Success in the war against IEDs

Strategy Page:

There's a war going on in Iraq that you rarely hear about. It goes on at night, and has been very successful. While U.S. infantry and tank units make raids all over central Iraq, the other war, fought largely at night, by engineers and non-infantry troops (often artillerymen) serving as infantry, to catch and stop teams of terrorists trying to set up roadside bombs. The American troops are guided by an intelligence effort that keeps track of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) by type and location. Over 90 percent of IEDs do not do any damage to Americans, or anyone else. Many of these are captured, or at least examined remotely by a robot, before being destroyed. The intel people track changes in IED design, where the are placed and by who, and keep the U.S. troops who hunt the bomb planting teams. The intel crews also use computers and some fancy math to predict where more bombs are likely to be set up. This is based on techniques that go all the way back to World War II, but are much more useful now because of all the cheap computing power available.

This counter-IED effort doesn't get much attention. That's partly because it's a success, and success isn't as exciting as failure. Moreover, most of this action takes place at night, which, despite the 10 PM to 5 AM curfew, is still the best time to try and plant IEDs. Third, because of all the specialized equipment, technology and techniques used, the military doesn't want to reveal a lot of what goes into making the counter-IED effort work. That would enable the enemy to better avoid detection.


The night shift is having an effect on the enemy's ability to use his weapon of choice. Our ability to thwart attacks appears to be improving significantly. If only 10 percent of the enemy IED attacks even work as intended it means that he is having to expend ever greater effort for shrinking results. At some point he should get discouraged. It would come quicker if Demcorats were not so eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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