IEDs and Snipers in Ramadi

The city of Ramadi remains one of the most dangerous locales in Iraq. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs or roadside bombs) is the weapon of choice for insurgents, and dozens of Marines, Soldiers and Sailors have been killed in Ramadi this year by IED attacks. These devices are relatively easy to build, as all is needed is an explosive such as an artillery shell, and either a hard wired or remote trigger device, all of which is easily obtainable in Iraq.

While Coalition forces have neutralized between 90-95% of IEDs prior to detonation, these weapons account for over half of U.S. casualties in Iraq, and are slower eroding the public’s perception of the war. The insurgent and al Qaeda understand that they cannot achieve tactical success with IEDs, but can affect a strategic defeat of the U.S. by sapping the public’s will to fight.

The Coalition is constantly working to use technology to disrupt and neutralize the insurgency’s ability to detonate their bombs remotely, the enemy adapts their tactics as well. This is the nature of war. But there is one area where the insurgency’s innovations hit the wall: the physical deployment of IEDs. Depending on the size, nature and the deployment of the explosive, it can take quite a bit of time to “plant” a roadside bomb.

Marines in Ramadi are taking advantage of this limitation and are deploying sniper teams to observe and engage insurgents while they deploy their deadly cargo. Over the period of one day, sniper teams killed eight insurgents planting IEDs and wounded the ninth in four separate engagements. Multinational Forces West provides the blow by blow:

In the first incident, a sniper team observed an insurgent digging a hole along a street that historically contained a high number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The sniper team engaged the insurgent with one round and was able to confirm one enemy killed in action.

Shortly afterwards, a taxi pulled up and stopped between the body of the insurgent and the sniper team. Three insurgents exited the vehicle and began firing sporadically in all directions with AK-47s. The sniper team engaged all the three individuals and was able to confirm three additional enemy killed in action. At this point, a fourth insurgent got out of the taxi and began firing at the sniper team. The insurgent was engaged as well, but was able to escape in the taxi after being injured.

In the second incident, a sniper team observed as a vehicle pulled up to a historical IED hole and two insurgents got out to inspect the hole.  When the insurgents began pulling out ordnance from the trunk of their vehicle to place in the hole, the sniper team determined hostile intent and engaged both insurgents. The snipers were able to confirm two enemies killed in action.

In the two other incidents, sniper teams observed two masked men observing their positions at two separate times during the day. Both insurgents were engaged and confirmed killed.

The day’s events in Ramadi highlight the fact that while technologic solutions are force multipliers, they cannot replace the need for boots on the ground and well placed trigger-pullers. The solution to the IED threat is in the end not better armor or more sophisticated signals disruption, but a permanent presences of security forces and well policed neighborhoods. The dramatic decrease in IED attacks along “Route Irish”, the road running from Baghdad International Airport to the city proper, is a prime example of this.

Ramadi is nowhere near the point where IEDs become a rare event, but the deployment of sniper teams and their frightening attrition rates among the insurgents they engaged may give future IED planters pause, as they will now know they are being observed and potentially engaged with deadly accuracy. The sniper teams are a stopgap solution until the Iraqi Army and Police commandos are prepared to secure Ramadi, much as they are now doing today during Operation Steel Curtain in Husaybah.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.


  • MG says:

    It looks like you have hanging indent and italics tags — all your subsequent posts have changed format.

  • Bob K says:

    Glad to see by this report that the rules of engagement in Ramadi have been modified. My son, An Infantry Sgt from the 2bct 2ID spent a year in Ramadi at combat oupost returning in August. His major complaint to me was the inability to engage insurgents prior to being fired upon. As a infantry team leader at the end and a sniper early on he indicated that amny times they had the enemy in site but were unable to take action. In my opinion this change is a great tactical shift and moral booster. ANYONE wearing a mask on the street should be considered an enemy combatant and elegible to die for their cause–before they shoot at anyone.
    Thanks for the updates and take care in Iraq. My take on the war is close to yours–We are winning, city by city. Acording to my sons Battalion CO Ramadi is MUCH safer for the locals now as opposed to the fall of 2004 when they arrived. How can he tell? Ecomonics. Property values have gone up in the better areas of the city.
    Thanks for your work
    Bob K
    A Proud Father of an Infantry Soldier

  • Kartik says:

    Questions :
    1) After the Iraqi and Coalition forces secure Ramadi, while maintaining control of Husaybah, etc., are there still more places that terrorists are holding, or will they be fully without a place to form a stronghold in Iraq anymore.
    2) Is it our snipers that are picking off terrorists that are planting IEDs? How many snipers does the US have in Iraq right now?

  • ikez78 says:

    Flights from Baghdad to Tehran and Iran says it is willing to help reconstruct Iraq.

  • Mike Rentner says:

    Bill, these reports are pretty typical events in Al Anbar. We read reports like this many, many times while I was in Hit-Haditha with 3/25. They occur all throughout RCT-2’s AO.
    These muj seem particularly stupid, though.

  • Uhh… In the department of “horrid OpSec,” is it really a good idea to put sniper tactics out in press releases? All it takes is a modem and knoweldge of English for a Ba’athist to read, understand, and adapt to the tactics being reported.

  • ikez78 says:

    It may prevent some of them from being planted though if they are hesitant to go out there for risk of being shot. No?

  • Justin Capone says:

    Very good news on the political side of things

  • Justin Capone says:

    CNN FINALLY picked up on the Anbar campaign that Bill has spent the past year talking about.

  • Steve says:

    Not a bad video by CNN, but did you catch the end where the reporter says that Rumsfield mentioned that troop levels will rise? They couldn’t resist the dig.
    Luckily the reporter was too inept to make a negative point with it, although none should have been made anyway, in that Rumsfield clearly said that the rise was only due to an expected rotation of troops, where there would be some temporary overlap of forces going into Iraq with forces coming home.

  • Marine Snipers In Iraq


  • desert rat says:

    bob k
    My son was in Fallujah with the USMC, he returned about 6 months ago. He reported, as your son did, of RoE that boggled my mind. Funny, it was the first hand knowledge of how the military was operating in Iraq that has led me to disapprove of Mr Bush’s policies & performance. A lack of desire to engage and defeat the enemy, seems as you said we have moved on from those inept policies and tactics and are on the road to victory, finally.

  • Justin Capone says:

    I guess my post got deleated, I though 2 paragraphs from a editoral would be ok, but I guess not so I will just keep it to links.
    CBS also has a good video about Iraqi training in the second to the bottom.

  • Stormwarning says:

    Taking your number of 90-95% of IEDs being defused before detonation, the remaining devices are still creating havoc and blood for our troops. Considerations are:
    1) armor – there are still too many vehicles over there running around without sufficient armor (one of my buddies is still shipping uparmored vehicles monthly – he’s a small supplier but has more demand than he can meet, especially among the contractor community);
    2) the Joint IED Defeat Task Force is still evaluating anti-IED technologies; NIJ just released an RFP calling for anti-IED and VIED technologies;
    3) I am aware that the military is now evaluating terahertz technology to disarm/disable/explode IEDs in advance of the approach of our vehicles; technical problem involved ramping up the power levels from milli-watt to multi-watt levels.

  • Tomo says:

    There have been something like 200 sniper platoons in Iraq (about double the Vietnam war at its height). The ANG sniper school has deployed to Iraq several times to conduct on-site training. Many soldiers have become Designated Marksman and been issued M-14s. Many of these soldiers are severely underequipped (riflescopes not suitable for sniping use, no spotting scopes, etc.). In addition the RA sniper school recently suffered severe fire damage. You can support American snipers by contributing to AmericanSnipers.Org.

  • Brained by Falling Masonry

    I never thought you’d go so far chloroform I never thought you’d go so far oh no she’s out cold now I’m so alone now take that back please stephanie black and don’t be so torn by chloroform

    Friday, we went to…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram