IED Eradication Needs Global Attention, General Says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2010 — Stop­ping the con­struc­tion and use of impro­vised explo­sive devices is more than a mil­i­tary prob­lem and must be addressed broad­ly by all gov­ern­ments, the direc­tor of the agency devot­ed to that effort said yes­ter­day.

Joint IED Defeat Organization
Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, direc­tor of the Joint IED Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion, briefs jour­nal­ists on U.S. gov­ern­ment efforts to counter IEDs, at the For­eign Press Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Dec. 6, 2010.
Pho­to cour­tesy of the For­eign Press Cen­ter
Click to enlarge

IEDs are the biggest killers of coali­tion forces in Afghanistan, where the crude, but effec­tive, devices are made of home­made explo­sives, usu­al­ly fer­til­iz­er ingre­di­ents like ammo­ni­um nitrate, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, direc­tor of the Joint IED Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion, known as JIEDDO.

“When you look at [IED] pre­cur­sor mate­ri­als it’s not just a mil­i­tary prob­lem,” Oates said yes­ter­day at the For­eign Press Cen­ter here. “You need the whole of gov­ern­ment to work on the IED, whether it’s in Iraq or Afghanistan or the rest of the world.”

In Pak­istan and Afghanistan, for exam­ple, gov­ern­ment offi­cials are try­ing to reduce the flow of ammo­ni­um nitrate fer­til­iz­er into Afghanistan, he said. No ammo­ni­um nitrate is pro­duced in Afghanistan; it all comes in across the bor­der.

“Ammo­ni­um nitrate has a legit­i­mate pur­pose as a fer­til­iz­er in Pak­istan, but we don’t want it [mov­ing] into Afghanistan,” Oates said. “Pres­i­dent [Hamid] Karzai has declared it ille­gal to import ammo­ni­um nitrate fer­til­iz­er and the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment has worked very hard with the pro­duc­ers to lim­it the export, legal or ille­gal, into Afghanistan.” The gen­er­al said his orga­ni­za­tion believes this effort will have a pos­i­tive impact over time.

“As we look at try­ing to reduce sophis­ti­cat­ed det­o­na­tion sys­tems, our Com­merce Depart­ment works with gov­ern­ments all over the world to lim­it the financ­ing of ter­ror­ist net­works,” he said.

Com­merce “works with com­mer­cial indus­tries to make sure devices made for legit­i­mate pur­pos­es are not mod­i­fied to be used for destruc­tion,” Oates said. But almost any­thing that’s elec­tron­ic can be used as a det­o­na­tor, he added, not­ing the recent inci­dents of ink ton­er car­tridges turned into IEDs and placed on car­go planes in Britain and Dubai.

“It was just through the vig­i­lance of secu­ri­ty per­son­nel that they were able to detect that device. So get­ting all of the gov­ern­ment involved in this process is very impor­tant to the solu­tion,” Oates said.

IEDs are being used world­wide to impact sta­ble gov­ern­ments, he said. “We track 300 to 400 inci­dents a month occur­ring out­side Iraq and Afghanistan where peo­ple are using impro­vised explo­sive devices against law enforce­ment or against mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty forces,” he added.

Over the past 90 days, at least three vehi­cle-borne explo­sive devices have been employed in attacks against Mexico’s secu­ri­ty forces –- a tac­tic sim­i­lar to ter­ror­ist actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

Crim­i­nals use IEDs to main­tain con­trol of their ille­gal enter­pris­es, and ide­o­log­i­cal groups like the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia use the devices in their fight against the stand­ing gov­ern­ment, he said.

“Why do they use the IED? It works. It’s easy to obtain the pre­cur­sor mate­r­i­al you need for a home­made explo­sive,” said Oates, whose orga­ni­za­tion has been asked for help by oth­er coun­tries.

Peru’s min­is­ter of defense, Oates said, has asked for assis­tance through the U.S. South­ern Com­mand, which arranged for engage­ment through JIEDDO. The Peru­vian gov­ern­ment, he said, is expe­ri­enc­ing an increase in crim­i­nals’ use of IEDs because of a resur­gence of the “Sendero Lumi­noso,” trans­lat­ed as the “Shin­ing Path,” a Maoist insur­gency in Peru that part­ners crim­i­nals in the drug trade.

“The Peru­vian gov­ern­ment is inter­est­ed in how we might use some of our expe­ri­ence with IEDs to help them, prin­ci­pal­ly with vehi­cle-borne bombs and those that are in place to kill their police­men,” he added.

“Across the globe, these are very easy-to-use devices,” Oates said. “They’re very con­ceal­able, they’re inex­pen­sive and they are ter­ri­bly dev­as­tat­ing in most cas­es against civil­ian pop­u­la­tions.”

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

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