US to deploy tanks for first time in Afghanistan

A 14 M1A1 Abrams tank The 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks set to be deployed in Afghanistan are also being used by troops in Iraq

The US military is deploying heavily-armoured battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, Nato's International Security Assistance Force has said.

The move marks a shift toward more aggressive tactics in the fight against the Taliban to end the insurgency.

The tanks are to be used to help US Marines target insurgents from a greater distance.

Canadian and Danish troops have already made use of tanks in Afghanistan.

"They bring superior optics, manoeuvrability and precision firepower that will enable us to isolate insurgent forces from key population centres and provide the ability to project power into insurgent safe havens," said US Marine Corps spokeswoman Gabrielle Chapin.

Over 100 US Marines and 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks will be deployed to southern Afghanistan, where conflicts with the Taliban are the most intense.

Military leaders hope the new tanks will allow them to secure routes where insurgents place roadside bombs and "pursue insurgent forces in terrain that might otherwise be unmanageable", said Maj Chapin.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has increased more than threefold in the past three months.

A US defence official told the Washington Post newspaper that deploying tanks so late in the war could be seen as a sign of desperation.

But Maj General Richard Mills, who commands a force of roughly 30,000 in Afghanistan, disagrees.

"Tanks are hardly a weapon of desperation but simply another tool to wage COIN [counterinsurgency efforts] in an effective way that will save Afghan and Coalition lives," he said.

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