Reich in Afghanistan: Deadlier IEDs, or Just Cheaper Ones?


Categorie: Afghanistan, Bombs, Jason Reich, Reich in Afghanistan |



The Taliban are an adaptive and learning enemy. Soldiers in Afghanistan had been telling me this since I arrived in August. A report from The Washington Times, revealing the Taliban tactic of using “plastic” IEDs to avoid detection, illustrates this perfectly.

Over at Combat Outpost Blackhawk, where I was embedded with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Spartan, I met a State Department police mentor who, in addition to his 25 years as a patrol officer in a large U.S. city, had spent three years in Iraq teaching Iraqi police counter-IED tactics. I’m not able to publish his name, but the grizzled 60-year-old-former Marine, who was in better shape than most of the soldiers I met, had a wealth of knowledge to share on the Taliban’s deadly, yet simplistic IED tactics.

Based on crater analysis that he conducted from IED strikes on our convoys, he noted that the explosive of choice for the Taliban in our area was ammonium nitrate, commonly found in fertilizer, which makes sense in this heavily farmed region.  “Just because it’s not military-grade explosive doesn’t mean it’s any less deadly,” he explained to me. “It just means it’s more dangerous to work with.” That could explain the surprisingly frequent reports of “work accidents” that killed quite a few Taliban in Wardak earlier in the summer.

But the key element behind these plastic bombs is simply the delivery system: plastic jugs. The amount of metal required is minimal, since they are designed to destroy vehicles, not kill dismounted soldiers. You kill vehicles with blast, and soldiers with metal shrapnel. The IEDs targeting dismounts are smaller and even easier to make than vehicle-killing bombs. They are often just old Soviet mines planted at an angle towards the expected patrol. They don’t even need to be hidden, since they’re triggered a good distance away from the patrolling soldiers and rely on their shrapnel to do the damage.

The tactics and counter-tactics in the IED fight are always changing. As the summer draws to a close in Afghanistan, the Taliban seem to be one small step ahead.

(Photo: memorial service for Specialist Justine Pellerin, killed by an IED in Wardak; photo by Jason Reich)

Voice of America: Implementing “Smart Power” in Afghanistan Poses Challenge for U.S.
World Politics Review: Remembering a Fallen Soldier
“Elections Were a Joke!”
Calm before the Storm
Afghan Forces — the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Security and Governance in Wardak
World Politics Review: In Afghanistan, Itching for a Fight that Never Comes
Wardak, Afghanistan, in Photos
Welcome to Bagram Airfield City


3 Responses to “Reich in Afghanistan: Deadlier IEDs, or Just Cheaper Ones?”

  1. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/18/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  2. [...] The armored truck came apart in a puff of smoke and debris. It was Aug. 20, election day in Wardak province, Afghanistan, southwest of Kabul. U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan had braced for increased levels of violence on this day. But the massive bomb — constructed of a plastic barrel with a nitrate fertilizer filler — that struck the American truck was more than anyone expected. Of the two U.S. Army soldiers riding in the front of the vehicle when the bomb struck, one was seriously injured. Specialist Justin Pellerin, 21, the driver, died instantly. [...]

  3. Hayward says:

    And whence the expertise in IED, VIED et al. When the USSR went to “occupy “Afghanistan (the same way the USA did in Viet Nam) at the request of the then recognised Government of Afghanistan), the US Administration determined that it would turn Afghanistan into a USSR  ” Viet Nam”
    This was carried out through co-operation with Saudi Arabia. The Sunni Wahabi Salafi preached jihad against the “godless” communist USSR and its assistance to the then Afghan Government. The Saudis provided vast amounts of money, the USA some funds and most of the military equipment, initially of Eastern bloc origin, from that great bazaar that is the black market in weapons world wide.
    This enabled the recruitment of thousands of mujahadeen, their arming, equipping and training all done through the good offices of the Pakistani ISI. May I suggest “Buda’s Wagon : a brief history of the car bomb” by  Mike Davis. Chapter 13 “Car Bomb University” An “institution” jointly funded by the Saudi GID run at that time by Prince Turki bin Faisal and the CIA. The Pakistani ISI was responsible for the overall “mujahadeen programme” At “Car Bomb U” they were trained by CIA operatives whose experience came from their work in Viet Nam and other parts of Indo China, Central and South America and Europe. They were instructed in the construction and use of, IED, VIED and pipe bombs, even camel bombs! These devices were then employed, along with other weaponry to attack the Soviet Occupying Forces in Afghanistan. Somewhat similar to attacks on the Occupying Forces in Viet Nam

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