This blog aims to highlight issues and information that don't always make it into the mainstream media. Recognising that comment is cheap, wherever possible it will link you directly to documents and sources that are mentioned in the text.
I realised some time ago that it was impossible to write about Afghanistan without writing about Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. With that in mind, the reader will come across articles that, while not specifically about Afghanistan, in some way shed light on the conflict.
Some interesting details on IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq emerged yesterday in testimony before the US House Armed Services Committee by Lt.Gen. Michael L Oates, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO). Oates, whose job is to provide counter-IED solutions, told the committee that Afghanistan has experienced a near doubling of IED events in the last year, with a corresponding rise in US and Coalition casualties. At the same time the threat in Iraq is roughly 10 per cent of its 2007 peak. The statistics speak for themselves. In the last three years casualty rates in Afghanistan have increased by roughly 50 per cent. This means IED attacks cause about 50 per cent more casualties than they did three years ago. Iraq, in comparison, has a US IED casualty rate that is about half that of Afghanistan. In total the U.S. military recorded 8,159 IED incidents in Afghanistan in 2009, compared with 3,867 in 2008 and 2,677 the year before. Last month, for example, 721 IEDs blew up or were defused in Afghanistan, slowing a major Marine-led offensive in Helmand province and killing 28 US and allied troops. These bombs are the leading cause of Coalition casualties by a large margin. The number of IED attacks in Iraq, in contrast, has plummeted: at their peak in 2007, Iraqi insurgents employed 23,000 IEDs. Last year, that number fell to about 3,000, according to U.S. military figures. The difference between the two countries is explained by the much more rural terrain in Afghanistan where there are few paved roads, allowing bombs to be hidden easily in the middle of the road or in culverts. In many places driving off-road is just not possible, making vehicles an easier target. The use of non-metallic, fertilizer-based bombs means they are more difficult to detect and the frequency of dismounted patrols means there are more targets.