We read all the time about the American military effort to stop handmade bombs in Iraq. But we don't know much about the insurgents who build and plant them. Greg Grant, who just got back from Iraq, has one of the most detailed looks yet into the IED supply chain. Here's a snippet. But be sure to read the whole story, in this month's Defense Technology International.
According to U.S. military intelligence, more than 100 cells operate in Iraq. Most limit attacks to roadways and neighborhoods near where the cell members live. Cells advertise their technical skills on the Internet, posting streaming video of IED attacks to jihadist web sites. The most highly skilled IED cells operate as a package and hire themselves out to the larger insurgent networks on a contract basis, changing affiliations for more money.While ideology motivates many guerrilla fighters in Iraq, some officers believe the financial motivation behind insurgent attacks has been underestimated. You get a disaffected guy who is making $100 a month and you tell him go place this IED and Ill give you $300, and if you blow something up well give you a $700 bonus, and thats a pretty dramatic reward, says Army Lt. Col. Shawn Weed, a military intelligence officer in BaghdadPayday is the beginning of the month, says Army Lt. Col. Ross Brown, who commands a cavalry squadron in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3ACR) operating south of Baghdad. We can track it on a calendar; hes buying IEDs on this date, then hes building them, now hes putting them out on the roads, then theyre blowing up and then hes out of money and munitions and he starts over...Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was saturated with weapons plants and munitions depots. U.S. intelligence indicates that after the regime fell, former officials moved large quantities of munitions into pre-selected caches, many south of Baghdad, from which insurgents draw explosives for IEDs. Army Capt. Ben Crombe, an intelligence officer in 3ACR, says there is a single supplier for many of these cells.The suppliers provide explosive material to locations across the capital. Components are assembled at well-concealed bomb factories and moved from areas likely to be searched by American patrols to holding areas until the device is emplaced. Because of the frequency of U.S. raids on suspected insurgent hideouts, IEDs are kept in what the military calls rolling weapons caches cars with false bottoms or trunks loaded with explosives that blend in with the thousands of vehicles on Iraqs crowded city streets.Individual cells have a specific signature and follow a pattern, Funk says, such as the time of day they carry out IED attacks and where they place bombs, while different cells have access to different types and sizes of munitions. Most of the bombs are unique in construction because the bomb maker is forced to use materials at hand.