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Afghan IEDS: Warfare on the cheap

Jun. 24, 2013 - 11:05AM   |  
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For pennies on the millions of dollars, Afghan insurgents fight the mighty U.S. military.

Nobody in the world can match American firepower. They’d be crushed.

Instead, they fashion bombs from fertilizer and matches and fight the war on a budget, according to a detailed price list assembled by the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Defeat Organization.

A 110-pound bag of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer goes for $160 in Afghanistan. It drops to $48 for the same size bag of potassium chlorate, the fuel for matches. The average IED in Afghanistan contained about 52 pounds of homemade explosive.

IEDs, minus the markup for the bomb makers’ fee and cost of assembly, range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $20,000.

■ The most-common IED, the type triggered by a person’s weight or a vehicle, cost $416 to build. They’re also very hard to detect since they can contain little or no metal that can be picked up by mine detectors.

■ An IED triggered by wire is even cheaper: $386.

■ Radio-signal detonation increases the cost to as much as $478.

Costs climb when suicide bombers or cars or trucks are involved.

■ A suicide bomb attack with an IED like a vest costs between $1,200 and $11,710.

■ A car or truck bomb, depending on the size of the vehicle, runs from $6,076 to $12,708.

■ The same car or truck bomb delivered by a suicide attacker costs between $12,961 and $19,593.

Their relative cheapness helps explain why the Center for Naval Analyses predicts in a report that IEDs will continue to be a threat to deployed U.S. forces until at least 2020. Makeshift bombs like the one used to attack runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon will continue to threaten folks at home.

Other threats, such as micro drones, might be used in attacks, according to the report. But they’re not likely to replace IEDs.

“In short, the IED threat observed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the homeland in recent years will likely persist...” the report concludes.

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