Deaths and injuries from improvised explosive devices are falling a bit Afghanistan, but IEDs still account for more than 60% of U.S. casualties there, a Senate subcommittee heard Thursday.
"This year nearly 1,900 U.S. casualties have been caused by IEDs," Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero testified, and he was not optimistic about the future.
Pakistan is a major source of the problem, he said.
Evidence shows that most of the IEDs in Afghanistan are made with ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used in the Oklahoma City bombing, Barbero said, and it is illegal to make or import ammonium nitrate into Afghanistan.
The United States has made several proposals to Pakistan to reduce the threat from fertilizer-based bombs, including putting die in all ammonium nitrate to make it easier for border patrol agents in Afghanistan to spot, or reformulating it so it could still feed crops but wouldn't be explosive.
So far this year, IED attacks in Afghanistan are down 12% to 18%, the general said, but that's compared with last year, the worst year on record. And there is reason to think the number could rise again.
Barbero, who is head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, said that when the United States began pulling troops out of Iraq, IED attacks went up, and the same could happen over the next 24 months in Afghanistan.
"I'm concerned, like we saw in Iraq, as we draw down forces situational awareness drops. Frankly, your movements on the road become more predictable," he said.
Barbero concluded his testimony in the open portion of the hearing saying, "To sum up, I believe the IED will continue to be the weapon of choice against our forces and we must remain vigilant."