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U.S. Working To Defuse Threat from Improvised Bombs in Iraq

03 November 2005

Pentagon spokesman says innovation, money applied to fixing the problem

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer

Washington -- The only remaining effective tool that the Iraqi insurgency has against coalition forces is the improvised bomb, says Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita.

Once U.S. and coalition forces find a way to eliminate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), “it’s over,” he told reporters at a November 3 Defense Department briefing.

Di Rita said experts are looking at ways to defeat these insidious devices: greater protection for troops through better armored vehicles, up-to-date training for soldiers so they can anticipate when and how the bombs will be used and soliciting more sophisticated human intelligence to find the IEDs before they are detonated.

A special IED task force has been working on the problem since 2004,and has a 2005 budget of more than $1 billion to find novel ways to defeat the IEDs.

Marine Lieutenant General James Conway, director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that funding for the IED task force is not a problem.  He also said the Joint Chiefs are considering new recommendations, including possibly assigning a three-star general to oversee ongoing IED work, but no decisions have yet been made.

Conway said U.S. military experts are looking at how the British dealt with roadside bombs in Northern Ireland and how the Israelis have coped with suicide bombers in northern Israel and Lebanon.  “We’ve tried to study what their experiences were and … learn from that,” he added.

Overcoming the threat posed by IEDs in Iraq “is a multifaceted problem,” Conway said, “and there are various links in the chain that I think we look to see where can we break it, and thereby reduce their effectiveness.”

“You have to have a financier to put it all together.  You have to have a bomb maker who has the expertise to actually create the device.  What we’ve found a lot of times,” the military official said, “is that one person will lay it and another … will be the initiator.”

Conway said the issue of what will work in the field is under constant re-examination.  Di Rita said IEDs pose a "tough" and evolving challenge because the problem that existed last year “is a different IED problem than the IED problem that exists today.”

IRAQ UPDATE

Earlier in the day Army Major General Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff of multinational forces in Iraq, briefed reporters in Baghdad about the current situation in Iraq. Lynch said there had been 569 attacks across the country the previous week and about 40 percent were carried out with improvised bombs.  “And that resulted in 64 percent of the coalition casualties and 37 percent of the Iraqi security force casualties,” he said.

Insurgent forces use the improvised explosive devices as their weapon of choice, Lynch said.  He said his forces try to think as the insurgents do, and figure out who has the expertise to make these bombs; then, using local intelligence, the soldiers go after the bomb makers. The goal, Lynch said, is “to find the IEDs before they detonate.”

Lynch acknowledged that these devices are becoming more effective and lethal.  Sometimes this means that the bomb makers are using new triggers or sensors on the devices.  He said his forces are trying very hard to figure out where the new technology is coming from and how to defeat it.

Many of the bombs are made in Iraq but some are constructed elsewhere, according to Lynch.  The military has indications from multiple sources that bombs and technology are transferred from outside Iraq, he said, “and we’re working with all assets under our control to stop the flow of both.”

Lynch also said a counterinsurgency academy has been created in Iraq to share the knowledge gained among Iraqi security forces and coalition members.

IRAQI SECURITY FORCES

Lynch also talked about the current strength of Iraqi security forces, which is now at a level of 211,000 men.  Active recruiting is ongoing, he said.

During the Pentagon briefing, Di Rita confirmed that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense has invited former Iraqi army soldiers to join their country’s new army.  “It could affect … as many as 350,000 Iraqi mid-grade officers," should they all decide to accept, he said.

The Iraqi Army needs experienced mid-level officers, Di Rita said, so “we’ll wait and see how many take the  … offer to rejoin.”

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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