By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 13, 2008 - With roadside bomb attacks down in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization said today he's committed to keeping the Defense Department's collective eye focused on the threat. A proposed $3.45 billion budget for JIEDDO in fiscal 2009 demonstrates broad support for overcoming the weapons responsible for the vast majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq and, increasingly, Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz told reporters today.
"Everybody wants to beat this enemy," he said. "No one denies that we want to defeat this device and the way the enemy is using it."
Metz attributed the drop in IED attacks in Iraq to a variety of factors: the troop surge that pushed enemy forces out of Baghdad; more Iraqis stepping forward to cooperate with Iraqi and coalition forces; the introduction of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles into the theater; and other successful counter-IED initiatives. "It's a combination of effects," he said. "It's not just one particular widget or gadget that caused that tremendous drop."
But Metz, who served as commander of Multinational Corps Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said he's far from declaring victory over IEDs. When he looks at IED trend lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly the increases in devices found and cleared and in ineffective attacks, Metz said he sees success. But he also sees signs of the huge capability the enemy has put on the battlefield.
"He has lost some of the capacity, but he still has capacity," Metz said. "So I do not want to take my eye off of IEDs, because I want to keep this casualty rate as low as possible. In my mind, the only metric that is the valid metric is less loss of life, limb, eyesight and serious burns. That's the metric that I put myself to."
Metz said he inherited "a pretty solid foundation on which to build" from in the JIEDDO organization from its former director, retired Army Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs. Metz said he's continuing Meig's three-pronged approach to the IED challenge: attack the network, defeat the device and train the force.
"As I look at the problem set, it seems to me that we have attacked the device and will continue to attack the device and use the technology and innovation of our great nation to continue to figure out ways to destroy the device that's killing 60 percent of our soldiers," he said.
Metz cited a laundry list of initiatives that are contributing to that end, from miniature robots to jammers to advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
But technology alone can't overcome IEDs, because the enemy adapts its tactics and quickly as U.S. forces adjust theirs, he said. "This whole effort is a continued match and counter-match between a very smart, nimble, thinking enemy and a very smart, nimble, thinking coalition force," he said.
Like Meigs, Metz said, he's convinced that defeating IEDs requires attacking IEDs at their source. "You need to attack the network also, because you can have a greater long-term effect and effect strategically in doing so," he said.
Metz said he recognizes IEDs aren't going to go away any time soon, but he's committed to make life more difficult for those who choose to use them. "What I want to happen is, if you are in the enemy IED business, every day is going to be a little more risky to you to be killed, captured, or making your network a more expensive thing to propagate," he said. His hope, he added, is that the tactic will drive the enemy to give up on IEDs altogether.
A trainer most of his career, most recently as deputy commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Metz emphasized the importance of training U.S. forces not only to face the IED threat, but also to uncover IED networks.
Metz said he's seen "ever-increasing improvement" in how troops are trained and sees promise in new training efforts being introduced or developed. "I think we can make great headway here," he said. "We are not going to let up in our focus on defeating the device, defeating the network and training the soldiers to manage both of those."