the desire to maximize the percentage of logistics that flow from the Northern supply route, might tracked IFVs be generally more useful?

    Some tanks of course are very useful, so am more discussing additional armored tracked vehicles rather than replacing M1s.

    PlasticusForkus, ISAF has had tanks in Afghanistan since 2002. Until now many of them haven't been American. No one is discussing sending a significant number of tanks to Afghanistan, and I have seen no evidence that tiny numbers of tanks affect Afghan perceptions of ISAF, ANSF or GIRoA.

    Tintin, looking forward to learning more about Zari and Sangin.

    In Sangin, for example, are the Taliban launching many platoon sized attacks? Do you see Sangin getting safer and the fight moving to other parts of Helmand? If so, where does the fight move? Khajaki?

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  24. PlasticusForkus,

    Correction. Afghan civilians seem very proud of their mechanized heavy brigade, or the Greek/French mentored 3-111 ANA. This brigades has M62s.

    On the margin, more ANA tanks probably increases the popularity of the ANA and GIRoA. However, given Afghanistan's precarious supply lines, I would recommend more fuel and spare parts efficient tracked IFVs.

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  25. **************************************************************************************************************************************************

    http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_16666562

    "The stories were good, full of commando drama and globe-trotting derring-do in very dangerous climes.

    They were so good that, ultimately, they didn't ring true with a few students at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

    They began comparing notes on what they heard in workshops on human trafficking and counterterrorism from instructor Bill Hillar.

    They had believed the big man in his 60s with the close-cropped, military-style haircut was a retired colonel with Army Special Forces, a veteran of the elite Green Berets.

    This week, MIIS officials said the school was mounting an investigation into Hillar's background because of questions raised by students and a website dedicated to the military's special forces. The website alleges that Hillar never served in the Army, but was a Coast Guard reservist.

    "We did our research," said website owner Jeff Hinton, who identifies himself as a retired Special Forces master sergeant, in an e-mail."

    http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30904

    =======================

    This story is funny. I took a counter-terrorism seminar with this guy at monterey, as I'm sure so many other MIIS students have. afterwards me and a bunch of other students went out for beers (that old british bar on franklin) w/ him near campus. this guy had awesome stories. he married a hmong girl from his days in vietnam and had kids. a few years later one of his daughters (15 at that time) gets kidnapped, raped and killed by a human trafficking gang. this story was later adapted in that movie "taken" w/ liam neeson:
    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/7229118

    he also had a story about going into the golden triangle for some black ops, only to get into a shoot out w/ DEA. the story had KIAs too.

    I thought his stories were so cool and may be useful in the near future, so I emailed him shortly after for either some more stories or book recommendations. he sent me like 10 book recs and I read like six. I always thought it funny that most of his stories were found scattered in the books he recommended. I just figured, he was somehow part of the stories or he just used those stories because he wanted to use declassified stories in lieu of his own.

    2 yrs later, fraud.

    I know MIIS students that stayed at his house near DC who worked for Other Gov't Agency, I hope they investigate this guy for possible Nat'l Security breaches.

    ##############################################################################################################

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  26. Didn't "cavguy" - over at SWJ - mention a scholarly article on the use of tanks in counterinsurgency based on experiences in Iraq?

    I'm too lazy to go dig up a reference at the moment. For some reason, that random factoid is embedded in my brain - mixed right in there with a BBC article about the new iPhone art created by David Hockney, remembered bits of the Milton Friedman essay "I, Pencil" and the latest Booker Prize winner.

    Gawd, that's weird.

    At any rate, I'm pretty sure the article exists somewhere besides my imagination, but I dunno for sure.

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  27. I mean bits of the latest Booker Prize winning book which I am half-heartedly reading. I didn't mean there is a potential prize winning novel inside my brain or anything. I know my limitations.

    I'm still too lazy to go looking for journal articles right now. You know, not my field, so not really anything to apologize for, I think....

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  28. @Anand: I stand corrected/better informed. Thanks.

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  29. On the Canadians:
    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/04/canadian-tanks/
    and (older)
    http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/tanks-for-the-lesson-leopards-too-for-canada-03208/

    Good comment here:
    http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/archive/2008/02/26/german-military-impressed-with-cf-afghan-tank-operations.aspx#comments

    "Picture yourself as a Taliban fighter holded up in a thick walled Afgan compound. Your guys are pretty well armed - rifles, machineguns and Rocket Propelled Grenades. The Canadians are attacking you - basically infantry with some LAV-IIIs in support. The Canadians are good, but you've got enough firepower to make them pay for the ground they take - the LAVs have to be kept fairly far back for fear of RPGs. Now picture this massive steel monster enters the picture. Its 1500hp deisel motor is literally making the ground vibrate - the walls are shaking and throwing off dust. It can sit out front and take a hit from anything you can throw at it - sure you might hit a track or disable a sight with a very lucky RPG shot, but the guys inside are safe. So it can sit there for as long as it takes the crew to use their very advanced thermal sights to pick off your guys one by one (or in bigger lots if they use the main gun - which is effective at over 3km range). That is a serious morale killer for you - and a huge boost for the Canadian infantry.

    Seems like it is worth the cost in dollars to me - certainly in infantry lives saved. Afstan is not a tank war - there will be no great Rommel style flanking movements. Rather, this is a classic case of using tanks in direct support of the infantry, something that the US Army sort of forgot about during the Cold War on the focus on the Fulda Gap - fortunately the Canadian Army and the US Marine Crops didn't.

    To use missiles, as David suggested, means that the folks firing the missiles have to either expose themselves, or fire from very far away where their sensors/sights will permit less target discrimination. Those missile systems were always designed to be used primarily for defensive purposes, though the Brits in the Falklands pioneered the use of a similar missile (MILAN) for offensive trench clearing. Ultimately, tanks can carry and use a sensor package that is far in advance of anything currently availible to the infantry, and their superior armour gives the tankers the peace of mind necessary to use them in a careful and deliverative manner."

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  30. On the Canadians:
    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/04/canadian-tanks/
    and (older)
    http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/tanks-for-the-lesson-leopards-too-for-canada-03208/

    Good comment here:
    http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/defencewatch/archive/2008/02/26/german-military-impressed-with-cf-afghan-tank-operations.aspx#comments

    "Picture yourself as a Taliban fighter holded up in a thick walled Afgan compound. Your guys are pretty well armed - rifles, machineguns and Rocket Propelled Grenades. The Canadians are attacking you - basically infantry with some LAV-IIIs in support. The Canadians are good, but you've got enough firepower to make them pay for the ground they take - the LAVs have to be kept fairly far back for fear of RPGs. Now picture this massive steel monster enters the picture. Its 1500hp deisel motor is literally making the ground vibrate - the walls are shaking and throwing off dust. It can sit out front and take a hit from anything you can throw at it - sure you might hit a track or disable a sight with a very lucky RPG shot, but the guys inside are safe. So it can sit there for as long as it takes the crew to use their very advanced thermal sights to pick off your guys one by one (or in bigger lots if they use the main gun - which is effective at over 3km range). That is a serious morale killer for you - and a huge boost for the Canadian infantry.

    Seems like it is worth the cost in dollars to me - certainly in infantry lives saved. Afstan is not a tank war - there will be no great Rommel style flanking movements. Rather, this is a classic case of using tanks in direct support of the infantry, something that the US Army sort of forgot about during the Cold War on the focus on the Fulda Gap - fortunately the Canadian Army and the US Marine Crops didn't.

    To use missiles, as David suggested, means that the folks firing the missiles have to either expose themselves, or fire from very far away where their sensors/sights will permit less target discrimination. Those missile systems were always designed to be used primarily for defensive purposes, though the Brits in the Falklands pioneered the use of a similar missile (MILAN) for offensive trench clearing. Ultimately, tanks can carry and use a sensor package that is far in advance of anything currently availible to the infantry, and their superior armour gives the tankers the peace of mind necessary to use them in a careful and deliverative manner."

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  31. "The best counter-sniper system is an Abrams main gun round."

    Oh, thats going to come across so well when the Iraqi tank veterans start to blow up houses...

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  32. There is such an article! ADTS has read it, of course.

    SWJ’s Cav Guy, writing under his real name in Small Wars and Insurgencies (21:3), argues that foraging does not supply superior information to a self-supplied (sic – my term) army, and also takes on some methodological problems with the RATM article: spurious correlation (mechanization was not the only factor over time that may have accounted for differential outcomes in COIN) and also, Lyall and Wilson’s paired comparison in RATM of the 4th ID and the 101st AA.

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/11/is-armor-antithetical-to-good/#comment-15233

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  33. While your arguments don't directly conflict, I'm curious what you think of the new FP piece about the tanks.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/24/tanks_but_no_tanks

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  34. "lessons learned from Iraq is that even the most population-centric COIN requires the killing of people and the breaking of things"

    Lessons learned from Iraq? Did I miss something? Has Iraq got its government back yet?

    Military operations kill people and break things? Thanks for clearing that up.

    Whatever you are smoking, I would love to know who your dealer is man...(and you should probably lay off it for awhile)...

    (By of the by, I wanna get a chocolate tank that fires whopping big gob stoppers, with little oompahloompahs running behind and firing marshmallow bullets at everyone, winning their hearts and minds)

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  35. Lessons learned from Iraq? Did I miss something? Has Iraq got its government back yet?

    Apparently you have. Maybe stick to the chocolate or look for a new dealer yourself.

    "The poll found that a large majority of Iraqis (73%) believe that the security situation in the country in general has improved since last summer. Consistent with previous polls, approval of the Iraqi National Army and Iraqi National Police remained high among all Iraqis, and across all regions.

    As the security situation has continued to improve, a sizeable majority of the population (66%) now say that they view “basic services” as the biggest challenge facing their country. Security was rated as the top problem by just 24% of respondents. This is a dramatic shift from December 2009, when just 23% of Iraqis listed basic services as their top concern, and far more (43%) were worried about security."

    http://www.currentintelligence.net/features/2010/9/30/public-opinion-in-iraq-pessimism-poor-services-and-ayad-alla.html

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  36. there seems to be a pretty big disconnect between those who want to 'win' the war and those who might recognize that in the interim it is helpful to protect and preserve the military folks.

    whether 16 is enough isn't quite as important to me as whether those deployed do what the forces need done without too much endless chit chat and delay. by the way, no one gives any advance warning with an ambush is to start so why are we adverse to having 120mm's tossed where needed?

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