Friday, June 15, 2007

Fighting IEDs

A look at the challenge from Government Executive:

Believing that it takes a nimble network to fight one, the U.S. military services have created a number of ad hoc groups like Meigs' to operate outside the lumbering Pentagon bureaucracy. His outfit exists to rush promising technologies to the battlefield without having to go through the Byzantine weapons acquisition process. "Microsoft pumps out software enhancements about every nine months. You get a new generation of cell phone [every] year to 18 months. That's the rhythm we're on, and it's a completely different way of doing business in Defense," Meigs says. Despite the $70 billion the Pentagon spends annually on research and development, he says, a technological silver bullet for IEDs is unlikely...

rmy Capt. Aaron Duncan, who spent 2005 and early 2006 in southern Baghdad as an intelligence officer, says the fragmented nature of the insurgency makes it nearly impossible to penetrate. A bomber cell might operate for a few weeks and then disband. Its members then join other cells or start their own or find jobs and leave the insurgency. On a piece of paper, Duncan draws a triangular diagram of the cell structure. At the top is the money man, the planner, typically a former Iraqi military or intelligence officer under the Saddam Hussein regime. "You are not going to persuade this guy to stop; you either have to kill him or capture him," Duncan says.

If U.S. forces take out the base of the triangle, the workers, then the cell leader must recruit new ones, which takes time. That can deactivate a cell for a week or two. If soldiers capture a mid-level leader, that link of the chain is broken and the cell might become inactive. The leaderless members might start their own cell or get rolled into another, says Duncan. But "If you cut the head off the beast, you've still got these guys down here, and you have another splinter cell develop. By just cutting off the head, you don't fix the problem because other heads will emerge. If you cut off the tails, other tails will grow. So how do you fix it? You have to target the whole group together, and put something in its place to deny them the ability to conduct operations."

U.S. military officers say the answer is better intelligence and money. Funding for reconstructing the country will provide potential insurgents with a source of income other than fighting, they say. Whether America can produce either remains questionable.

It's an interesting and depressing piece. Taken together, it seems merely to emphasize the importance of a political solution to the challenge in Iraq.

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