OTTAWA—The Department of National Defence was wrong to deploy Leopard 1 C2 tanks to the battlefield in Afghanistan, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The study was written by Michael D. Wallace, Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia and Senior Advisor to the newly established Rideau Institute on International Affairs.
Wallace argues that older-model tanks such as the Leopard 1 are vulnerable to a variety of weapons easily manufactured by insurgent forces or obtained on the black market. The number and potential severity of the risks of putting our 1960s-designed Leopard 1 tanks in harm’s way outweighs any additional protection they can supply to Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.
“Introducing 28-year-old tanks into a combat zone replete with effective anti-tank weapons against fighters with nearly three decades of experience in attacking and killing far superior armour is not a wise decision,” says Wallace.
The improved Leopard 2 A6M tanks being sought from Germany will provide a good measure of additional protection for their crews, but they can still be overcome by improved rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices.
“There is no such thing as ‘invulnerable’ armour any more. Even the most modern and capable tanks are vulnerable to a variety of attacks,” states Wallace.
Wallace says indications point to the beginnings of an 'arms race'
between the insurgents and the International Assistance Force, similar to
one that has been going on between Coalition Forces and the insurgents in
Iraq for four years. Each attempt to out-armour the insurgents has failed and only resulted in an increasingly skilled insurgency, both in making weapons and in tactics.
It is entirely understandable that our military commanders will exert every effort to minimize the loss of Canadian lives, but, according to Wallace, by doing so they risk further alienating the Afghan population and undermining the mission’s development goals.
“How are regional development teams likely to be perceived if they are preceded by a 55-tonne tank that could pulverize their village with a single shot?” he asks. “And 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?”
Leopard Tanks and the Deadly Dilemmas of the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan is available on the CCPA web page at http://www.policyalternatives.ca
For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.