Some people seemed confused, or reacted dismissively, when the Marine Corps announced late last year that it was sending a platoon of Abrams tanks to the fight in southern Afghanistan. But what the Marines are doing in southern Afghanistan is hardly unusual. From the February issue of DTI:
Main battle tanks (MBT) have been used successfully by the Canadians and the Dutch in southern Afghanistan, and by the Israelis, who learned hard lessons from bitter fighting in Lebanon in 2006, and went in heavy in Gaza in 2008-09. Rand Corp.’s David Johnson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who writes about heavy armor in conventional and irregular operations, and is finishing a book about Israel’s experience in Lebanon and Gaza, says Israeli officials tell him they’ve learned that if they don’t go into urban and asymmetric combat heavy, they won’t survive. “When they came out of Lebanon they restarted the Merkava Mk4 tank line to start building the Namer,” an armored personnel carrier based on a Merkava chassis, he says.
Tanks were critical in the U.S. Army’s fight against the Shiite Mahdi army in Baghdad’s Sadr City in 2008, and against Al Qaeda-backed Sunni insurgents in Fallujah in 2004, mainly due to the threat of rocket-propelled grenades and the entrenched nature of urban combat. “If you show up with a Merkava Mk4 or, in the case of the Canadians in Afghanistan, a Leopard 2 tank, insurgents have to be pretty dedicated to shoot at something that they know they won’t kill, but will kill them,” Johnson says. There's lots more in the full article, including European and Israeli perspectives on the future of the Main Battle Tank. Read the rest here.
Pic: Abrams tank at work in Iraq. US Army Photo