Saturday, March 11, 2006


IEDs Remain Top Killer of Troops in Iraq


Message: IEDs still biggest killer of troops in Iraq, the primary cause of legs and arm or hand macerations that require amputations, and head injuries that result in moderate to severe neurological impairment.

Article Title: IEDs Remain Top Killer of Troops in Iraq

Roadside bombs, the Iraq insurgency's weapon of choice and the leading killer of American troops there, are now only about half as deadly as they were a year ago, Pentagon officials say.

But in an indication the problem is still serious, President Bush on Saturday is getting his first briefing from Montgomery Meigs, the retired Army general who is heading a Pentagon organization armed with a multibillion-dollar budget in pursuit of measures to counter the threat.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will also join in the session. A Rumsfeld spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said Friday that Bush will be given an update on progress against what the Pentagon calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. But there have been no new technological breakthroughs to report, Whitman said.

"There is no `silver bullet' to solve this problem," Whitman said. It requires a broad effort, with collaboration among the military and the defense industry, to find better ways of identifying and defeating IEDs, he said. Troops are receiving more extensive and focused training on how to spot and avoid suspected roadside bombs, which often are buried in the ground or hidden inside animal carcasses or other unlikely objects.

Christine Devries, spokeswoman for Meigs' group that is known as the Joint IED Defeat Organization, said much progress has been made already. As an illustration, she said that about 40 of every 100 roadside bombs are found and defused before they explode. That means the other 60 do explode, although Devries said the number of U.S. troops killed or wounded by each explosion has fallen by about 50 percent from a year ago.

Devries said more detailed information about the casualty rate per IED explosion is considered too sensitive to release publicly because it could give the insurgents in Iraq new insights into their effectiveness.

Likewise, Pentagon officials are willing to say little about the electronic jamming devices and other technological means they have used to detect and defeat IEDs.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces are finding more IEDs before they explode, but he provided no numbers.

"That means a lot of the work that's being done and a lot of the resources that you have allocated are having positive effects," Pace said. "But we have a lot of work to do in this regard."

Spending has ballooned from $1.2 billion in the 2005 budget to $3.3 billion in the current budget, including $1.9 billion as part of the emergency war funding request the Bush submitted to Congress last month.

Devries said the administration has not yet decided how much it will spend on the counter-IED effort in the 2007 budget year that begins Oct. 1. Bush's proposed 2007 budget has no specific provision for financing the Meigs' organization; its money will be drawn from several different spending accounts in the budget, Devries said.

When the Pentagon began focusing on an effort to counter the IED threat in 2003, it was an Army responsibility and initially involved a staff of only 12 people. It has since grown to a military-wide effort and the staff has grown to about 174. The staff is expected to grow beyond 300 people, Devries said.

Meigs was appointed to head the organization last December

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