Pentagon reports indicate that the initiatives
taken in Iraq over the past 11 months dramatically reduced the
use and effectiveness of Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs).
According to Army Maj. Gen. James E. Simmons, IED “events”
(explosions or identifications) dropped from 3,239 IED incidents
in March 07 (1,641 explosions, 1,489 identified and cleared)
to 1,560 IED events (763 exploded, 767 cleared.) Correspondingly,
casualties suffered by coalition forces, Iraqi security forces
and Iraqi civilians have also dropped. “Since June 2007
attacks and casualties have dropped to the lowest rate in two
years,” Simmons said. “Although there remain tough
pockets of enemy resistance that must be defeated, reporting
through the 14th of November indicates a continuation of these
positive trends.” (More...)
the change drivers was the troop surge, which increased presence
of Iraqi and coalition forces, while denying El-Qaeda activists
from operating in the Western region of Al-Anbar. Other factors
in the success include the employment of combat engineers for
disabling IEDs, (previously this operation was restricted to
specialist explosive ordnance disposal teams). This freed EOD
and weapons intelligence teams to focus on the most dangerous
IEDs and promising cache finds, he said. Another factor in the
reduction of activity may be Iran. Recent weapons cache finds
in Iraq indicate that the Iranian government is living up to
its promise to Iraqi leaders to stem the flow of weapons across
the border into Iraq, said Simmons. Officials in Tehran reportedly
assured Iraqi government leaders they would work to stop the
flow of bomb-making materials and other weapons into Iraq.
A Positive Trend
Commander 2nd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division Army Col. Jeffrey
Bannister also indicated that IED attacks in his region (Eastern
Baghdad) have significantly been reduced recently, from a high
of roughly 100 in January 08 to an 80 percent drop in October.
2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division has been
operating as part of Multinational Division-Baghdad for about
14 months now, during this period the brigade lost 66 service
members, including the Brigade deputy commander (Lieutenant
Colonel Eric Kruger). "The greatest threat to coalition
forces and our Iraqi partners has been the Shi'a extremists
with explosive formed penetrators." said Col. bannister.
"Our brigade sits in the most lethal area for the EFP bombings,
and it accounts for 25 percent of the IEDs that we receive."
He said the greatest threat to the Iraqi population has been
the vehicle-borne IED (VBIED). The last high-yield VBIED attack
in his area was back on 26 July.
Bannister considers the decrease in attacks is due to several
factors, primarily the successful execution of counterinsurgency
operations (COIN) by IS and Iraqi forces. "Our dominant
presence inside the neighborhoods have resulted in a much higher
level of access to the population and therefore intelligence.
This has amplified our precision targeting efforts to deny and
control sanctuary, and we have had similar results with caches."
Other contributors have been less obvious but had much influence
on the surrounding moslem and Shiite population, including the
effect of the holy month of Ramadan (during September and October).
Additionally, the pledge of honor cease fire by Muqtada al-Sadr
since late August also contributed to reducing the flames of
Combating IED - Fighting the Network
Coalition efforts shifted from 'fighting the IEDs' to 'Fighting
the network', targeting enemy operatives, 'supply chain' and
IED manufacturing infrastructure. This mode of operation employ
troops more proactively, assisted by technological innovations,
such as the new Multinational Corps Iraq biometric cell, offering
better intelligence and identification of suspects. This effort
contributed to doubling the apprehension rate in the last four
months, driving better, time critical intelligence that enable
coalition forces to uncover more weapons caches and 'IED labs'.
“We found more caches by May of this year than in all
of 2006,” Simmons said. He added that the current trend
encourage more Iraqis who have tired of terrorists operating
in their neighborhoods to tip coalition forces about terrorists
whereabouts, adding better intelligence to the process.
“The fighting in al Anbar (and) the success in Baghdad
has forced [the] terrorists out of those areas" said Simmons
indicating that most of the current IED incidents are occurring
in Multinational Division North’s battle space, the area
north of Taji that stretches to Mosul. Yet, despite progress
in countering the IEDs, the threat continues. One attack in
Baghdad targeted a Stryker vehicle operating just outside the
International Zone in Baghdad, Simmons said. Officials believe
several explosively formed penetrators were used in the attack.
“The IED has been and remains the enemy’s primary
weapon of choice against coalition, Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians.
Multinational Corps Iraq views this threat as extremely serious.”
Accelerating MRAP Deployment
Meanwhile, the effort to improve troop protection from IED
threats is underway. MRAP production increased last month as
five manufacturers ramped up production to deliver 452 vehicles
(compared with 432 planned). Year to date, the program is ahead
of schedule with 31 vehicles. According to Pentagon press secretary
Geoff Morrell the outfitting process, held at the US Naval Systems
Command is also improving, and is now down to 21 days. The Pentagon
is airlifting the completed vehicles directly to Iraq, where
there are 760 MRAP vehicles. In order to meet the planned goal
of deploying 1,500 vehicles to Iraq by year's end, the production
quotas and outfitting plans are extremely challenging, with
more than doubling production through November (just under 1,000
vehicles), and almost tripling production in December (about
Boots on the ground