Five Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks have arrived at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. It's the first step in what could prove to be a key turning point in the nine-year war in Afghanistan.
IED attacks and firefighters have killed fifteen members of Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment since October 8th in the Sangin area alone.
Twelve more tanks are expected to arrive during the next few weeks.
The tanks are equipped with sophisticated surveillance and night vision technology. It's the first time they'll be used to support infantry units taking on Taliban fighters in more remote areas of Helmand Province. The tanks also bring a lot of ammunition to the battlefield.
"The Marine Corps is looking to boost the combat power of the infantryman on the ground," said Lt . Matthew Glisson wih the U.S. Marine Corps. "And what better way to do that than with tanks?"
The decision to use Abrams tanks comes at a time when a spike in combat deaths and injuries has a growing number of critics questioning whether coalition forces are fighting a losing battle in Taliban strongholds in Northern Helmand Province.
Attacks have killed fifteen members of Camp Pendleton based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment since the unit arrived in the region this fall.
RC-Southwest Spokeswoman Major Gabrielle Chapin said the M1A1 Abrams tanks will dramatically increase protection and reaction time for Marines hampered by the limited capabilities of traditional armored vehicles. “The tanks will allow for a swift mobile force that can close off escape routes, deter, disrupt or pursue insurgent forces in terrain that might otherwise be unmanageable,” Chapin said.
The new tank command is slated to be fully operational by spring.