American and coalition forces in Afghanistan will be more vulnerable to deadly improvised explosive devices as the military draws down troops next year, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero described his concerns about what is the top cause of military and civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan in congressional testimony that also underscored U.S. frustration with Islamabad's efforts to thwart the production of the devices known as IEDs, most of which are fertilizer-based explosives.
IEDs are responsible for more than 60 percent of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Afghanistan as the war has entered its second decade. Although the number of incidents is down this year, IEDs caused 1,874 American casualties.
Barbero told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that the drawdown of some 66,000 U.S. troops next year will make American forces more susceptible to IEDs. He said fewer troops will mean travel on Afghan roads becomes more predictable, raising the possibility of more attacks. In addition, fewer troops will mean less awareness of what's happening in the vicinity.
"IEDs will continue to be the weapon of choice against our forces," Barbero told the panel.
Barbero, the director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, and Jonathan Carpenter, a senior economic adviser at the State Department, insisted that Pakistan, which has had more than 926 IED attacks and more than 3,700 casualties, needs to do more to stop the devices.