Monday, February 26, 2007

afghan, sending tanks that are sitting ducks!

New tanks no match for Taliban
Insurgents have weapons capable of crippling Leopards, report says
The Ottawa Citizen February 26, 2007

Canada's Leopard tanks in Afghanistan, as well as the new armoured vehicles the military soon hopes to acquire for operations there, are potential sitting ducks for insurgents, according to a report to be released today.

The study, done for the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, warns that insurgents have the weaponry to knock out the Canadian Leopards in Kandahar and can obtain the materials to immobilize the upgraded tanks the Canadian Forces want to purchase.

The end result is that the Canadian Forces will be trapped in an arms race with insurgents as they try to outdo each other, according to the study's author.

The report comes on the heels of new efforts by the Canadian Forces to lease state-of-the-art Leopard 2 tanks for the Kandahar mission and claims by the Taliban that it has access to more technologically advanced weapons for its planned spring offensive.

A Canadian military team was in Germany two weeks ago to work out details of the purchase of surplus Leopard tanks. The officers were also working on arrangements to lease from Germany the most advanced Leopard 2 tank available and have that shipped to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

There is interest in further building up of the armoured protection on that tank, already designed to withstand landmines, in order to deal with whatever new weapons the Taliban might use, sources said.

Military officials, however, say no decision has been made on the proposed purchase or lease.

But in a report to be released today, University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Wallace questions the use of the Leopards in Kandahar and argues that the tanks send the wrong message to Afghans.

"How can Canada set its sights on human rights, reconstruction, and economic development if its view of the country is narrowed to the turret sight of a tank?" he writes.

He said the use of heavier weaponry such as the Leopards creates the potential for further civilian casualties, which in turn only drives Afghans to support the insurgents.

Mr. Wallace said in preparation for their spring offensive, Afghan insurgents will likely also examine what is needed to defeat the Canadian Leopards and any new tanks Canada puts in the field.

Such information is readily available on the Internet, including a U.S. military site that details the design for an armour-piercing roadside bomb, he noted.

The rocket-propelled grenades already in use by the insurgents could be used to immobilize the tanks, he added.

"It's understandable why the military sent the Leopards since they will probably save Canadian lives," said Mr. Wallace, a senior adviser to the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute on International Affairs.

"But there is likely to develop in Afghanistan, as happened in Iraq, an arms race between armour and the armour-defeating weapons the insurgents have learned to build."

The Canadian Forces argue the Leopards are needed to provide firepower and added protection to troops. Last week, army commander Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie said the Leopard "is the best-protected vehicle against enormous blasts."

The tanks provide protection against suicide bombers, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, he said. The Leopards will also be able to move over irrigation ditches and other obstacles that hindered wheeled light-armoured vehicles during fighting last year, Lt.-Gen. Leslie said.

Taliban officials claim they have acquired surface-to-air missiles that will be used to attack NATO aircraft and they have also hinted that more advanced weapons may also be used.

"There are many more technological surprises in store," a Taliban source told the Italian news agency AKI last week. He did not give further details about whether that would include weapons to destroy armoured vehicles.

NATO, however, has questioned the veracity of Taliban claims in the past and pointed out that the insurgents tend to boast about capabilities they do not have.

Canadian Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant also doesn't believe that fighting will reach the same levels as last year since NATO plans pre-emptive strikes to disrupt Taliban forces.

Mr. Wallace acknowledges he has no easy answers on what the future course of action in Afghanistan should be. But he also notes the Canadian Forces and government don't appear to know either.

"We're getting more and more sucked in to something that's going to be harder and harder to get out of," he added.

2 comments:

Jason said...

I read the study and it was nothing to write home about. I strongly suspect the author has a cultural dislike of tanks - that's been around since 1918 or so - that's being disguised as a 'technical military objection' using tendentious arguments.

His "tanks vs. antitank weapons" section blurs the distinctions between the original 1963 Leopard I's vulnerabilities, the vulnerabilities of their current Canadian upgrade (which would be the most relevant discussion) and the highly theoretical vulnerabilities of the Leopard II.

If the Canadian Leopard was very vulnerable to RPG-7s, they wouldn't be over there, and we'd have a lot of military contractors to sue. They aren't invulnerable to the sort of weapons they're likely to face; but they're much less vulnerable than anything else Canada has in terms of military equipment. They make a Canadian convoy a much more complicated thing to try and ambush.

My point is, I guess, that the Leopards are the closest thing to the opposite of a sitting duck that we can provide in Afghanistan; and they aren't crummy old museum pieces.

If one wants to argue that they're part of a 'blitzkrieg' mentality (you can tell Wallace isn't an historian) or some sort of NATO pissing contest they can go ahead, but it makes a lot more sense to understand them as fitting a specific military role pretty well.

Jason said...

I read the study and it was nothing to write home about. The author has a cultural dislike of tanks - a political tradition among some on the left since around 1918, come rain or shine - that's being disguised as a 'technical military objection' using tendentious arguments.

His "tanks vs. antitank weapons" section blurs the distinctions between the original 1963 Leopard I's vulnerabilities, the vulnerabilities of their current Canadian upgrade, and the alleged theoretical vulnerabilities of the Leopard II. (Getting a bit ahead of himself, misrepresenting a weapon I doubt we'll even buy.)

If the Canadian Leopard was very vulnerable to RPG-7s, they wouldn't be over there, and we'd have a lot of military contractors to sue. They aren't invulnerable to the sort of weapons they're likely to face; but they're much less vulnerable than anything else Canada has in terms of military equipment. They make a Canadian convoy a much more complicated thing to try and ambush.

My point is, I guess, that the Leopards are the closest thing to the opposite of a sitting duck that we can provide in Afghanistan; and they aren't crummy old museum pieces.

If one wants to argue that they're part of a 'blitzkrieg' mentality (you can tell Wallace isn't an historian) or some sort of NATO pissing contest they can go ahead, but it makes a lot more sense to understand them as fitting a specific military role pretty well.