Disarming IEDs in Iraq

Tom Bullock reports on how U.S. troops in Iraq try to locate and disarm IEDs before they explode.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And we'll complete this report by going to Baghdad, where NPR's Tom Bullock has been talking to US troops as they battle insurgents on the road.

And, Tom, you've been listening to General Votel describe, here in Washington, his efforts. What are soldiers telling you there in Iraq about their training and equipment?

TOM BULLOCK reporting:

Well, soldiers I've spent time with are really skeptical about any kind of new device because of the exact point that General Votel brought up, which is by the time it hits the battlefield, chances are it's either not going to be effective, meaning that the insurgents have changed their tactics, or some soldiers actually complained that a lot of the high-tech devices they've been given to help protect them from things like roadside bombs, even from snipers, they just don't work as well in the real battlefield as they do on a military test facility. As one soldier told me, the US military has to get it right every time in order to stop something like the threat of roadside bombs and the insurgents here only have to get it right once.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk about one very well publicized adaptation to insurgent tactics. Americans didn't have enough armor on Humvees so they've been adding it. How have insurgents responded to that?

BULLOCK: They change it in a number of ways. The first is they've changed where the bombs are hidden. I mean, in the media, we often call it a roadside bomb but it can be hidden in walls, under overpasses. It can really be hidden anywhere where you conceal a large object. And they've also learned to identify Humvees that have additional armor and they pick those that don't and they're the ones that tend to be targeted by IEDs. And the tricky thing overall here is the fact that there really is almost no big-picture solution for something like the problem of IEDs, and it's because everywhere you go in Iraq, even in Baghdad from neighborhood to neighborhood, they're being used in different ways, they're being made by different people. So every time the troops go out, they're facing a potentially completely different enemy and a completely different type of roadside bomb.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thank you very much.

That's NPR's Tom Bullock, speaking from Baghdad.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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