News: Countering IED threat vital to Afghan stability, saving lives
Story by Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor
KABUL, Afghanistan - Improvised explosive devices remain the No. 1 killer of Afghan civilians, Afghan national security forces and NATO troops in Afghanistan July 13 with 60 percent of all civilian casualties caused by IEDs.
The ANSF and International Security Assistance Force have a focused mission to counter this threat before and even after they are emplaced.
“The number of IEDs found and cleared or exploded increased nearly 11 percent in the past three months compared to the previous three months, and is up more than 20 percent for this same period in 2010,” said German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, ISAF spokesperson. “However, 56 percent of the IEDs were found prior to exploding in the last three months, a 5 percent increase for this same period last year.”
As the importance of reducing and minimizing the number of casualties caused by IEDs is crucial to the stability and livelihood of the people and government of Afghanistan, the ISAF continues to partner with the ANSF to find and eliminate these deadly bombs.
“Eliminating militant IED operations is a key focus of the ANSF and the coalition,” said Jacobson during a joint press conference with Maj. Gen. Mohammad Azimi, spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, at the Government Media and Information Center in Kabul July 13. “We are attacking this in three primary ways: by attacking the insurgent IED network, by finding and implementing new ways to defeat the device, and lastly by growing and training the counter-IED force.”
Attacking the network reduces IED effects and interrupts the enemy’s IED activities by identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities and enabling offensive operations to disrupt all parts of the network, including the financiers, smugglers, planners, builders and lower-level insurgents who emplace the device or carry out an attack.
“In the last 11 months, nearly $800,000 was paid out to Afghan civilians who provided about 700 tips on IEDs and weapons caches to the coalition or ANSF,” said Jacobson in talking about the success of the U.S. military’s rewards program which provides individuals with cash or in-kind payments for information on cache or IED locations. “Every one of these finds effectively weakens the insurgent IED network.”
By defeating the device, Jacobson said this means neutralizing an IED before it can be detonated, or mitigating the effects of an IED detonation at the point of attack.
According to ISAF officials, June 2011 was the highest month for the total number of IEDs with 55 percent being found and cleared before they could explode and cause any casualties.
“Tips by Afghans about emplaced IEDs are on the rise and these tips are literally saving the lives of their fellow citizens,” said Jacobson.
In addition to reducing the number of casualties caused by IEDs throughout the country, many of the IEDs recovered leave forensic clues that can help Afghan and coalition forces locate and apprehend the individuals responsible, helping to further the attack on the network.
Jacobson said a suitably trained and deployed counter-IED force is pertinent to the short and long-term response to the IED threat in Afghanistan.
Located in Mazar-e-Sharif, formal training of the Afghan counter-IED force began in March 2008 with the IED Disposal School enrolling an average of 240 students per year to attend the 21-week course.
Today, there are 130 counter-IED teams patrolling on a daily basis. This number is up from just 12 teams in 2009. All of the teams consist of both ISAF and Afghan counter-IED professionals, with the vast majority of them Afghan-led and using the same type of equipment as their coalition forces partners.
“Unfortunately, the IED is the weapon of choice of the insurgency, and we do not expect that to change, but we can -- and are -- countering the threat to protect the citizens and forces of Afghanistan from this cowardly device,” said Jacobson.