|File photo of M1A1 Abrams tanks, which pack a super-accurate 120-mm main gun. A Pentagon official confirmed on Friday that the United States is sending heavily armored battle tanks to southwestern Afghanistan to aid in the fight against the Taliban. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- A Pentagon official confirmed on Friday that the United States is sending heavily armored battle tanks to southwestern Afghanistan to aid in the fight against the Taliban.
Fourteen M1A1 Abrams tanks, which pack a super-accurate 120-mm main gun, are en route to Afghanistan and will begin to arrive in January, Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan told reporters.
Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander of Regional Command Southwest which is responsible for security operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces, requested the tanks, said Lapan.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, and Gen. James N. Mattis, the commander of U.S. Central Command, approved the request.
"All commanders evaluate their situations and their operations, " Lapan said. "The commander in RC-Southwest determined that tanks would be useful in the fight he has because of the increased mobility, the increased firepower, because of the optics the tanks have."
Lapan emphasized that sending tanks to Afghanistan does not represent an escalation of the conflict there.
"These things happen all the time," he said. "We're conducting full-spectrum combat operations today, we'll be doing it tomorrow, we'll be doing it next month. Until the Afghan security forces are ready to take over lead for security ... we will continue to do combat operations to defeat the enemy."
However, U.S. media saw the movement as new evidence that the Obama administration has taken a more aggressive position in fighting the Taliban in the country.
The Washington Post said on Friday that the U.S. decision to send tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war represents "a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban."