LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Coping with IED threat

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Rowan Scarborough’s article, “U.S. troops winning war against IEDs of Taliban” (Page 1, May 25), brings attention to the reality of 21st-century warfare; however, he does not accurately capture the breadth of the threat and the coordinated efforts to ensure our commanders have freedom of maneuver.

The IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and the networks that use them are a significant threat not only to our security forces, but also to our homeland. Today and in the future, U.S. forces will operate in an IED environment. The Defense Department has developed and rapidly deployed a comprehensive portfolio of capabilities - from mine rollers, hand-held detectors and pelvic protection garments to aerial- and ground-surveillance systems, to name a few. We do not rely on just one capability - our troops are provided an arsenal of tools to customize and apply to the IED threat.

One of the greatest challenges in Afghanistan is homemade explosives. Eighty-six percent of IEDs employed against our troops are homemade bombs, and the vast majority are made with calcium ammonium nitrate - a legally produced and widely used agricultural fertilizer. As Mr. Scarborough reported, these devices have been the greatest source of battlefield casualties this decade.

However, I would be remiss if I did not shed light on the global nature of this threat. Homemade explosives are not confined to Afghanistan. More than 500 IED incidents occur around the world each month. Because of the global nature of this threat, we have enlisted the help of our U.S. government partners, allies, industry and congressional leaders such as Rep. Duncan Hunter.

One thing I know is, the Defense Department cannot address the IED threat alone. The work to disrupt IED networks and to defeat the IED itself is a comprehensive effort that must continue to occur at all levels. We are never going to stop all IEDs, but with a holistic and decisive approach, we will significantly impact the effect the IED has on the battle space and here at home.


Director, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, U.S. Army

Arlington, Va.

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