Afghanistan — Counter-IED Organization Concentrates on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 — The num­ber of impro­vised explo­sive devices in Afghanistan has dou­bled. So has the num­ber of Amer­i­can casu­al­ties.
The Joint Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion is focus­ing on Afghanistan to reduce both num­bers.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates is the new direc­tor of the orga­ni­za­tion. He and the orga­ni­za­tion have been focused on the U.S. Afghan surge. The Defense Depart­ment estab­lished the orga­ni­za­tion to find ways to defeat the lead­ing killer of Amer­i­cans in the war on ter­ror and to quick­ly turn the tech­nol­o­gy, knowl­edge or tac­tics devel­oped back to com­bat­ant com­man­ders.

Oates and Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Todd Bur­nett, the senior enlist­ed advi­sor for the orga­ni­za­tion, spoke to Pen­ta­gon reporters today. Oates said he sees the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan get­ting bet­ter for coali­tion sol­diers and its Afghan allies.

“There are more coali­tion forces mov­ing into the coun­try, and that will make it hard­er for the ene­my to emplace IEDs,” Oates said. “That will allow us to bet­ter safe­guard the pop­u­la­tion, who will then give us more infor­ma­tion about who is actu­al­ly employ­ing these.”

The Unit­ed States is rush­ing in more intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance air­craft, which will allow for per­sis­tent sur­veil­lance on the road nets.

“The Tal­iban is not going to give up eas­i­ly,” the gen­er­al said. “But I think they will hit their high-water mark here direct­ly. We’ll have more casu­al­ties, but I know all the ingre­di­ents we need to improve our counter-IED fight are either on the way or cur­rent­ly present. My pro­fes­sion­al judg­ment is we will do much bet­ter this year than we did last year.”

The orga­ni­za­tion has found that the threat in Afghanistan is dif­fer­ent from that in Iraq. Sol­diers and Marines on the ground are find­ing that IEDs in Afghanistan are more the home­made vari­ety, usu­al­ly based around fer­til­iz­er and with rudi­men­ta­ry igni­tion sys­tems, Oates said. “IEDs are dan­ger­ous wher­ev­er you find them, but there are very dif­fer­ent IEDs in Afghanistan than in Iraq,” he added.

The ene­my in Afghanistan also is less dis­crim­i­nat­ing in whom it attacks. IEDs kill far more inno­cent civil­ians than coali­tion or Afghan gov­ern­ment forces. Part of the dif­fer­ence is that the Iran­ian Quds Force pro­vid­ed train­ing and muni­tions for Iraqi mili­tias. While there has been some train­ing pro­vid­ed to some Afghan insur­gents, it is nowhere near the lev­el in south­ern Iraq.

Oates said the best invest­ment the Unit­ed States has made is in train­ing ser­vice­mem­bers. “Sol­diers who are dis­mount­ed and are aware of the envi­ron­ment are much more prone to locate IEDs before they det­o­nate,” he explained.

The orga­ni­za­tion uses tech­nol­o­gy where it is need­ed, and the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty and U.S. indus­try have been very help­ful in this effort, the gen­er­al said.

“Every form of explo­sive … has detectable sig­na­tures,” Oates said. “We are seek­ing to ampli­fy those sig­na­tures to dis­cov­er and give our sol­diers the best chance of detect­ing an explo­sive – whether it’s mil­i­tary grade or a home­made explo­sive.”

Despite dif­fer­ences in the devices, Iraq is a good mod­el to an extent for Afghanistan, Oates said, not­ing that oper­a­tions in Iraq worked because the Unit­ed States employed a good coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy, and the mil­i­tary employed the right train­ing and tech­niques.

“One major com­po­nent was train­ing the local secu­ri­ty forces” Oates said. “Once the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces became appre­cia­bly bet­ter, we saw a reduc­tion in the num­ber of IEDs. And I think you will see the same thing in Afghanistan.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)