Vehicles such as this MRAP have reduced U.S. casualties from roadside bombs. / -
The good news on the IED front in Afghanistan is that it's no longer a huge story.
Attacks from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) dropped 19% for the three-month period that ended on July 31. And U.S. troops continue to find and defuse bombs better than ever. Soldiers and Marines on foot patrol now find 85% of makeshift bombs compared with 80% last year.
The bad news? Roadside bombs remain the top threat to U.S. troops, causing 61% of all casualties. It's worse for Afghan security forces, who have seen attacks on them increase 74%. That compares with the same period in 2012. Stats come courtesy of the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
Then there's some context. July 2012 was the worst month ever for IED attacks on U.S. troops. Insurgents planted more than 2,000 bombs that month. There are also fewer U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year, about 60,000, and they've take on more of an advisory role. That accounts in part for the increase in attacks on Afghan soldiers and cops who now lead most operations against insurgents.
Homemade explosives account for nearly three quarters of IEDs. For years, the main ingredient in those explosives has been ammonium nitrate fertilizer. In the last few years, U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan hard to limit the flow fertilizer into Afghanistan.
It worked. Ammonium nitrate is no longer the top source of homemade bombs. Unfortunately, insurgents have switched to a different source, potassium chlorate, the key ingredient in matches. Now more than half of all IEDs in Afghanistan are powered by potassium chlorate compared with 25% last year.
It seems a safe bet that even after U.S. combat troops depart Afghanistan by the end of 2014, IEDs will remain.
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Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Fewer IED attacks on U.S. troops but still deadly