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.
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