WASHINGTON — Iraqi insurgents keep finding new ways to conceal and detonate deadly improvised explosive devices, making the Pentagon’s countermeasures that much more difficult to develop, confidential military documents say.
“Enemy sophistication continually improves,” said a recent U.S. military briefing to commanders. “The enemy is adapting all the time.”
The document said that after the U.S. had success with jamming radio signals between the bomber and the improvised explosive devices (IEDs), insurgents quickly reverted to direct-wire ignition that cannot be jammed.
The documents, which are distributed to U.S. commanders as updates on Pentagon efforts to defeat IEDs, show, for example, that insurgents last summer began burying the bombs under roads and then paving over the holes. The enemy also has used dead animals as hiding places, and has put smaller ordnance inside white bags placed on the roadside.
The paved-over bomb “can be spotted by the stain that usually remains on the road,” said one briefing paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
These crude, remotely detonated bombs have emerged has the insurgency’s top weapon against American and coalition troops in Iraq. As intelligence reports indicate, it is getting more difficult for Saddam Hussein’s loyalists to recruit Iraqi attackers, so the IEDs are gaining importance as a weapon to kill troops and civilians.
The Pentagon has attempted to stay ahead of the game by creating an Army-led task force that issues confidential reports, such as the ones obtained by The Times.
The Pentagon also has rushed to Iraq off-the-shelf technology, such as electronic jammers and spy equipment. Jammers are affixed to vehicle convoys as they move along booby-trapped roads. The Pentagon also has developed a technology, which is classified, for disrupting cell-phone signals.
“Enemy is using door bells and car alarm systems,” one confidential briefing stated. “If you stop someone with a bunch of door bells or phones or toy cars, you probably have a bomber.”
The explosive is typically an artillery shell, thousands of which existed in arms caches throughout the militarized country.
In some cases, the jammers work. But the insurgents have adapted by using the hard-to-jam signals from cordless phones or cell phones, or simply stringing a wire from the remote control to the bomb’s battery.
“I hate to say this, but the Defense Department is not where it should be in defeating these things,” said a Defense source who is working on solutions to the problem.
Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander in the region, told Congress earlier this year that the Pentagon needed to commit more assets to counter IEDs.
The confidential documents show American patrols have found multiple telephone wires leading to houses that did not have telephones. On inspection, soldiers determined the wires led to past IED detonations. The lesson: Inspect homes that have multiple telephone wires.
At the Pentagon last week, chief spokesman Larry Di Rita said the overall number of attacks are decreasing, although the IEDs remain numerous and deadly, as with a recent spike in attacks.
“In terms of the total average weekly attacks now versus the period just prior to the transfer of sovereignty, we’re below that level,” Mr. Di Rita said. “We’re below the level that occurred just from the transfer of sovereignty to the [January 30] elections. We’re below the level that occurred from the elections until, say mid-February. But it is a fact that in the last week or two, there’s been an uptick.”
The spokesman said commanders do not know whether the recent rise is a trend, or a grab for headlines.
The insurgents also have turned to hard-to-spot improvised launchers. In some cases, insurgents made a plaster mold resembling a concrete block. The structure was used to remotely launch French-made anti-vehicle munitions that rain down on a convoy.
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