Monday 15 November 2021

Taliban Army Reinstates Armour Operations In Afghanistan

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Armoured warfare in Afghanistan diminished drastically after the 2001 United States invasion of the country. While past regimes and factions relied heavily on the use of armour as fire-support platforms, the U.S.-led Coalition saw little use for heavy armour by the new Afghan National Army (ANA). Plans to re-equip the only remaining armour unit of the ANA with M60A3 tanks were eventually shelved as a result, and only through sheer dedication did the ANA managed to cling on to a single tank battalion. [1]

Other armoured fighting vehicle (AFVs) types like the BMP-series of infantry fighting vehicles and ZSU-23 SPAAGs were even less fortunate, facing retirement in increasing numbers throughout the mid-2000s. Nonetheless, the U.S. did provide the ANA with nearly 200 M113 armoured personnel carriers in 2005. [2] However, the vulnerability of the M113 to IEDs and their unimpressive armament made them ill-suited to counterinsurgency operations, and most were quickly abandoned on Afghan Army bases throughout the country.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, several T-55s and T-62s soldiered on as static pillboxes located in remote bases all throughout the country. The use of these tanks, many of which by now unable to move on their own power, often appears to have been carried out on the initiative of the local commander rather than a nationwide effort repurpose the tanks to mobile bunkers. [3] When the tanks could still move, it was only to drive around the base rather than to venture out on operational deployments. 
But images released in mid-November 2021 seems to suggests that the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan might turn to the large-scale use of armour once again. During an inspection tour of a military base near Kabul, Chief of Staff Qari Fasihuddin visited a unit that appears to make use of a T-62M, a T-55 and a BMP-2. [4] Further to the rear two wheeled M1117 ASVs can also be seen. Huge numbers of which were captured intact by Taliban forces during their rapid advance across the country.

The same BMP-2 as seen in the header image during a parade in Kabul.

It is not unthinkable that the new Afghan Army under Taliban leadership will attempt to reactivate more of the heavy weaponry that currently is still languishing on bases throughout the country. This includes anything from tanks to 220mm BM-27 multiple rocket launchers and even ballistic missiles. [5] [6] [7] However, in the latter case any reactivation appears unlikely after years of storage out in the open, and the new government in Kabul arguably has little need for such weaponry.

Special thanks to Natsecjeff and Lukas Muller.