Let’s be frank about why a company of M1 Abrams tanks are being added to the fight in Helmand province – because of their survivability and the firepower they bring to the fight against the current threat in Helmand (i.e. IED’s that disrupt lines of communications, concentrated enemy positions supported by complex IED/minefields, lack of local support). The reality on the ground is that in order to gain an upper hand requires a new combination of light and heavy armor to defeat it. In simple terms we must escalate to de-escalate.
The Washington Post does not discuss the timing of the M1 Abrams tank deployment or in otherwords when they will be put into action. But if you really wanted to surprise the enemy, the M1 tanks would be flown in one-by-one on C17 cargo aircraft into Kandarhar Airfield under the cover of night, and then quickly added to the fight. But, CNN has confirmed that the M1 tanks will not be deployed until early spring. Really? Next spring? Here is the CNN report, read it yourself.
“The U.S. Marine Corps plans to use a company of M1A1 Abrams tanks in restive Helmand province by early spring, said Marine Maj. Gabrielle Chapin.”
I don’t get it. On one hand the US telegraphs to the world and the Taliban that the US is in a hurtbox in Helmand and requires heavy armor like yesterday to secure victory, but then on the other hand announces that they tanks will not arrive until spring. If you need tanks in Afghanistan, you can get them there in relatively short order – delaying their deployment until next spring makes no sense.
Last weekend was a particularly bloody day for one unit in Afghanistan as it conducted a series of missions in support of Operation Bulldog Bite. Six US soldiers were killed, five of them in a six-hour gunfight, details of which are just being reported. The firefight was so intense that medical evacuation of the wounded (a figure not released) was not successful until late in the evening. The commanding general stated that, “this is a huge blow to the enemy” and had broken the morale of Taliban in the area.
The Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, the Class 1 Unmanned Aircraft System, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the Network Integration Kit are the remaining components of the failed Future Combat System. In short order, top Army officials will decide whether to outfit one Army Brigade in 2012 with these systems. The systems scored poorly in recent evaluations and were not considered reliable, there are unknown costs, and most importantly a potential a lack of operational utility. Given these circumstances, you can bet that Boeing will secure the contract.