I’m sure by now even the most jaded, casual consumer of news about the war in Iraq has heard of the acronym IED. The difference between an IED and a landmine is that a landmine was manufactured in a factory by “authorized” people while an IED was rigged by “terrorists” or “insurgents”.
Either way, they continue to be extremely deadly:
Thirty months into the Iraq war, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, account for more than half of all American injuries or deaths in combat. The weapon is so primitive that military bomb-squad schools once saw them as little more than the work of kids and miscreants. Now, troops bolt extra armor to their Humvees, and new arrivals receive IED awareness training.
Thirty months into the war is another way to say two and a half years. For 2.5 years the deadliest weapon used against American troops has been the IED. So what has the Pentagon actually done about it?
In October 2003, the Army created the Improvised Explosive Device Task Force (IED-TF) in recognition of the threat.
In February 2004, the Army further directed the IED-TF be made a standing capability with assigned field teams.
In April 2004, the Army proposed activation of an Asymmetric Warfare Regiment (later designated the Asymmetric Warfare Group) to oversee IED response and counter-terrorism priorities.
In July 2004, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz redesignates the Army Task Force the Joint IED Defeat Task Force (JIEDD-TF), again assigning it the mission of providing streamlined and timely support to soldiers in the field.
In July 2004, DOD establishes a Joint Integrated Process Team for Defeating Improvised Explosive Devices (Joint IED Defeat IPT) to sharpen DoD focus on IEDs.
In June 2005, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld signed a directive (DOD Directive 2000.19, Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Defeat) designating DOD resources and direction to the problem.
In January 2006, Meigs’ JIEDD-TF is again redesignated as the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) and is made a permanent task force.
So thanks to a lot of fiddlin’ and diddlin’, much of it by Paul “Who Needs 130,00 Troops?” Wolfowitz, the Pentagon has been pushing paper for 2.5 years on what to do about the deadliest weapon being used against American troops.
The military has come up with some high-tech (and expensive of course) methods to try and counteract the effectiveness of IEDs:
The F/A-18D Hornet handles a lot of jobs in Iraq, these days – including bomb-hunting. Two two-seater plane looks out for improvised explosive devices with its nose-mounted Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System, a bank of downward-looking cameras that replaces the Hornet’s standard 20-millimetere cannon.
A ground station at Al Asad air base is equipped with a new workstation that allows analysts such as Sgt. Elizabeth Zakar to lay two day’s imagery side by side to isolate the differences. This way they can spot disturbed earth, suspicious objects, piles of debris and other telltale signs that insurgents have planted a roadside bomb.
The Pentagon’s got 1 billion dollars “committed” to counter-IED programs and initiatives. And I don’t blame the soldiers for trying to rig their own anti-IED gear. After all, it’s their lives on the line:
Already, soldiers are already using new techniques and equipment – some of them as primitive and adaptive as IEDs. One unit hung chains from a six-foot boom in front of the truck, hoping they would trigger an IED before the vehicle drove over it. Other soldiers are using radio-frequency jammers to prevent insurgents from detonating IEDs by remote controls or garage-door openers.
So we’ve got homemade “feelers”, we’ve got radio jammers, we’ve got fighter jets taking aerial surveillance photography and we’ve got better armor on the vehicles that roll over the IED’s. About the only thing missing is the monkeys from Morocco and I’m sure there’s a serious DoD report on them somewhere in a file in Washington.
What we don’t have is a non-technological solution. I seriously wonder when this mindset of “technology wins all wars” came to have such a tenacious grip on the American military. I mean it isn’t like the U.S. was born fighting a “guerilla war” (or asymmetrical war, if you prefer that term). It isn’t like the U.S. didn’t fight hundreds of irregular wars against indigenous peoples. It isn’t like the U.S. didn’t fight an insurgency/guerilla war in Viet Nam just 30 years ago either. Or spent hundreds of million training the mujaheddin to do so in Afghanistan against the Soviets or the Contras against the Nicaraguan government.
Not to mention that Hizb Allah has been using IED’s for 25 years in Lebanon and the Chechens have been using them since 1994. Not to mention that the Soviets ran an extensive insurgency network behind the lines to disrupt Nazi supplies during World War 2.
In other words, IED’s are neither new inventions or hard to make and understand. The War Nerd is right, what’s missing is HUMINT – human intelligence. The fact that the Pentagon is focusing 1 billion dollars for a high-tech solution to a low-tech problem shows just how alienated the Americans are from the local populace:
The insurgents have decided to do it the easy way. As long as they can use IEDs, their low-tech standoff weapon, why should they risk close combat?
The real question is why they can get away with it. And here-well, I hate to keep saying this, but somebody needs to. The reason they can do it is because we still have NO INTEL on them. It’s the biggest failure of the war, and nobody talks about it. CI warfare is about people, not hardware. We’re all hardware and no intelligence, like a Tim Allen show. Makes me sick.
Well it makes me sick too. After two and a half years, why doesn’t the American military have insiders and contacts amongst the local populace? Why isn’t there a network of Iraqis, who either out of goodwill or the need for cash, regularly whisper to American troops where the IEDs are being planted? And what does it say that the IEDs are planted where the American vehicles are going to be operating? Who has the inside intelligence in this “war”, them or us?
And now the insurgents (or whatever name you choose to call them) are up to creating shaped explosives, which defeat all but the densest armor-plating the U.S. military has. And as we all know, Iraq has literally hundreds of thousands of tons of explosives lying around to be crafted into simple or sophisticated IED’s, each one potentially injuring or killing American troops or journalists.
To borrow Rumsfeld’s term, if there’s one “metric” that shows you’re losing a guerilla war, it’s when you fail to have enough intelligence cooperation from the population you’re supposed to be helping to stop the deadliest weapon that’s injuring and killing your troops.
This is cross-posted from Flogging the Simian