WASHINGTON -- U.S. forces in Iraq are adapting to lessen the threat posed by the enemy's improvised explosive devices, senior military officers told House Armed Services Committee members here May 5.
To boost troop protection against IEDs, the U.S. military has "increased the number of armored vehicles deployed to the (Iraq) theater by a factor of over 100-fold in 18 months," Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army's Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, noted at the Capitol Hill hearing.
"We have also increased delivery of body armor, IED countermeasure systems and changes of tactics and training," Sorenson pointed out.
IEDs, also known as roadside bombs, have been the major cause of U.S. combat casualties in Iraq, according to Pentagon officials.
Brig. Gen. William Cato from Marine Corps Systems Command reported to the committee that "100 percent of our wheeled vehicles involved in combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa are equipped" with some type of armor.
The Marines are also adding underbody armor and other reinforcements to Humvees, 5-ton cargo trucks and other supply vehicles. "We continue to meet emergent vehicle armor protection requirements to stay ahead of an adaptive enemy," Cato said.
After Saddam Hussein was removed from power in March 2003, Iraq became "an evolving theater" of operations, Cato explained, as die-hard Iraqi insurgents loyal to the old regime and Islamic militant fighters stepped up attacks against U.S. and coalition occupation troops, and pro-coalition Iraqi forces and citizens.
Insurgent IED threats once chiefly consisted of "60 mm, 81 mm mortar kinds of rounds," Cato said. Nowadays, he pointed out, insurgents have upped the ante, using 122 to 155 mm artillery shells, 500-pound bombs and double-stacked mines to provide more explosive power for their IEDs.
"As we've added armor, they've added greater explosives," Cato told the committee.
Insurgents in Iraq are "very adept, and very smart, very learning, very innovative," said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of DoD's Joint IED Defeat Task Force. The task force was created in October 2003 as an Army agency. It now has representatives from each of the U.S. armed services, plus British military advisers.
For some time now, the insurgents in Iraq have mostly used IEDs detonated by radio signals, Votel reported. Yet lately, the insurgents appear to be moving back to IEDs that are hard-wired to detonators, he noted, possibly because U.S. signal-jamming devices are having an effect.
"This is combat, and this is a thinking enemy up against us," noted Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va., who also attended the hearing.
"We are outthinking them, and we will continue to outthink them," Mattis asserted.