- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Insurgents in Iraq have turned in recent days to larger, but fewer, roadside bombs that are able to penetrate U.S. armor and cause more casualties.

Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon the change in tactics involves insurgents planting fewer roadside bombs, often called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but packing them with more explosives. Insurgents often make an IED out of a large artillery shell, hide it along a road and detonate it remotely.

The tactic change is important, since IEDS have become the principal weapon by which the insurgents, a mix of foreign jihadists and Saddam Hussein loyalists, attack Iraqis and Americans. Fewer IEDs mean fewer total attacks. But bigger bombs mean the enemy can penetrate targets that once seemed safe.

Such an instance came Thursday. Seven U.S. soldiers were killed when an IED exploded near their Bradley fighting vehicle, a well-armored personnel carrier designed to withstand such attacks.

“We’ve noticed in the recent couple of weeks that the IEDs are all being built more powerfully, with more explosive effort in a smaller numbers of IEDs,” Gen. Rodriguez said. “They’ve been less in number and larger in size and explosive power.”

The Bradley attack is an example of how, as the U.S. Army rushes to add armor to all Humvee utility vehicles in Iraq, the protection cannot always prevent casualties.

“The response and the way we’re going to overcome that is a multipronged effort on tactics, techniques, procedures, intelligence and a wide range of things to prevent that from hurting our soldiers,” Gen. Rodriguez said.

Earlier this week, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who commands the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad, said he has been able to identify and disable one out of every two vehicle-borne IEDs used by foreign suicide bombers.

Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, a top commander in Iraq, said Thursday that 14 of 18 provinces are now safe enough to hold elections. In the other four, which include areas around Fallujah and Baghdad, the general said he is stepping up security to make them as secure as possible.

“I cannot put a bubble around every person walking from their home to the polling site,” Gen. Metz said. “But we’re going to do everything possible that we possibly can in the next three weeks to create that condition for them.”

Gen. Metz said the number of attacks countrywide is about 70 per day. The number may increase to 80 to 85 as the Jan. 30 parliamentary election approaches.

The Pentagon announced yesterday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is dispatching a retired Army general to Iraq to give him a fresh perspective on the status of training and deploying homegrown security forces.

Retired Army Gen. Gary Luck, a former Special Forces soldier who commanded U.S. troops in Korea, will go to Iraq for the fourth time since Baghdad fell in April 2003 to assess progress in deploying Iraqi army, national guard, police and other units. The New York Times yesterday first reported on his mission.

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said Gen. Luck’s task is limited to gauging the Iraqi security forces’ progress. He is not conducting a total evaluation of the war effort, the spokesman said.

“His mission is to go over there and take a look at Iraqi security force development, where are we, how’s it going, provide an assessment to the commanders over there,” Mr. Di Rita said.

Gen. Luck is a trusted Pentagon adviser. He was a senior mentor to Army Gen. Tommy Franks during Iraq war planning. He has remained as a consultant to U.S. Joint Forces Command on lessons learned in the war on terror.

Mr. Rumsfeld has relied in the past on retired officers to give a different perspective on a problem. He tapped Gen. Peter Schoomaker, for example, to study how U.S. Special Operations Command could operate better in the war against al Qaeda. The secretary was so impressed that he recalled Gen. Schoomaker to active duty and made him Army chief of staff. The Pentagon has sent other retired officers to Iraq to provide assessments outside the normal chain of command, which is topped by Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command.

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