August 19th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Face-to-face with IED, and its makers

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reporter Jason Carroll recently traveled to Afghanistan as part of his ongoing American Morning  series "A Soldier's Story" which has followed the journey of a soldier from before boot camp to his current time in Afghanistan.

By CNN's Jason Carroll in Zabul, Afghanistan

Just before leaving on a mission to a remote village in southern Afghanistan I casually asked one of the soldiers what he was expecting. He laughed and said, "I expect to get blown up..."

Roadside bombs, known as IEDs, improvised explosive devices, are a persistent problem for many soldiers, especially those who patrol certain remote areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

I discovered that finding the bombs and the people who plant them is a combination of training, hard work…and a bit of luck.

I was with the 36th Engineer Brigade. The unit is comprised of combat engineers, which are soldiers who are tasked with finding roadside bombs, working closely with dedicated members of the Afghan security forces.

They headed out on a mission from Forward Operating Base Lagman in Zabul to set up a checkpoint along Highway One, the main highway that circles the country. It is a vital transportation route, which insurgents frequently take advantage of.

It didn't take long for them to spot a suspicious vehicle carrying five men.   The men told the soldiers they were farmers and builders – but they all tested positive for military grade explosives.  One man was found with two million Pakistani rupees (about 23,000 U.S. dollars). Two others were found with questionable passports. In short, their stories seem questionable to the soldiers.

Then, just as we were about to make our way back to base,  we were told to stay put because a 300-pound roadside bomb was discovered on that same road.  I was then told it’s not uncommon for insurgents to watch a caravan of coalition forces driving out and then plant a bomb on the only accessible road back.

I have seen injured soldiers.

I was told many stories - and then reported on many of those stories about soldiers injured by these roadside bombs.

Yet, it wasn't until just that moment that the sense of protection that reporters sometimes feel while working on dangerous assignments, felt very thin.

All five of the alleged insurgents were taken into custody and turned over to the Afghan security forces. But some of the soldiers shared concern that justice may not fully be served. The Afghan legal system – especially in remote areas – is still a work in progress.  Some soldiers shared stories of seeing men back on the street, just days after having turned them over to the Afghan police.

Why? Perhaps a village elder, who holds a great deal of power in these remote areas, vouched for him.  Or, maybe evidence was lost. Maybe it was due to corruption within the department.  Whatever the reason, it happens.

I asked a trusted village elder what he thought was the best way to secure the country and end the war.

He said to secure the country the coalition needs to stop Pakistan from importing insurgents who attack then run back across the border or pay money to Afghan locals to carry out their attacks. Next, he said, someone has to stop the corruption within the Afghan government and its security forces.

Finally, he said the Afghan people themselves must do more protect and secure the country.

He warned as long as many remain poor and uneducated they will always be susceptible to outside influences.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Brent Stopp

    Just wanna tell that this is very helpful , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

    March 6, 2021 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  2. Del Bombard

    I really like what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

    January 12, 2021 at 1:59 am | Reply
  3. hugo

    R.I.P PFC Scott Andrews who was based in FOB LANGMAN like the soilde in this story

    August 23, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • ranger 830

      My respects R.I.P. Pfc. Scott Andrews I will add this name to my memorial day prayer list hugo! Sorry for your loss!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
  4. Ranger Rick

    Ranger 830 I'm in RC-S in Mulla Omar's hometown, so you know WSUP with the IED fight down here in the dirty.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:29 am | Reply
    • ranger 830

      @ ranger rick, Im home now at hunter in the beautiful state of GA. But ive been there done that and got the teeshirt LOL.You boys been painting any mosques lately?Sua Sponte Rangers lead the way!!!!!!!! Be safe trust no one head on a swivel.Sorry to say just attended a funeral for Aaron Vaughn in my home town of Stuart FL.Aaron was on that chinook that went down! I did not know him but I was home visiting mom and dad and thought it right to attend! You will be happy tp know the ammount of community support was awesome.Best of all no idiotic westborrow anti fag protesters or haters showed up to disrespect his parents and family!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:45 am | Reply
  5. ranger 830

    Just another day in tha hood!!!!!!! This shit happens day in and day out. We catch them they let them go. We catch or kill them again and again and again. F oxtrot T ango W hisky....... How copy ....... Over !!!!! Job Security I Guess!!!!!

    August 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  6. CPT Truelove

    LT Christian in this video is a fair soldier but he is a great dancer. I have had the pleasure of training and serving with this fine young man and I can tell you he is toned and firm. Our tour in the Morelli Heights area of the country was one I will never forget. You kids be safe........

    August 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Reply
    • Raukarere

      Thanks for sharing. This video is exlnlceet. I have also posted this.I simply don't get why Afghanistan is occupied. I guess I'm not the only one. Here we are with another dead Canadian soldier who died for nothing, and countless Afghani dying daily.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:21 am | Reply
  7. donnas

    I had no idea that such horrific war-mongering exists.....peace.

    August 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Reply

    @Mike. Here's another reality check. "We" have "agreements" with a "government" which has no control over large parts of its own territory, is at odds with many of "our" long term goals in that region, and which has no support for its collusion with the US and its NATO allies among the vast majority of its population most of which receive no services whatsoever from their so-called government. America has about 5% of the world's population and an economic system which will inevitably shed its current dominance to places such as India and China. Military dominance will be a casualty of that inevitable change. Since might makes right, I am certain that you and those who see the world as you do will be understanding when in the near future rising powers such as China conduct abductions and assassinations on those whom they declare to be outlaws whenever and wherever they see fit.

    August 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  9. donnas

    CNN rarely posts my comments regarding the purpose of our presence in the MIddle East. But, here goes: Why are we killing people in Pakistan? Who authorized the murder of these Pakistani citizens by people "pressing buttons" in a Nevada AFB? Who authorized this military action and why.? Also, what is the goal? --war games and fun and $$$ for the military/industrial complex? Then, who authorized this goal? Who says the U.S. can go wherever and kill whomever it wants as long as no one challenges its game plan? This is madness and a nightmare for any thinking, responsible person with a conscience!

    August 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      They most likely don't post your comments because you're a far left nut who doesn't have anything to say that actually falls into the realm of reality. But honestly, we expect that from the far left so, whatever. If you really want to understand how wars are fought, perhaps you should start studying your history a bit closer. War doesn't end because some jerk crosses an invisible line in the sand. We operate in Pakistan because we have agreements in place with their government since all your extremist friends think the same as you, that they can cross an invisible line in the sand and not be held responsible for the horrible things they do in the name of religion.

      August 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Reply
      • Matt

        Damn! good answer Mike

        August 25, 2011 at 7:25 am |
      • ranger 830

        @Mike Amen Brother!!!!! LoL

        August 25, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  10. Adan

    For insurgents to comprehend the significance and the power of IED's as the ultimate weapon of asymmetric warfare is the actual threat. So no surprise that U.S will minimize any news on actual casualty by these weapons, and also send little signal that it is changing their strategy. The comment by the U.S soldier makes sense under this background; "I expect to get blown up...", because that is the price U.S is making to communicate to the insurgents that this weapon is futile, march on and be in denial.

    However reality is that this weapon is a serious game changer, it shifts the economics of sustaining a long foreign occupations, as we have seen in both Iraq & now Afghanistan ...and likely the Taliban have enough brain power to realize this. I won't be surprised if the Taliban are refining their process of delivering these weapons ..such as having specialty teams; material acquisition teams, target location teams, digger teams, planters, makers...etc..etc.. with each assigned different risk levels to minimize their encounter with the enemy.

    U.S approach to this so far has been crude and predictable, pride and denial first, which is a predictable human response to a threat rather than a calculated pragmatic engagement to the problem. ( Two simple questions: What percentage of U.S casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan was delivered by IEDs? Is it significant in terms of ratio to other casualty sources?)

    August 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Reply

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