Here Come The Tanks

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Eyebrow-raising piece in the Washington Post this morning reporting that the U.S. Marines are dispatching 16 M-1 tanks to southwestern Afghanistan. The 68-ton behemoths can hurl a 120mm shell a mile downrange to blow up pretty much anything. It’s the first time such heavy armor is being sent to Afghanistan.

A Marine M-1 tank in Iraq / DoD photo

This raises a couple of interesting issues: just what do the Taliban and their allies have that requires this kind of firepower? Last month the U.S. and its allies dropped, fired or shot a total of 1,000 bombs and missiles on targets inside Afghanistan — the highest number since the war began nine years ago. Just what are those tanks going to be able to hit that allied warplanes haven’t been capable of destroying? An officer quoted in the Post piece says that tanks can fire on a target much more quickly than a warplane can be called in to attack a target. We’re now in the 10th year of this war; never got the sense that speed was a requirement.