The Ebb and Flow of IED Warfare: U.S. Lives are at Stake

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 5 months ago

Due in part to a failure to listen adequately to Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni regarding Iraq war planning, along with premature cessation of conventional operations (bypassing large urban areas leading to costly MOUT later in the war) and halting invocation or implementation of counterinsurgency TTPs, the Iraq campaign has been problematic.  In Concerning the Failure of Counterinsurgency in Iraq, I said “we were utterly unprepared for the toll that IEDs would take on U.S. troops, and even after it became obvious that this was a leading tactic of the enemy, we reacted with lethargy.”  IEDs became one of the two most effective weapons of the insurgents, specifically because of two reasons: their cheap and ready availability, and the fact that they are a stand-off weapon, something unthinkable for the insurgents 40 or 50 years ago.

Sometimes the most effective countermeasure to the tactics of the insurgency is human manpower.  The Government Accounting Office tells us just how this is relevant for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unattended Iraqi ammunition depots provide the majority of explosives used by insurgents to attack U.S. and coalition troops with improvised explosive devices, according to a Government Accountability Office report released April 27.

“There’s an unknown number of sites that remain unsecured today,? GAO Director Davi D’Agostino said.

Drawing from after-action reports and input from military leaders, the report blames inadequate Operation Iraqi Freedom planning for the unsecured munitions.

“According to lessons-learned reports and senior level DoD officials, the widespread looting occurred because DoD had insufficient troop levels to secure conventional munitions,? the report states.

IED attacks, using conventional explosives, are four times higher than when the war began in 2003, said Christine Devries, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Office.

“Looted munitions are being used to make improvised explosive devices that have killed or maimed many people and will likely continue to support terrorist attacks in the region,? according to the report.

For a period of time the U.S. has enjoyed some degree of success in countering the effect of IEDs by jamming the signals from the insurgents to detonate them (sometimes from cell phones).  Electronics has been put to good use in Iraq, but in case the reader hasn’t noticed, this enjoyment has diminished recently, and there is an increasing trend again in successful IED attacks apparently because the insurgents are employing electronics against us.

In 2006, the Pentagon spent $1.4 bn to develop sophisticated counter measures for roadside bombs, which account for more US deaths in Iraq than any other weapon. They were designed to locate and detonate the improvised explosive devices IEDs from afar, before American convoys drove past the spot where they are planted.

One such system has a sense of smell which sniffs out the presence of explosives; another uses radio beams to jam the IED’s electronic signals.

Soon after they were fitted on US military vehicles and went into successful use, al Qaeda came up with a device capable of disarming both US electronic measures by electronic circuits. The Islamist terrorists thus escalated their challenge to the US military by introducing electronic warfare.

Their success has boosted the US and British death toll in Iraq. Of the 50 US and UK soldiers who died in Iraq in the first 9 days of April, 30 were killed by IEDs. Al Qaeda’s mystery device is believed by military experts to account for the soaring rate of effective roadside bomb hits on American vehicles, even those fitted with the new counter-measures.

The Pentagon department entrusted with finding a new solution, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, is working day and night to produce a new counter-measure which is not susceptible to the al Qaeda blocker.

In the ebb and flow of IED warfare, U.S. lives are at stake and time is of the essence.  For the sniper threat there have been several tactics and countermeasures employed, including but not limited to satellite patrols and better body armor.  For IEDs, the two most effective countermeasures appear to be manpower and electronics.


You are currently reading "The Ebb and Flow of IED Warfare: U.S. Lives are at Stake", entry #500 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Technology and was published April 27th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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