By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
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.