Attacks with makeshift bombs hit a record high of more than 16,000 in Afghanistan in the past year, and the increasing harm they cause to Afghan civilians indicates insurgents may lack strong leadership, military officials say.
The number of improvised explosive devices that were cleared or detonated rose to 16,554 from 15,225, an increase of 9 percent, according to data obtained by USA Today. In 2009, total IED “events,” as they are known, came to 9,304.
Insurgent reliance on IEDs as their No. 1 weapon meant a rise in concussions and severe wounds to U.S. servicemembers who have been operating on foot to root out Taliban fighters in remote areas. Civilians were increasingly becoming the main victims.
The number of Afghans killed or wounded by IEDs jumped 10 percent in 2011, compared with 2010, according to figures released by the military command in Kabul. The bombs account for 60 percent of all civilian casualties, which totaled more than 4,000 killed or wounded in 2011. Insurgents caused more than 85 percent of those casualties.
The International Stability Assistance Force, which oversees coalition military operations, attributed the spike in civilian casualties to the increasing lack of control insurgent leaders have on their forces.
“Despite orders from Mullah Omar to quit harming civilians, we saw increased use of IEDs harming Afghan adults and children,” Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an ISAF spokesman said, referring to Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban.
“If insurgencies are about winning the support — or at least the acquiescence — of the local population, this is a concerning trend for the Taliban,” said Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the Rand Corp.
The leaky border with Pakistan remains a problem, according to the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, the Pentagon’s lead agency for combating makeshift bombs.
Pakistan is the source for 80 percent of the fertilizer-based homemade bombs in Afghanistan, JIEDDO says. Those bombs cause 90 percent of U.S. casualties. Jones said IEDs will continue to plague the coalition and civilians.
“This is likely due to the ability of insurgents to import IED materials, including triggering devices and ammonium nitrate, from Pakistan,” he said.
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., has pushed Pakistani officials to stem the flow of bombmaking materials. There has been progress, including the formation of counter-IED teams in Pakistan. But Casey said Wednesday he was “not satisfied” enough was being done to secure the border.
story by: Tom Vanden Brook – USA Today
photo courtesy of: Finbarr O’Reilly – Reuters