Well, the Marines asked for, and received, permission to deploy a company of M1A1 tanks to support their units in Southern Afghanistan. And according the the Army times, the US Army hasn’t totally discounted the idea:
Army Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges finished a yearlong deployment in November as director of operations for NATO’s Regional Command-South. He said he had not heard discussions of bringing tanks to RC-South, the regional command adjacent to RC-Southwest, which is where the Marines tanks are headed.
“We did not discuss in any detail the use of [U.S. Army] tanks,” Hodges said. However, he didn’t rule it out and said tanks have a proven place in Afghanistan. The Canadian army first sent a tank squadron — about 15 tanks, equivalent to a U.S. Army tank company — in October 2006. The Danish army followed suit and sent a similar-sized unit in 2007.
Army tank companies could deploy within a brigade combat team or be attached to Marine or coalition units, as happened in Iraq. The tanks would then spread out in pairs and provide support to units across the region, said David Johnson, a researcher at the Rand Corp., where he studies tank operations.
Deploying tanks could save soldiers’ lives as they prove to be more effective at pushing back assaults than some other weapon systems. Once an enemy penetrates an artillery gun’s range fan, it is useless, Johnson said. Not so for a tank. “It sure would have been nice to have an M1A2 Abrams tank at the Battle of Wanat or [Combat Outpost] Keating,” he said.
I’ll leave it to Esli, the resident tanker in our little commentariat here, to wax philosophical on where and how tanks can contribute to the fight in Afghanistan. But if the Army does decide to follow the Marines example, I hope they’ll go read what Donn Starry wrote about armor in a COIN environment.