Lost in Translation: IED Solutions Mired in Disorganization

While we wrote last week of the proliferation of the improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Joint IED Defeat Office director, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz painted a bleak picture before Congress.

Metz, who is scheduled to retire this week, spoke before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. When we spoke with Metz last year, he had genuine confidence in his organization and its approach, but the increase of IED incidents gives one pause.

JIEDDO, a large, diverse and frenetic organization, was hastily thrown together in 2006 to devise a solution to combat the deadly IEDs that ruled Iraq. JIEDDO’s budget has exceeded 4 billion in some years and would be worth every penny for reasonable progress, notably in getting ahead of the network that runs these deadly IED rings. Metz and company have proudly pointed to success in Iraq. Progress there at the time may have had more to do with improvements in relations on the ground. He said since Sept. 2008 there had been 10,000 IED incidents in Iraq, though the effective number – those causing harm—dropped for a second straight year. Still, 10,000 sounds like a significant issue.

Metz told his audience, Afghanistan is a different animal. The IED is THE weapon of choice replacing direct fire weapons. As far as work in Afghanistan he said “JIEDDO has undertaken an ongoing Afghanistan support planning process that has so far generated more than 100 counter-IED initiatives for this theater.” (Whatever those really are.) He did not address Afghanistan further in his prepared testimony, quite possibly because he is on the losing side of this fight at this time, though that could change.

Metz’s strategy remains simple and is nearly the same as it was in 2006: defeat the device, attack the network, and train the force. The network has been the answer and this is where JIEDDO and those on the ground continue to struggle with ways to interrupt it. (Though integrating females into combat units below the brigade level might uncover crucial intelligence that has been off-limits thus far. Just a thought.)

The Government Accountability Office released a report on U.S. counter IED efforts the same day as the Metz’s testimony. The GAO’s primary concern was JIEDDO’s lack of organization. Its many oversight challenges hamper its efforts to effectively connect with the field. Redundancy abounds. JIEDDO is large and disjoined, with no glue holding corporate to cowboy. Herd of cats applies. (The GAO did not say this.)

IEDs are as plentiful as those willing to create and place them. Reports vary on the IED of the Month, though it is clear, the choices are vast and the opposition is adept at varying its approach. Bad news for Team USA.

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