The United States is beefing up its firepower in Afghanistan by employing heavily armored tanks in Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, a military spokesman said Friday.
The U.S. Marine Corps plans to use a company of M1A1 Abrams tanks in restive Helmand province by early spring, said Marine Maj. Gabrielle Chapin.
The M1A1 tank is the fastest and most deadly ground combat weapons system available. It will allow for more aggressive missions while mitigating risks to U.S. forces, the military said.
U.S. forces used the tanks to battle insurgents successfully in Iraq's Anbar province, Chapin said.
"They bring superior optics, maneuverability and precision firepower that will enable us to isolate insurgent forces from key population centers and provide the ability to project power into insurgent safe havens," he said.
Other coalition forces, including those from Canada, already have used tanks in Afghanistan.
The decision comes as Afghanistan tops the agenda at the NATO summit that starts Friday in Lisbon, Portugal, and amid a public dispute between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO leaders over military strategy.