Ter­ror­ists Use Road­side Bombs as Strate­gic Weapon, Gen­er­al Says

By Ger­ry J. Gilmore
Amer­i­can Forces Press Service 

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2008 — Ter­ror­ists in Afghanistan and Iraq employ impro­vised explo­sive devices as a weapon of choice to sap the willpow­er of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, a senior U.S. offi­cer said here today. 

Ter­ror­ists use IEDs “as a strate­gic weapon to wear our will down, because our sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines can whip this thing, tac­ti­cal­ly,” Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, direc­tor of the Joint Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion, told atten­dees at the 2008 Joint Warfight­ing Conference. 

Metz com­pared the enemy’s strat­e­gy today in Afghanistan and Iraq to what occurred more than 30 years ago in South­east Asia, when North Viet­namese lead­ers also employed irreg­u­lar war­fare to grind down the U.S. public’s desire to con­tin­ue the Viet­nam War. The Unit­ed States and its allies now are involved in a glob­al, irreg­u­lar war against ter­ror­ism that’s like­ly to last 20 to 30 years, Metz said. 

“And the ene­my in that war­fare will use asym­met­ric weapons against us; he will try to fig­ure out where we don’t want to fight,” he added. 

Metz, a past com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Corps Iraq, said his orga­ni­za­tion has scored many suc­cess­es in its bat­tle against road­side bombs. Var­i­ous jam­ming devices, he said, have proved capa­ble of thwart­ing many ter­ror­ist attempts to det­o­nate IEDs by radio signal. 

How­ev­er, the ter­ror­ists are a wily ene­my that change IED-det­o­na­tion pro­ce­dures in reac­tion to U.S. coun­ter­mea­sures, Metz said. For exam­ple, he said, the ter­ror­ists often alter­nate between using wire­less and hard-wired det­o­na­tion meth­ods to set off their road­side bombs. 

The ene­my also employs men­tal­ly chal­lenged peo­ple as sui­cide bombers, Metz said. In these instances, he not­ed, the charges often are det­o­nat­ed by a remote device when the bombers reach their targets. 

“We’re fight­ing in an irreg­u­lar way because the ene­my does­n’t want to mess with us in a con­ven­tion­al way,” Metz said. The ter­ror­ists, he said, real­ize they can’t com­pete with the U.S. mil­i­tary on a con­ven­tion­al bat­tle­field. How­ev­er, al-Qai­da, the Tal­iban and oth­er ter­ror­ists are relent­less foes who tele­graph their plans in their writ­ings and mes­sages to the world, Metz point­ed out. 

“Make no mis­take about it — these thugs write what they’re going to do, just as clear­ly as Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf,” Metz said. “Mein Kampf,” mean­ing “My Strug­gle” in Eng­lish, was writ­ten a decade before Hitler came to pow­er in Ger­many in 1933. The book clear­ly out­lined Hitler’s plans for world dom­i­na­tion and destruc­tion of the Jew­ish people. 

Ter­ror­ists use IEDs as a strate­gic tool to “get us to quit, so that the caliphate can rise up and the thugs can take over,” Metz said. It’s there­fore para­mount, Metz empha­sized, that using the IED as a strate­gic weapon does­n’t lead ter­ror­ists to decide to use it to attack Amer­i­cans in the homeland. 

Mean­while, U.S. forces “are absolute­ly con­fi­dent they can win” in Afghanistan and Iraq, Metz said, adding that Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers “are a super-qual­i­ty bunch of men and women.” U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers can win the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq if they’re sup­port­ed prop­er­ly, Metz emphasized. 

“And that is what I want to do with the Joint IED Defeat Orga­ni­za­tion,” he said. 

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

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