"US troops in Iraq are dying in roadside bombings at a higher rate than any period since the war began," the Boston Globe reports. "But commanders still have no effective means to monitor the deadliest routes for patrols."
Military deaths from roadside bombs have hit an all-time high in recent months: In October, 53 US troops died from improvised explosive devices, while in November, 49 troop deaths were blamed on so-called IEDs -- the second and third highest monthly tolls of the war, official statistics and casualty reports show...The Joint IED Defeat Organization, which had been hailed as the "Manhattan Project" of the roadside bomb problem, "has been a disaster," said Ed O'Connell, a counter-insurgency specialist at the government-funded Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., who has advised US commanders in Iraq.For its part, the organization claims some progress. They say that the percentage of bombs that are disarmed or detonated before they can kill or maim has remained "stable and consistent" over the past 18 months, and they say there are now fewer casualties per IED attack...But officials acknowledged that the number of roadside bombings has "risen dramatically over the last two years," though they would not provide statistics.That increase has confounded the military and raised questions about whether gathering intelligence on the bombers should be the office's top priority... [T]he IED office told the Globe that it spends 63 percent of its budget on ways to "defeat the device," while only 30 percent goes to attacking "the network" that creates and plants the bombs. The rest of its budget is spent on new training methods for US troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.But military specialists say that the Pentagon needs to pay more attention to dissecting the "kill chain" -- the source of the bomb components, who made the bomb, and who planted it."We can't even detect their explosives," said Loren Thompson , a military specialist at the Lexington Institution, an Arlington, Va., think tank that supports strong military preparedness. "We don't have the resources to police or survey every road. The IED problem is a case study of how military transformation has failed."It sounds like a threat where good intelligence and good surveillance would make a big difference," [h]e said. "But we don't seem to be able to develop those things."UPDATE 4:40 PM: This seems like a smart, and long-overdue, move.