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Data shows a sharp decrease in IED deaths for coalition forces in Afghanistan

An improvised explosive device (IED), is a homemade bomb that can be made of almost anything. It can contain just explosives, or a combination of toxic chemicals, biological chemicals or radiological materials.

An explosion rocks the ground in the Ladar Bazaar in Shukvani, Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a line charge is detonated
An explosion rocks the ground in the Ladar Bazaar in Shukvani, Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a line charge is detonated
Cpl. Jeff Drew
Marines of K Company found an assortment of improvised explosive device materials and munitions in the car belonging to an insurgent
Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images

IEDs utilize any of the following, commercial, military or homemade explosives, military ordnance and possibly their components. IEDs have one thing in common, they're designed to kill, maim and injure without discrimination.

Each IED is made to be used against a specific target with one goal in mind, that's to destroy that target. It's said that all IEDs fall into three categories which are,

  • Package Type IED
  • Vehicle-Borne IEDs (VBIEDs)
  • Suicide Bomb IED

IEDs can vary in size, shape and form. They share a common set of components consisting of the following:

  • A switch/trigger.
  • An initiator (fuse).
  • Main charge (explosive fill).
  • A power source for the switch/trigger.
  • A container.

These IEDs have caused the deaths of many troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, it was reported that 75% of casualties in Afghanistan were due to IEDs (USA Today). That would put the number of deaths by IEDs in Afghanistan alone, at around 2500.

Reports from the Marine Corps Times website says that data from the Pentagon shows the number of IED deaths are on a sharp decrease. They say that deaths from IEDs are less than half, for this year, despite a 5% increase in IEDs.

The reason for the increase is due to the ability of insurgents to get IED components from Pakistan. According to an unnamed senator and military analyst, "the high number of incidents highlights continuing problems choking off the supply of bomb parts from Pakistan and a resilient Taliban."

Despite the decrease in troop deaths, the Pentagon reports that the number of IEDs is near-record levels. The data shows that,

From June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012, there were 16,321 incidents, in which bombs exploded or were found before they detonated. The record for a calendar year was in 2011 when insurgents planted 16,554 bombs.

About 86 percent of the attacks come from homemade explosives traced to Pakistan, according to JIEDDO. That’s up from about 80 percent last year.

The decreasing number of IED deaths is due to a shift in combat operations in Afghanistan. Troops are now launching more operations in eastern Afghanistan, which is a rugged and mountainous region. Since it's such rough terrain troops travel in armored vehicles.

Because more armored vehicles are being used to transport troops there has been a 17% increase of IED attacks against those vehicles. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa says, "We cannot expect substantial progress in the fight against IEDs in Afghanistan until Pakistan takes responsibility for tracking and interdiction" (of the bomb parts).

Casey also says that discussion should be a priority and brought up at every interaction we have with Pakistan. It's said the foreign operations bill for this year was authored by Casey. He made sure to include in the bill that, "U.S. aid was contingent on Pakistan dismantling bomb-making networks and choking off the flow of fertilizer."

It's also reported that seizures of bomb-making materials are up by 53% this year. Coalition forces are said to have seized 37 tons. It takes 50 pounds of fertilizer to make a bomb.