Counter-IED tactics MIA in Afghanistan

Gates creates new task force to streamline tools and techniques

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has established a new task force to move new techniques and technologies for combating improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan more quickly to the front lines, reports Greg Grant at DOD Buzz.

The new task force is headed by Ashton Carter, undersecretary for acquisition, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, who is J-3 for Operations with the Joint Staff. The task force will convene for six months and work closely with commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, Gates told reporters Nov. 12.

Gates is frustrated with the existing arrangement, which is overseen by the Army’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, which he believes is slow to adapt to an IED threat that is significantly different from the one faced by U.S. forces in Iraq.

The task force will deal with both offensive and defensive counter-IED tactics and tools, reports John Bennett at Army Times.

Gates said he wants the task force to break down so-called stovepipes that keep various counter-IED programs throughout the military services and agencies from working together. The task force will help the services streamline procedures for fielding new tactics and equipment, Gates said.

Gates has undertaken similar efforts in the past to hasten the deployment of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the battlefront when he found new technology efforts were too slow.

The composition of roadside IEDs in Afghanistan differs significantly from those used by insurgents in Iraq, Gates said. Whereas in Iraq most were constructed from artillery shells, those in Afghanistan are made from fertilizer, such as ammonium nitrate, and detonated by mines. Another important different is the structure of the enemy’s network for constructing and fielding IEDs as an ambush method, he said.

In Afghanistan, enemy forces employ a more primitive communications infrastructure than in Iraq, and thus rely more heavily on detonating IEDs by wires or pressure plates as opposed to radio-controlled detonation preferred in Iraq, reports Barry Rosenberg in Defense Systems. The Army has stepped up its efforts to combat IEDs in Afghanistan by sending additional electronic warfare specialists to the field.

One of the interesting efforts the task force will undertake at Gates direction is to study the Soviet experience battling IEDs during its war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Soviets lost about 2,000 men to roadside bombs during that conflict.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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