Canada in Afghanistan – Allied Armour in Southern
Afghanistan – January 2008
Danish Leopard tanks in supporting
action in Helmand Province:
Can Open Government be measured by a Military Press Release?
Stephen Priestley, Researcher, Canadian American
Strategic Review (CASR)
The Danish military has released an account of an engagement with the Taliban in Helmand Province which
involved British and Danish infantry as well as Danish Leopard 2A5 DK tanks. This was a minor engagement but it was well-run and successful
from ISAF's point of view. The Taliban were not able to successfully close with either of two
infantry units and finally exposed themselves to direct tank fire.
Successful as it was, it is not the action of our allies that is noteworthy. Rather it is the way in which the
events were reported upon. Without giving away any sensitive information, the Danish military gives
a simple, blow-by-blow account of the engagement. The report is written in 'plain Danish' making it
readily understandable to any interested Danish citizen.
This report was released (with illustrations) within one week of the clash. The author is a
Danish military press officer but he manages to avoid Canadian-style positive spin along with
the excessive "operational security" concerns which obsess CF public affairs officers. When
explaining Canadian involvement in Afghanistan, rarely is anything said so plainly.
The Danish approach provides a model for successfully communicating with the citizenry. The Danish military and
government face the same public-relations challenges that we do. However, the Danes see no gains in presenting a
hostile front to the very citizenry whose approval they need. Instead, citizens are shown respect by
presenting them with available information. The Danes keep PAffO spin to a bare minimum and require no "Tiger
As the Danish military emphasized from the outset, "... the tanks are to ... push the Taliban out the
area. Until that happens, it isn't possible to rebuild these areas". Their goal is clear: defeat the
Taliban, then proceed with reconstruction. No 'blur function' has been applied.
[ Our edited translation of the 14 Jan 2008 press release appears below. The original press release in Danish,
Kampvognene for alvor i ilden, can be found on the Forsvaret website.]
Danish Tanks in Serious Fire-Fight in Afghanistan
14-01-2008 hrs. 10:57
Christian Reinhold, press officer
On January 5th, three Danish tanks supporting the British Army against the Taliban proved their value. Danish
infantry also came under fire.
A British Company (Map 1) under the Danish-led Battle Group Centre, advanced along the east side of the
Helmand river. The British came under fire from small arms and RPGs [rocket propelled grenades]. Danish forces were
positioned on the west side of the river to prevent any Taliban on that side from joining in the attack on the
British. The Danish units were a platoon of mechanized infantry (Map 2) and the crews of
three Leopard tanks. (Map 3)
However, the Danish mechanized infantry, themselves, came under hostile fire from Taliban
positions on the western side of the Helmand River. The Taliban used local compounds to provide some cover
for their advance. The Danish infantry successfully blocked a frontal attack by the Taliban and the enemy
tried to disengage and flank the Danish unit (a manoeuvre used repeatedly by the Taliban which, if not
stopped, can leave ISAF defenders in serious danger).
This time, however, Danish tanks were emplaced on high ground on the edge of the desert. From these overwatch
positions, Danish tank crews could see down into the "Green Zone" along the river's edges.
When the Taliban tried to move into positions among abandoned compounds to engage the Danish infantry, the
enemy were in plain view of Danish tankers.
Taken by surprise by the tanks
It was a clear mistake by the Taliban not to consider the tanks up above the Green Zone. With a great deal of
machinegun fire and 20 rounds fired from the guns, the Danish Leopard tank crews engaged the
Taliban both out in open terrain and when the enemy forces took cover in compounds. In this situation, the tanks'
supporting fire was a big help to the Danish infantry.
By engaging the Taliban on either side of the river, the Danish and British ground forces reduced
the need for air support. Tank fire, which is frightenly accurate, pentetrates walls but usually
does not level a mud-brick compound the way large bombs dropped by aircraft can. This makes reconstruction in the
area far easier once the Taliban have been removed.
Calm in the area
After the riverside clash, there has been very little hostile activity in the
area. This may be due to the extreme cold in Helmand at present. But it may also be
that the enemy suffered great losses as a result of precision shooting by
the Danish Leopard tank gunners. At any rate, cooperation between the tanks and infantry
is seen to be vital in the fight against the Taliban in the Green
Hærens Operative Kommando