There has been some skepticism over the Marine Corps’ decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to join the battle in southern Afghanistan, but the use of tanks in a counterinsurgency in general, and in Afghanistan in particular, is hardly new.
In Afghanistan, the Canadians and the Danes have used their tanks to great effect--and Canadian Army Maj. Trevor Cadieu has written a detailed acocunt on how tanks became an integral part of the Canadian fight in Kandahar—the place U.S. Marines are fighting now. In December 2006, the Canadians deployed a squadron of Leopard C2 tanks to Kandahar, and he Major writes that “after deploying forward… the tank squadron and armoured engineers featured prominently in all major combat operations undertaken by the Canadian BG… Since May 2007, the tank squadron has fought almost constantly alongside Canadian and Afghan infantry in close combat with the Taliban.”
The Canadians say that they’ve found so much success in Afghanistan with the German-made Leopard tank that they completely revised plans for the structure of their ground forces. In 2001, the Canadians decided not to replace their aging fleet of Leopard I tanks—the plan was to simply ride them until they died and then transition to a lighter force structure using the Stryker-like LAV infantry carriers as their heaviest piece of equipment. It wasn’t long before the heavy fighting and the toll that powerful roadside bombs Canadian troops encountered in southern Afghanistan changed this calculus, however, prompting the Ottawa government to kick off a “crash program” to buy surplus German and Dutch Leopard II tanks, which began arriving in Afghanistan in 2008.