By Lt. Brenda Steele, USN
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2006 – The increase in frequency of improvised explosive device attacks throughout Afghanistan's southern and eastern regions has the attention of the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani. Giambastiani visited Afghanistan earlier this month to meet with U.S. and coalition servicemembers and to assess challenges U.S. troops are facing with more sophisticated and increased IED attacks.
The number of suicide bombers has risen recently with an overall uptick in violence in Afghanistan.
With the establishment of the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization, the admiral said he is seeing some improvements when it comes to locating IEDs before they have a chance to detonate.
The challenge now is to reduce the level of causalities, he said.
"Now we must work harder every day towards reducing our numbers of causalities from these horrible attacks," Giambastiani said.
The organization includes several IED experts who focus their efforts on trends, techniques, tactics and procedures used in developing the devices. That information is shared throughout the services to train and mentor servicemembers in convoys and on foot patrols, where they're most likely to encounter IEDs.
In addition, Giambastiani explained, the Navy and Air Force are sending several of their electronic warfare officers into Iraq and Afghanistan to work on counter-IED measures.
The admiral said about $3.3 billion was recently set aside to purchase route-clearing equipment in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The admiral also said that up-armored vehicles, such as Huskies, the Buffaloes and Cougars, help improve safety for convoy groups.
Over the five years that American forces have been in Afghanistan, Giambastiani has made several visits to view progress and development throughout the country and to bolster servicemembers' morale.
"I have been wearing a military uniform for close to 40 years now, and I've never been more proud to be a part of today's military," Giambastiani said. "When I meet so many young people with such tremendous morale while deployed to Afghanistan, it really energizes me."
The biggest challenge here now is how to effectively put a large population of people to work so they don't become part of the criminal element or part of the drug trafficking community in Afghanistan.
He also stressed that the U.S. is definitely moving forward in several areas to help stand up the government of Afghanistan, increase security, and rebuild and redevelop devastated areas.
"This country has been severely ravished by war over the past 30 years, and bringing stability along with a sense of calm to the Afghan people is essential in building a successful community throughout Afghanistan," he said.
Before departing the country, Giambastiani spent time enjoying a meal with soldiers of the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Team, a forward operating base near the Pakistan border.
He told the soldiers he was impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm. "I wish that all Americans could experience and feel the enthusiasm of our troops here every day," the admiral said.
Recognizing that men and women here are in harm's way, the admiral said he was proud that despite the high risks, servicemembers here still hold firm to their commitment to serve.
"They all understand that they volunteered when they joined the military, and they're prepared to work with coalition members from around the world to make Afghanistan a more secure and well-governed country," Giambastiani said.
(Navy Lt. Brenda Steele is assigned to Combined Forces Command Afghanistan Public Affairs.)