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ARLINGTON, Va. — Retired four-star Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs will lead the U.S. effort against improvised explosive devices beginning Monday, according to the Defense Department.

Meigs, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe and of NATO’s peacekeeping force in Bosnia, also will lead efforts to create a training center to combat IEDs at Fort Irwin, Calif., defense officials said.

In October 2003, the Defense Department expanded its effort to stop roadside bombs from a 12-member team to a full task force under Gen. Joseph Votel with more than $1 billion to work with, according to the Defense Department.

But IEDs have continued to take their toll. Most recently, 10 Marines were killed and another 11 wounded by an IED on Thursday in Fallujah.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday that Meigs has commanded at every level in the U.S. military, giving him the experience to integrate the training, tactics and procedures to thwart IEDs and to coordinate the anti-IED effort across government agencies.

“Gen. Meigs has an operational background that cannot be matched,” Whitman said.

Also, since Meigs is retired, he can devote all his time to efforts to defeat IEDs, Whitman said.

About 39 percent, or 841 troops, of the roughly 2,100 U.S. fatalities in Iraq reported as of Dec. 3 were killed by an “explosive device,” Defense Department statistics show. Explosive devices such as IEDs are also responsible for about 50 percent of U.S. hostile deaths in Iraq up to Dec. 3.

Another 65 U.S. troops, about 3 percent of U.S. fatalities, were killed by bombs, which are classified separately from IEDs, the statistics show.

Also as of Dec. 3, explosive devices such as IEDs counted for 8,452 of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq, about 53 percent of the total number of hostile wounds in action, the statistics show. Another 572 troops, about 3.6 percent of U.S. troops wounded in action, were the victims of bombs, the statistics show.

Officials have said the insurgents have changed their techniques over the last year, using more explosives and shaped charges to channel blasts and penetrate armor.

In an e-mail to Stripes on Tuesday, a soldier who had been stationed in northern Iraq said that originally insurgents had used gasoline bombs designed to deflate the tires on Strykers. But as U.S. forces brought in heavier vehicles, insurgents started using three or more 122 mm shells in their bombs that blow up from both sides of the road.

Whitman said the Defense Department is waging a “very aggressive” campaign against IEDs and the department will commit whatever additional resources it needs to overcome the IED problem.

“This is one program that will be not be underfunded,” he said.

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