New Source: Counter IED Plus Up in The 'Stan


First of all, dearest readers...lighten UP! Yesterday's post on the Russians buying an amphibious assault ship from the French was tongue in cheek, and if you don't get the irony, watch Spinal Tap or Tropic Thunder a few more times.

OK, so I want to introduce to you an exciting new source we've secured for, DT and DoD Buzz content from the Christian Science Monitor. We've highlighted a couple stories from my good friend and former colleague Gordon Lubold, who is the Pentagon Correspondent for the Monitor. Well, after months of negotiations, we've earned the right to post Gordon's content on our sites, which is a huge coup considering his solid sourcing, great analysis and top-notch writing.

Today, we ran a Lubold story on Afghanistan commanders' increasing counter IED capabilities in-country, including pulling in more EOD Techs, MRAPs and countermeasures.

The U.S. military is responding to the dramatic rise of roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan by significantly stepping up its efforts to combat the No. 1 killer of American troops in the war.

It is sending thousands of new bomb-resistant trucks there, increasing by 50 percent the number of explosive ordnance disposal experts, and importing "lessons learned" from the war in Iraq to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.

The effort is not expected to weaken "counter-IED" capability in Iraq. That will stay put for now, with the military increasing its efforts in Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan is a much different IED environment than Iraq, with aspects that make it easier and harder to counteract the threat. For example, IEDs are easier to emplace and conceal in Afghanistan, since 90 percent of its roadways are unimproved -- digging in a roadside bomb is a lot easier to do and cover up than on a paved surface like most of the roads are in Iraq. Also, most of Afghanistan's IEDs are made from homespun materials, making the forensics and interdicting of the explosives etc. harder to do.

But IEDs are much less sophisticated in Afghanistan and while deadly, we haven't seen the kind of triple stack anti-tank mine setups, Senao base station activators or EFPs we saw in Iraq. Most are crude, command detonated IEDs which put the insurgents at much greater risk.

Nevertheless, IED attacks are spiking...

In July 2007, there were 230 IED "incidents" in Afghanistan the Pentagon's terminology for roadside bombs that were detonated or detected. These killed 12 members of coalition forces. Last month, there were 828 incidents that killed 49 members of coalition forces, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization, an arm of the Pentagon.

In Iraq, by contrast, there were 170 incidents last month, down from the 2,137 reported in July 2007, according to the organization.

...but deaths from IEDs are not. According to Gordon's numbers, the rate of KIA per IED attack has ticked up a fraction of a percent, now at about 5.7 percent. By contrast, in Iraq the May 2007 death rate for IEDs was 90 troops in about 1200 attacks, or about an 8 percent KIA rate.

What will the MATV bring? Not sure. Look, I'll meet my critics half way and say that an MRAP robustness in a lightweight package is a better call than flooding the zone with, what my boy Dave Woroner likes to call, bank vaults on wheels. But I wonder if, given McChrystal's new guidelines, the MATVs are still not COIN-centric enough to do that job effectively.

What won the IED battle in Iraq? Not "banging trons" from Prowlers or MRAPs or even the uparmorest of uparmored Humvees. It was turning the population against the IED layers and boots on the ground (which I include snipers, who I say are the best counter IED weapon in the US/Coalition arsenal).

So please read the rest of Gordon's story on and be sure to keep a scan on other CSM content relevent to your interests. We're glad to have them aboard and look forward to further news on tactical development and strategic events.

-- Christian

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