Pentagon pushed back hard on an Associated Press report today about a supposed "worldwide" ban on 60 mm mortar
rounds in the aftermath of a deadly accident at an army depot in Nevada.
60 mm rounds are used in infantry units across multiple branches of the
military and are highly effective at rooting out insurgents in Afghanistan. But officials at the Pentagon and Marine Corps told Foreign Policy the ban
only applies to the Marine Corps and, even then, includes exemptions for units
engaged in combat operations.
is not a service-wide suspension, but rather only a USMC suspension," said
Pentagon spokeswoman Anne Edgecomb. "Additionally, commanders operating in
combat theater (Afghanistan) can use the 60 mm mortar system following an
operational risk management assessment."
Marine Corps mortar ban was implemented after an explosion at the Hawthorne
army depot in Nevada killed seven marines. According to reports, the mortar
round blew up in its firing tube during a training exercise. (An investigation
is ongoing as to why the round went off.)
specter of a worldwide ban on the mortars surprised weapons analysts this
morning given the weapons' utility on the battlefield. "In a place like
Afghanistan, with widely dispersed operating locations, mortars can often be
the only fire support a local commander has until aircraft appear overhead,"
said Chris Dougherty, a war games expert at the Center for Strategic and
Budgetary Assessments "In that sense, they can function as a sort of 'security blanket.'"
its report, the AP stated that the Pentagon "banned
the use of 60mm mortar rounds by its troops worldwide."
not," said Marine Corps spokesman Richard Ulsh, in an interview with FP.
if the red-tape requirement that combat units fill out risk management
assessments to acquire mortar rounds might prevent the weapons from getting in
the right hands, Ulsh said the process was simple and that the "precautionary
measure would be removed sometime after the investigation is done." He added,
"the exception provides the commanders in Afghanistan the flexibility to
weigh the risks themselves and use it at their discretion."