By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 6, 2008 - A combination of factors has brought improvised explosive device attacks in Iraq to record-low levels, a senior U.S. military officer said here today. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, told Pentagon reporters that a combination of the troops surge, the work of Sunni Muslim "Sons of Iraq" citizen security groups and counter-IED programs are responsible for the reduction in roadside-bomb attacks.
Metz's Arlington, Va.-based organization focuses all Defense Department efforts to defeat the IED threat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Counter-IED training and detection techniques provided through JIEDDO's efforts have helped U.S. troops in Iraq to recognize and find many roadside bombs before they can explode and do damage, Metz said, though he declined to describe specific programs, citing security concerns.
Sons of Iraq groups have been especially helpful, Metz said, in passing on information from their communities on where roadside bombs are buried. Human intelligence, he said, "is the coin of the realm" in regard to defeating IEDs. About 50 percent of IEDs in Iraq are found and cleared before they can do damage, he noted.
Metz recalled his service as commander of Multination Corps Iraq in 2004 and 2005. At that time, he said, IED attacks began to rise, until they reached a peak in the 2006-2007 timeframe.
For example, about 76 IED attacks took place in June 2007, Metz said. June of this year saw only 14 IED attacks.
But the trend line is moving in the other direction in Afghanistan, the general acknowledged. IED attacks there have risen in recent months, Metz said, partly due to more aggressive coalition-Afghan operations to root out Taliban and al-Qaida operatives.
"The enemy recognizes that the IED is a strategic weapon," Metz said. Terrorists' use of IEDs sends a message to America, he explained, while the bombs' effectiveness is touted for terrorist recruiting and propaganda purposes.
Consequently, the Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan are using the IED for that strategic purpose, Metz observed. More mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles in Afghanistan could help to reduce IED casualties in Afghanistan, he said.
Metz said he wants to dissuade terrorists from using IEDs, noting that about 300 IED attacks occur monthly outside of Afghanistan and Iraq. If terrorists can't be persuaded to stop using IEDs, then those bombs "will come to the homeland, and I don't want them in the homeland," Metz said.