Defeating IEDs and Bombs: The Lessons of Iraq for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 7 months ago

Jcustis of the Small Wars Council recently started a SWC discussion thread that should have gotten more attention than it did.  He linked a previously unknown (to the SWC) Wikipedia entry on suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003.  Right behind this entry, Schmedlap made the following observation:

One thing that I would point out, that is illustrated well by the article if you look for it – note the suicide attacks in the summer of 2007, particularly July and August. Contrary to the narrative that the dip in violence after August was due to a Sadr militia “ceasefire,” the dip was actually due to a significant drop in the number and effectiveness of AQI mass casualty attacks. In particular, note that hundreds of those victims were in northern Iraq (Kirkuk, Tal Afar, predominantly Sunni Arab areas of Diyala, etc), not in Sadrist strongholds. Violence from Sadr’s militia dropped two months prior to him calling the “ceasefire.” The only thing that kept the death toll high in the interim between June/July 07 and the “ceasefire” in late August was the rate of murders by AQI. Take out the AQI murders and you have a steady drop in civilan deaths beginning in June/July, not late August. The credit for this reduction goes to MNF-I and the ISF, not Sadr.

This is an interesting and important point, one that bears detailing a bit more.  The EXCEL graph below shows the suicide bombings per month based on the Wikipedia entry (click to enlarge).

One possible defeater argument for the hypothesis would be that the discussion so far only deals with suicide bombings and not overall security incidents.  Care of the Mudville Gazette, an EXCEL graph of the weekly security incidents is found in the June 2008 Multinational Force Report to Congress.

The look of the trends is basically the same.  In 2006 and into 2007, the tribal revolt against al Qaeda was in full swing, with AQ losing badly in the Western part of Anbar, most importantly in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar.  AQ was pushed Eastward towards Fallujah, and had made this area (and into Baghdad) their final stand in Anbar.  Operation Alljah (which began in April of 2007 and ended in the late summer of 2007) essentially ended the AQ presence in Fallujah, at which point they were on the run Northward into the Diyala Province and towards Mosul.

Along with this evolution, the Baghdad security plan was implemented early in 2007, pressuring AQ in and around the capital city.  This continual pressure on AQ caused a precipitous decrease in not only suicide bomgings, but overall security incidents (the basic trends mirroring each other).  The point is that while good body armor is desirable against snipers, it can only accomplish so much.  While MRAPs are desirable to ameliorate the affect of IEDs, they are only so good – dismounted patrols have to be conducted as well.

In the end, one of the most important lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom is that presence with the population, intelligence-driven raids, and pressure on the enemy are the best tools against IEDs and bombings.  Military pressure is proactive, while all other tools are defensive and reactive.

There has begun to be a steady flow of horrific reports of bombs, IEDs and Marines who have perished or become wounded in Afghanistan.  Four Marines deployed out of Twentynine Palms died from a roadside bomb.  Marine Sgt. Justin Clenard – badly wounded – was on foot patrol with his platoon when they were hit by a mortar round or a land mine. Clenard lost his right leg from the knee down and his lower left leg as well.  Lance Corporal Justin Rokohl entered his ninth hour of surgery in a military hospital in Germany on Monday night, being wounded from a roadside bomb.   Navy Corpsman Dustin Burnett died from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  And Lance Cpl. Andrew Francis Whitacre has died in Afghanistan.  He had one last wish.

“I want to take a second and thank all of you who support us in what we do,” Andrew wrote two months before his death. “I know many of you do not believe in the wars we are fighting in. Just remember that all the men and women who are here are here because at one point they took an oath to protect and serve YOU. The support of the citizens of the country we fight and die for is all that we ask.”

There are more than mentioned above.  The support of our warriors means the proper resourcing of the campaign.  Germany is deploying more troops to Afghanistan, but their rules of engagement are not changing and they will not be allowed to participate in combat except in self defense, and they will not be deployed to the most violent parts of Afghanistan.

This isn’t enough.  There will continue to be a dreadful flow of reports from the Afghanistan theater until force projection is applied.  Common sense suggests it, and the data proves it.  This means more troops, and more robust force presence with the population and the enemy, including the ROE to get the job done.  This is the last wish of one Marine and his parents who have given everything.


  1. On June 26, 2008 at 4:33 pm, jonesgp1996 said:

    I could not agree more with the assessment here.

    However, as I’ve mentioned in a previous posting related to ISAF/OEF, there will not be enough troops from countries willing to place their troops in dangerous areas and with the ROE to take the fight to the enemy (I am speaking mainly of the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, and of course the US) as long as the US keeps its main strategic effort in Iraq. Until Iraq is resolved, Afghanistan will remain a secondary (and under-resourced) mission.

    Not being privy to the inner thought processes of the strategic decision-makers, I can only imagine that they perceive Iraq as being more important in terms of how it postures the US in related regional issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran-Hezbollah relationship, the Syria-Lebanon issue, and the US conflict with Iran. These are certainly important problems. However, by not applying the necessary tools and force in Afghanistan, we may be allowing the Taliban and al-Qaeda to regroup and rebuild. Though the Taliban is not as big of a problem in terms of their scope and ambition (i.e., they want to return to power in Afghanistan), certainly allowing al-Qaeda to get back on its feet should be of concern to the US and its allies.

    Though many of the Bush administration’s Democrat opponents have said all along that the administration screwed up by going into Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan, what’s done is done and they need to find a way to wrap up in Iraq in order to shift the resources back to ISAF and OEF. Pres. Bush ought to spend the final months in office in a major push to engage both Iran and the Gulf powers (esp. Saudi Arabia) in coming to a consensus on bringing greater stability to Iraq. It’s in everyone in the region’s interests to have a stable (if not necessarily democratic and pro-US) Iraqi state, and that’s what they should all be working for.

    By snubbing the NATO allies early on in the Afghanistan fight (i.e. “we don’t need your help that much”; “thanks for invoking Article V, but we’re doing fine without you”), it has become an even harder sell to get politically reluctant European states to shoulder a greater burden there. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the US will have to commit the bulk of the forces in Afghanistan if it wants to get the job done. NATO simply provides political legitimacy for what we want to do there.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Defeating IEDs and Bombs: The Lessons of Iraq for Afghanistan", entry #1168 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Force Projection,Marine Corps,Marines in Helmand and was published June 25th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (35)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (19)
Ammunition (92)
Animals (56)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (208)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (74)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (27)
Australian Army (6)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (85)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (16)
Body Armor (18)
Books (3)
Border War (11)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (11)
CIA (28)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (150)
Department of Homeland Security (24)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (12)
Donald Trump (25)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (30)
Featured (180)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,074)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (43)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,175)
Guns (1,576)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (13)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (23)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (87)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (170)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (62)
Islamists (92)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (4)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (7)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (259)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (43)
Memorial Day (5)
Mexican Cartels (35)
Mexico (49)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (21)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (66)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (57)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (220)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (60)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (441)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (493)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (172)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (292)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (21)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (6)
Survival (28)
SWAT Raids (55)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (2)
Tactical Gear (4)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (17)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (95)
Thanksgiving (9)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (20)
TSA Ineptitude (12)
TTPs (3)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (56)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (220)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (19)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (63)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2020 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.