Effective Bomb Attacks Decline in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 — Across Afghanistan, the per­cent­age of effec­tive ene­my attacks using home­made bombs declined from August to Jan­u­ary, the out­go­ing direc­tor of an agency devot­ed to defeat­ing those devices said yes­ter­day.
Dur­ing a brief­ing at his organization’s head­quar­ters in Arling­ton, Va., Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, direc­tor of the Joint Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion, said the ene­my puts out between 1,300 and 1,500 such bombs every month.

Aghrandab District Center in Afghanistan's Kandahar province
Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, sec­ond from right, gets a brief­ing from Army Brig. Gen. Michael Shields, right, and Army Lt. Col. David Fly­nn, sec­ond from left, at the Aghrandab Dis­trict Cen­ter in Afghanistan’s Kan­da­har province, Oct. 13, 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by Spc. Ian Schell
Click to enlarge

“But the most impor­tant thing is that … [the enemy’s] per­cent­age of effec­tive attacks is declin­ing. It has come down from 25 per­cent to 16 per­cent, and that results in few­er dead sol­diers and civil­ians,” Oates said. 

“The ene­my,” he added, “is 84 per­cent inef­fec­tive against us.” 

But the high num­ber of home­made bombs still being pro­duced means much work remains, he said. 

“Because the vol­ume has not dropped, this tells us that the ene­my still has the moti­va­tion, the financ­ing, the pre­cur­sor mate­r­i­al and the abil­i­ty to emplace IEDs,” Oates said. 

The aggre­gate data offers a sta­tis­ti­cal snap­shot of activ­i­ty across the embat­tled nation, he said, but it does­n’t mean that bomb attacks have been less lethal in hot-spot areas such as the south and south­west region­al com­mands, where deaths and injuries have increased recently. 

“To under­stand this war in Afghanistan or the one in Iraq,” Oates said, “you have to tele­scope up and down [inside each nation] to get a full view.” 

Meth­ods of attack for the bombs also dif­fer by area in Afghanistan, he said. 

In east­ern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani ter­ror­ist net­work is the prin­ci­pal adver­sary, Oates said, more com­mand-wire devices and some lim­it­ed mil­i­tary explo­sives are used. “Down south,” he said, “it’s almost exclu­sive­ly fer­til­iz­er-based bombs and pres­sure-plate devices that our sol­diers have to con­tend with.” Those types of bombs, he added, account for 70 per­cent of the attacks in Afghanistan. Com­mand-wire, remote­ly con­trolled bombs remain a very small per­cent­age of the total, the gen­er­al said. 

On the bat­tle­field, Oates said, per­sis­tent sur­veil­lance is one capa­bil­i­ty that is help­ing to reduce ene­my effec­tive­ness. Sol­diers have equip­ment such as advanced firearm sight­ing sys­tems, and air­borne plat­forms — includ­ing fixed-wing, manned and unmanned sys­tems – that pro­vide eyes in the sky. 

“We’ve increased sig­nif­i­cant­ly the num­ber of aerostats, or blimps,” Oates said. “They’re ground-teth­ered and they’ve got cam­eras and suites of sen­sors aboard that can pick up a num­ber of things.” 

Six­ty-sev­en aerostats are in Afghanistan now, Oates said. “Com­man­ders there have asked for more,” he added, “and we’re prob­a­bly going to dou­ble that num­ber in the next year.” 

This con­stel­la­tion of sur­veil­lance sen­sors that have gone into ser­vice over the last nine months is mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in find­ing the pre­cur­sors of home­made explo­sives, the gen­er­al said, watch­ing those who try to emplace bombs and under­stand­ing how the ene­my net­work is mov­ing things around the battlefield. 

Good train­ing and bet­ter pro­tec­tive equip­ment also have con­tributed this year to reduc­ing the enemy’s effec­tive­ness, Oates said, offer­ing an example. 

“Last year at this time, there were 12 or 13 route clear­ance com­pa­nies in Afghanistan. Today there are 75,” he said. “That’s an enor­mous capa­bil­i­ty to sweep and clear the road on a much more fre­quent basis and a much more effec­tive basis.” 

In addi­tion to pro­tect­ing troops, keep­ing areas clear of road­side bombs also enables the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion to use the roads, Oates said, not­ing that the ene­my kills more civil­ians than coali­tion and Afghan forces. 

On March 4, Oates will trans­fer author­i­ty for the orga­ni­za­tion to Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Bar­bero, who is return­ing from a 13-month deploy­ment with U.S. Forces Iraq as deputy com­man­der for advis­ing and training. 

The new direc­tor “has exten­sive com­bat expe­ri­ence, and most impor­tant­ly, recent expe­ri­ence,” Oates said. 

Bar­bero “just came from Iraq three weeks ago, … so he’s going to bring that com­bat rel­e­van­cy that’s so vital to the direc­tor­ship,” he added. 

Oates point­ed out that the orga­ni­za­tion was char­tered to respond rapid­ly to warfight­ers’ needs. “I think we’ve met that chal­lenge,” he said. “The peo­ple we care most about — the sol­diers and Marines over­seas — they’re very hap­py with our work.” 

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

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →