Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are a huge issue for our forces in the sandbox. Because I have some experience in making improvised explosives this was one of the areas where I was trying to contribute when I worked at PNNL. Unfortunately that didn’t work out and I was involuntarily sidelined in that effort. Here is some tantalizing information on how the battle against IEDs is going:
There may be an unlimited supply of explosives in Iraq, but there is not an unlimited supply of people who know how to wire the detonators. In 2004, CIA operatives in Iraq believed they had identified the signatures of 11 different bomb-makers. They proposed a diabolical – but potentially effective – sabotage program that would have flooded Iraq with booby-trapped detonators designed to explode in the bomb-makers’ hands. But the CIA’s general counsel’s office said no. The lawyers claimed the agency lacked authority for such an operation, one source recalled.
Aside from the aneurysm inducing restriction imposed by the lawyers this is very interesting information. There are a very limited number of people in the Islamic extremist community with the technical skills to connect a remote garage door opener, walkie-talkie, or cell phone ringer, to the two wires of a blasting cap. This is an incredibly foreign concept to me. On the farm I was working with explosives when I was 10 years old and making electronic projects (and yes, some of them used vacuum tubes which means my son will claim it was in prehistoric times) by the time I was 12 or so. I don’t remember how much before that I was doing simple things with electric circuits — which is all the expertise you need to connect detonators.
I expect this is some sort of cultural difference. They think entirely different than we do, some say it may be more different that we can think. And apparently the reverse is true as well. Something that I could do as a child before my voice changed is a rare skill in their culture. So if we can’t remove those rare individuals from their society with sabotaged detonators how else can we take advantage of their lack of people with technical skills above that of a 12 year-old?