Better Intelligence, Iran Help Reduce IED Attacks in Iraq

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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...)

Over the past four months  EFP-IED incidents in Iraq dropped by 40%. Among 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. The 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 sectarian killings.

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.” concluded Simmons.

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 1,200).

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