By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012 – The threat posed by crude homemade bombs known as improvised explosive devices is growing and spreading across the globe, and will be the terrorists’ weapon of choice for decades, the commander of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization said yesterday.
“We still need to do more,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, adding that his organization is rapidly fielding critical counter IED capabilities. “But let me say up front that I believe the IED and the networks that use these asymmetric weapons will remain a threat to our forces and here at home for decades.”
These bombs, he said, will be the weapon of choice for terrorists because they are cheap and readily available. Bomb makers use off-the-shelf technology to make the deadly explosives. IED’s were the number one killer of American troops during the war in Iraq.
“This trend is readily apparent in Afghanistan … where IED events continue to rise,” Barbero said. “In the past two years, IED events have increased 42 percent, from 9,300 events in 2009 to 16,000 events in 2011. And this year, we're on track, for 2012, to meet or exceed the historic number of IED events we saw last year.”
While the overall number of IED events is high, coalition casualties are down, the general said. This is because the coalition’s ability to find IEDs before they explode is steadily improving. This has reduced U.S. casualties by more than 40 percent this past year, he said.
The decrease in IED effectiveness is a result of an across-the-board effort against these devices, he said, noting that troops deploying to Afghanistan receive the latest counter-IED training and use the latest technology from airborne sensors to handheld devices.
“Commanders and troopers on the ground are continuously refining their tactics, techniques and procedures tailored to the threat they face in the region,” Barbero told the subcommittee.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces and civilian personnel “will remain the target of insurgent IED attacks and the IED will remain the weapon of choice,” Barbero said. “From our experience in Iraq, the reduction of U.S. forces must not equal a reduction in counter-IED or other critical capabilities.”
The general said that as the military footprint in Afghanistan gets smaller, troops there “will require flexibility to shift priorities rapidly, providing the requisite counter-IED capabilities, situational awareness and security and protection,” he said.
Barbero said the IED threat is growing and morphing to other areas of the world.
“Since 2007, IED incidents outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have increased to average more than 500 incidents per month around the globe,” the general said. “Since January 2011, there have been more than 10,000 global IED events occurring in 112 countries, executed by more than 40 regional and transnational threat networks. The extremist networks that employ the IEDs have proven to be resilient, interconnected and extremely violent.”
Wherever there is turmoil and insecurity, there will be IEDs, Barbero said.
“I believe U.S. forces will operate in an IED environment,” he said. “I believe it's a reality of 21st century warfare, and we must plan accordingly.”