Friday, December 14, 2012

More Effort Needed to Counter IEDs, General Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2012 – The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has made progress against IEDs, “but it isn’t enough,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

In Afghanistan, much of the fertilizer used in explosives comes from Pakistan, and Barbero, who directs JIEDDO, said he understands the importance of working with Pakistani officials.

“The U.S., led by the State Department, continues to seek a relationship with Pakistan that is constructive and advances both U.S. and Pakistani interests,” the general told the Senate panel yesterday.

The importance of countering the threat posed by IEDs and of attacking threat networks cannot be overstated, Barbero said.

“Counter-IED is an area ripe for cooperation between the United States and Pakistan and I am also encouraged by the recent positive tone in our discussions with the government of Pakistan and the assurances from our Pakistani counterparts,” he said.

But Barbero emphasized that Pakistan must do more. More than 60 percent of U.S. combat casualties in Afghanistan, both killed and wounded in action, are caused by IEDs. This year IEDs killed or wounded almost 1,900 Americans. Pakistanis have also suffered from these devices.

“It is in their interest to increase counter-IED cooperation with us and take effective actions against these networks,” Barbero said.

Afghanistan has banned ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers. Yet these remain the main explosive used in IEDs. “Today more than 85 percent of the IEDs employed against coalition forces are homemade explosives,” Barbero said. “And of those, about 70 percent are made with ammonium nitrate derived from the fertilizer calcium ammonium nitrate, referred to as CAN, a common agriculture fertilizer produced in and transited through Pakistan.”

While the fertilizer is produced elsewhere, Pakistan is almost exclusively the source of the chemical compound used in IEDs, he said. Another chemical compound, potassium chlorate, is used in Pakistan’s textile and matchstick industries, and is also being used to make IEDs in Afghanistan.

“In concert with our Pakistani partners, we must address the continued flow of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers and other IED materials into Afghanistan,” the general told senators.

Coalition and Afghan forces seized 30 tons of fertilizer in 2009, compared to 440 tons so far in 2012. “The high number of IED incidents and the growing seizure rates highlight the continued lack of effective measures to impede the supply of IED materials into Afghanistan from Pakistan,” he said.

Barbero said he is working with the Pakistani fertilizer producer to counter the illicit use of the product as an explosive. The general said he is also working with U.S. and international fertilizer organizations to put controls in place on fertilizers.

“While international and U.S. professional fertilizer associations are receptive and actively addressing these issues, the producers within Pakistan have been less than cooperative,” he said. “Despite making minor packaging, tracking and marketing changes, they have not implemented any effective product security or stewardship efforts.”

The Pakistani producers can and must do more, Barbero said.

“While the government of Pakistan has taken military actions to address the IED threat and go after these networks, these efforts remain focused on Pakistan’s domestic threat and have had no measurable effect on the number of IED events in Afghanistan, on the flow of precursor materials smuggled across the border, or on the threat of networks operating in Pakistan who attack our troops in Afghanistan,” the general said.

He emphasized that the U.S.-Pakistan dialogue has been improving, but more still must be done.
“We must move from discussing cooperation to actual cooperation,” Barbero said, noting Pakistan has passed legislation, but has done little to implement the laws.

Military cooperation also remains stalled, Barbero told committee members.

“We must move beyond talking about cooperation to developing a comprehensive framework and then work together to address the shared problems,” he said.

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