Two DOD briefings discussed the subject of IEDs in Iraq which provide food for thought. The first comes off a briefing given by Secretary Rumsfeld on August 23.
Q Mr. Secretary, the U.S. casualties from IEDs [improvised explosive device] over the last four months have been -- have been at their highest levels that we've seen since the invasion. I'm wondering what you attribute that to. Do you think it's going -- we're going to see it continuing? And I mean, do you attribute it to Iran, to this increasing sophistication of IEDs? What's your --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You're talking about Iraq.
Q I'm sorry; yes.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- I mean, the number of incidents, you know where that is, that level. And it's been going up, as it has in every other instance prior to an event like the constitution or an election in Afghanistan and so forth. We've tended to expect that. The number of provinces that it's occurring in Iraq are relatively few, three or four or five, not 18; relatively modest numbers in the remainder. The -- as you point out, the lethality, however, is up. Interestingly, however, of the number of incidents, the overwhelming majority are not effective at all; there are no casualties. I'm going to say like 80 percent of them --
ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: Is it about -- about 75 (percent)?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, 75 percent of them there are no casualties. So how -- I don't know quite how to characterize that except that they're hitting maybe one out of four where they're able to accomplish what they'd like. On those, the lethality has been greater, which is the point of your question. I don't know quite what I would attribute it to other than the fact that they obviously are becoming more sophisticated in developing in large measure explosive devices which have greater lethality.
The second comes off a briefing given by Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander, Multinational Force Northwest and Task Force Freedom on August 19.
Q General, Sandra Erwin with National Defense. Can you tell us what kind of IED -- what is the level of IED attacks that you see in your area? We heard from General LaFontaine last week that the attacks have doubled. Can you give us a sense of what kinds of threats do you see now in your area from the IEDs?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I think the question is about IEDs. And we have, of course, had a tremendous effort ongoing to combat the IEDs, which are the most prevalent weapon that has been used against us. Over the last three months, they have decreased in both number and effectiveness by about 20 percent. This has been a combination of several things. One, of course, is the tactics, techniques and procedures that we're using as we conduct our operations. The disruption in the senior leadership that we've been able to have on the leadership of the insurgency, they've been a little bit less complex because of the pressure that we've been able to keep on them. And also, we continue to get a large number of tips from the Iraqi people to help us discover them and get the word when they're putting them in, as well as the impact of several large caches that were seized throughout the last three months. So we continue to use all available technology, tactics, techniques and procedures to decrease the impact and effect of IEDs on our forces.
Q A follow-up on that. Some of the other officials we talk to say the IED sophistication has been increasing; but you're saying the opposite; you're saying that they're going down in numbers and sophistication?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Right now in this area they are going down in number as well as in sophistication. For example, there have not been as many buried and camouflaged, covered or concealed as had been in the past. And I think I explained why we thought that was.
Q Thank you.
The list for August shows the cause of 74 deaths sustained by US forces in Iraq (as of today) distributed as follows:
|VBIED (car bomb)||7|
|IED and Small Arms combined||6|
|Non combat related||9|
The number of casualties in 2005 have been higher than totals for the same months in 2004, largely as a consequence of a much higher level of enemy effort: "it's been going up" -- Rumsfeld; "attacks have doubled" -- attributed to Gen. La Fontaine. The level of enemy effort has been variable in the past and reached local peaks in March 2004 and January 2005. The current uptick has been attributed by Secretary Rumsfeld to the Iraqi constitutional discussions and the forthcoming referendum. However, an alternative explanation is to attribute the upswing to a general increase in enemy strength. Which of the two it is will emerge in due course.
|Iraqi elections 2005||Jan||47||107|
|Height of Sunni/Shiite uprising in 2004||Apr||135||52|
However that may turn out, it seems fairly clear that the enemy effort is not homogenous as to quality. Seventy five percent of IED attacks produce no casualties. This is an interesting "cliff" function which suggests that only a proportion of enemy techniques are truly effective. Enemy capability also seems to vary by locality. Multinational Force Northwest (aka Task force Freedom) operates in "the most northern region of Iraq, which includes the city of Mosul" has seen a decrease "in both number and effectiveness by about 20 percent" in IEDs, so presumably the enemy has been experiencing setbacks there. The real increase in attacks must be in the other command areas, i.e. Baghdad, North-Central and West.