INCREASED IED THREAT IN AFGHANISTAN
By KRIS OSBORN
10 Mar 09. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director told lawmakers Feb. 10 that insurgent attacks in Afghanistan have risen by 55-percent from 2007 to 2008.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples also said suicide bombings had jumped by 21-percent and small-arms attacks by 33-percent in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Maples testimony comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) statement last March that IED attacks in Afghanistan which warned that ED attacks had nearly tripled from fewer than 50 in March to 154 in September, declassified numbers from the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization.
Maples remarks underscores the stepped-up Army and Marine Corps effort to dispatch more forces, equipment, sensors and vehicles to the Afghan theater to intensify efforts against insurgents.
“The Taliban have evolved and the more robust they get, the more counterinsurgency and elements of national power are needed to kick in to the effort,” said Rickey Smith, who directs the Army Capabilities Integration Center – Forward, Arlington, Va.
In particular, the U.S. efforts to address the rise in violence have ranged from sending 17,000 more troops, launching high-alit due sensors to spot IED emplaces, and investing in lighter-weight gear so soldiers can more easily navigate the mountainous terrain. The mountains in Afghanistan, coupled with the lack of a road-infrastructure, has motivated fast-moving Army efforts to bring technological and personal help to the region as quickly as possible.
“While Afghanistan and Iraq have similarities, they are not mirror images of each other. They are different countries with very different terrain,” he said.
One of the key adjustments is that, unlike Iraq, Army units are not gathering in large Forward Operating Bases but rather spreading out into small units to increase mobility in the fight against insurgents.
“The tactics techniques and procedures that worked over there [IRAQ], even if it is the same material, may not work for Afghanistan,” Smith said.
As a result, the Pentagon, Army and Marine Corps are working on new techniques for Afghanistan while trying to fast-track equipment such as sensors and UAVs which can help put eyes in those difficult to reach areas of the Afghan mountains.
One analyst laid out the problem. “While the up-armored Humvees have good protection, it is not enough for a large IED,” the improvised explosive devices that are the biggest cause of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan this year, said Dean Lockwood, of Newtown, Conn., think tank Forecast International. “The Army and Marines are trying to come up with something.” Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, even the smaller ones procured this year, are too heavy for much off-road use in Afghanistan.
The Army’s Commander of JIEDDO, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. issued a call recently to military, industry and academic experts to step up efforts to find and harness new technologies in the fight against roadside bombs and IED.
“There are so many things going on such as looking at the federal labs with industry. I need to articulate where the gaps are and what we need,” said Metz.
The Pentagon is also progressing on a fast-paced program to build and deploy thousands of ambush-protected vehicles called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. “MRAP does great against blast against static or known lines — so you need blast protections new into Afghanistan that can drive off-road,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is working to speed up the purchase of thousands – perhaps more than 6,000 – of the lighter, more mobile Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) requested by commanders in Afghanistan.
A host of M-ATV makers has submitted bids to Marine Corps Systems Command, which has already begun to blast-test vehicles at Abderdeen Proving Grounds, Md.