Meigs: IED threat coming under control
ARLINGTON, Va. — The threat posed by improvised explosive devices will persist but be brought under control in the next couple of years, said the outgoing head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
“I think in another couple of years, we’ll have a handle on it. We won’t have it solved or won, but we’ll have it controlled. But it’s not going to go away,” said retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs in an interview Wednesday.
Meigs, former commander of U.S. forces in Europe, explained that the number of IEDs will drop in the future and U.S. and other coalition forces will be better equipped to find and deal with IEDs before they go off, meaning IEDs will “diminish as a major strategic concern.”
But Meigs, who is leaving JIEDDO at the end of the month, added a note of caution to his comments.
“When I say under control, I can’t tell you what degree,” he said. “I just feel confident [that] if we keep applying the techniques that we’re applying, we’re going to get a heck of a lot better at this game.”
Asked about Meigs’ comments, an outside expert said he expects IEDs to remain a threat, but he does not believe U.S. forces will encounter the bombs again with the same scale as they have in Iraq.
“I would be hard-pressed to think of another theater where enemy forces will have such unrestrained access to the enormous quantities of munitions that insurgents have in Iraq,” said Dakota Wood, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Wood noted that ammunition dumps in Iraq were initially left unguarded after the invasion, providing insurgents with possibly 1 million tons of military-grade munitions with which to make IEDs.
He said he expects future U.S. strategies to deny enemy forces such access to bomb-making materials.
However, Wood also said that Iran has said its forces will replicate insurgent tactics in Iraq if U.S. troops invade.
But if Iran uses its weapons caches to make roadside bombs, those could be classified as mines because they are being made by the state instead of nonstate actors, he said.
Meigs has helmed anti-IED efforts since December 2005.
His organization has spent billions to battle roadside bombs, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said the solution lies outside technology.
“The best way to defeat these weapons — indeed the only way to defeat them over the long run — is to get tips from locals about the networks and the emplacements, or, even better, to convince and empower the Iraqis to prevent the terrorists from emplacing them in the first place,” Gates told the Association of the United States Army on Oct. 10.
Meigs said he agreed with Gates’ comments, but he explained it is important to continue to funding anti-IED technology because it enhances the credibility of U.S. and coalition forces with Iraqis.
“You have to show that a force that is competent; you have to start to establish a safe and secure environment; people have to believe that they can take the risk in that to start moving toward political compromise,” he said.
Eventually, military force leads to an environment that makes political compromise possible, he said.
“In that part of the game where military force is absolutely critical, you have to invest in all these things,” Meigs said.
Ultimately, the battle against IEDs in Iraq will be won not be destroying enemy forces, he said.
“You have to get the people on your side,” Meigs said. “It’s not a technological thing, but the capabilities of the force that does that depend fundamentally — to some extent — on technology, and also on the quality of the troops, and the leadership.”