Taliban IEDs as TTPs

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

From The Washington Times:

The Taliban has been building simpler, cheaper anti-personnel bombs made of hard-to-detect nonmetal components, increasing the number of lethal attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to a confidential military report.

The shift in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) away from larger anti-armor bombs has allowed the Taliban to produce more weapons and hide them in more places as they strive to kill larger numbers of American forces in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province and other contested regions.

The change in production from metal-dominated explosives to devices made of plastic is making it more difficult for ground troops to detect the buried IEDs with portable mine-detectors, creating an “urgent need” inside the Pentagon for better detection devices, the report said.

The new Taliban tactics are disclosed in a confidential report from the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, portions of which were obtained by The Washington Times.

The area around Now Zad, northwest of Kandahar, has experienced some of the most ferocious fighting for control of southern Afghanistan since the surge of 21,000 U.S. troops began last spring. News reports and military bloggers say Marines on patrol face a constant threat from hidden IEDs.

“Although the Taliban still fights with small-arms, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, they have increasingly focused the role of IEDs as antipersonnel devices,” the report said. “Smaller, lighter, more quickly constructed and quite often triggered by a victim-operated switch [booby trap], these antipersonnel IEDs have been a significant factor in labeling Now Zad the most dangerous location with the highest U.S. casualty rate in either the Afghan or Iraq theaters.”

The Aug. 11 report, titled, “The Taliban’s Emerging IED TTPs in the Proving Grounds of Now Zad, Helmand Province,” was written by an analyst at U.S. Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. TTPs is short for tactics, techniques and procedures …

In the past two months, more than half of the battlefield deaths suffered by NATO troops were caused by IEDs. This month, of 31 fatalities, 15 came from IEDs; in August, 46 of the 77 coalition deaths resulted from these devices, according to icasualties.org.

The Pentagon report said the Taliban IED research-and-development program used the Now Zad region to show that smaller, more numerous IEDs kill more people. The rate for dead and wounded for the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment stood at one-third of the unit in August, the report said. A typical Marine battalion has 800 to 1,000 troops.

A military official, who monitors Afghanistan and asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the Taliban is shifting to small IEDs for a number of reasons.

“You’ve got the fear factor,” the source said. “It’s also less costly. It’s easier for them to build those things and use them as opposed to running the risk of getting in firefights and losing people. The cost is relatively low. We’re fighting guys who from all appearances are from three centuries ago, but we can’t figure out how to beat them.”

The Pentagon report said the Taliban has become adept at mining a road called the “Pakistani Alley” — so-named because Taliban militants use it to ferry in new fighters from the neighboring country.

“U.S. troop movements are split between foot and mounted patrols,” the report said. “The terrain and deplorable road conditions often necessitate that foot patrols be conducted on uneven terrain. The Taliban have taken advantage of this by littering the area north of ‘Pakistani Alley’ with numerous antipersonnel IEDs to maintain control over their northern buffer-zone.”

Robert Maginnis, a military analyst and Army adviser, said IEDs are tailor-made for Afghanistan.

“IEDs are effective in Afghanistan in part because of the terrain,” Mr. Maginnis said. “There are few paved roads, which means planting a device in or near a road is easier and harder to detect by visual inspection. The increase in Taliban use of IEDs is due to the increased coalition forces in country, which forced the relatively small Taliban force to adjust its tactics. It stretches the force’s impact.”

Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis, a spokesman for Gen. Stanley McChrystral, the top commander in Afghanistan, told The Times the general has stepped up efforts to disrupt networks before they can plant bombs, and get better intelligence on where they are embedded in light of “the weapons’ increasing use against coalition forces and because of the impact of a larger number of indiscriminate, victim-operated IEDs on the Afghan people.”

I would like to get a copy of this report, but my web-based e-mail for the web site (contact information) isn’t currently working.  No one has covered Now Zad like I have, and that merits some consideration.  Either way, it’s good to get better intelligence, and the article ends with technological advancements that may help in the detection of IEDs of this kind, but these are only half-way measures.  As we discussed in On the Front Lines with the Marine in Helmand, there aren’t enough Marines in place to prevent Taliban brutality towards the Afghans who would otherwise want to cooperate.  Intelligence to shut down the traffickers in IEDs will only go so far.  Force Projection is necessary.

We must go after them where they live, where they traffic their supplies, and where they recruit and train.  We must shut down their logistics, kill their fighters, and cause them to live in fear.  We must cause them to stay on the run such that they have neither the time nor supplies to construct or emplace IEDs.  Only then will they be so preoccupied with staying alive that they forget the population.  Then we will have won.  IEDs will no longer be a problem because the Taliban aren’t a problem.  They go hand in hand, and one will not be defeated without the other.  We cannot first defeat IEDs and then the Taliban – just like it was in Iraq.



  • TSAlfabet

    Captain, concerning the IED challenge, what do you think, purely as a tactical matter, of using a similar method to what was done in Desert Storm, i.e., the use of bulldozers or other tracked vehicles equipped with large, fork-like tines on the front to rake through the soil and clear pathways for foot patrols?

    For general edification, here is a link to an article posted just today that details the various anti-mine vehicles used in Desert Storm.

    http://maic.jmu.edu/Journal/5.3/focus/thomas_houlihan/thomas_houlihan.htm

    The Mine Flail system would seem promising against the anti-personnel mines being used by the T-ban, as would the full-width mine rake. In Desert Storm, the mine rake was viewed as being too slow to use due to concerns about exposure of troops to enemy artillery, but this is presumably not an issue in A-stan.

    I realize this is no answer to your larger point of going after the enemy where they live (which I wholeheartedly agree with), but it would seem to force a difficult choice on the T-ban. On one hand, they are opting for cheaper, plastic explosives which are easier to implant and, presumably not as potent against armored vehicles. On the other hand, if U.S. forces start using these mine-clearing vehicles, the cheap IED’s can largely be neutralized as our troops follow behind the cleared paths, particularly since we are avoiding main roads now anyway. The T-ban would then have to go back to implanting heavier, anti-tank mines which are more expensive, more difficult to emplace and put their people at risk. At that point, U.S. forces can use traditional technologies for detecting the anti-tank mines. According to the article, the mine rakes can survive multiple anti-tank explosions. Not sure if it is logistically feasible to supply each combat unit with one of these vehicles, but it would certainly be cheaper than losing our most valuable asset– marines, to death and disabling injuries.

    Another advantage of the Mine Rake is its ability to create a safe lane which is slightly wider than an Abrams tank, allowing our troops to go back to mounted vehicles and bring supplies (i.e. WATER) with them.

    Of course, this only addresses the issue of getting to and from the target location. It would probably do nothing to solve the problem of IED’s embedded all over a town or village on command wires. Not sure what you do about that.

  • Warbucks

    Ta-DA-A-A-A-A-A-H !!!

    Your attention is respectfully invited to LLNL laboratories (https://www.llnl.gov/) and it’s many advanced technologies for detecting airborne molecules of all sorts with hand held field equipment.

    With some tweaking, LLNL’s stuff could be made to work in the field to identify airborne molecules from plastics to explosives, to body odors.

  • blkfoot_04

    So here is just some simple ideas that maybe we aught to look into.

    1) The Taliban and Al Qaida is whipping our butts in the media battle. Anything the Allied Forces do that just might cause a death or injury of a civilian is promply brought out and displayed with bright spotlights and glittering lettering. And without knowing just who is Taliban and who is Joe Chit the Ragman Civilian…we’ll always be losing this battle. We need to get a handle of the “propaganda” war.
    2) All the Afghans ever see of the Allies is Warriors (oh, our troops are doing a great job don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but the highest respect for our service personel over there, but, their troops, combat- armed to the teeth ready to kick azz and take names troops)…even the small amount of Civilians sent over there look like some sort of soldier. How are you going to get the mindset changed to “trust us” if all they have ever seen is foreign combat troops trying to secure safe areas on your home turf. Imagine if you can, that in your town or village all the time. You didn’t invite them here, unwanted guest.
    3) Children. Children are the future, Children are open to making new friends…Children are Afghanistan, Children remember kindness, friendliness, gifts and who gave them..who can be their friend. If this country could once again mobilise the giving power of Churches, and start a Toy’s and clothes for tots programs to be handed out to the Children of Afghanstan…by our soldiers and Marines…a whole new strategy of “hearts and Minds” would begin. Shoes, socks coats, gloves, hats, teddy bears or other stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons, gum or candy, picture books and caned foods and cooking utensils, solar cook stoves….things these people just don’t have everyday. Clean out every Goodwill in the United States and just give this stuff away to needed Afghan families. Do not enclude religion.
    4) Buy vegitables from the local farmers for the Military base camps, make it worth their while to change their Poppies to Corn, Wheat, Tomatoes, Beans, Beets, Rice, Potatoes, Lettuce, Carrots, Broccoli, Aspargus, Caulaflower, Chickens, Beef, Eggs, Lamb (I would suggest Pork but being a muslim country I doubt if there’s any big farms of those around), create that market that they need to kick start a larger market thru out Afghanastan and neighboring countries…Hell, there’s over 68,000 US troops, plus the Nato troops, plus the supporting units not in country and off shore on ships…we’re talking a Massive market out there, compared to having to ship all this stuff from the U.S. and Europe to Afghanastan….Also get NGO’s involved for purchases for African nations that need food. Build a industry and infastructure.
    5) Start shipping over brand new 1800′s style farm empliments like plows and disks (pulled by oxen or donkeys), harvest equipment, thashers, elevators and storage bins and corn cribs (contact our Amish people here in the States, they still make and use this stuff). And give it too the farmers
    6) BEAT the Taliban and Al Qaida at a game they have no pieces to match with. Out smart these guys at a strategy they couldn’t beat. Anything we “give” or buy from the locals is all positive, the Taliban or Al Qaida, if they take it away from the locals are walking right into the trap of Suggestion #1!

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,IEDs,Taliban and was published September 15th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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