To counter the use of homemade landmines – the weapon that causes the most troop and civilian casualties on both sides of the border – Pakistan is to deploy specially trained Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) forces at 820 border posts along the Pak-Afghan border.
“Special instructions are being passed to all agencies to enhance vigilance on the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan has deployed 23 wings of the Frontier Corps (FC) for border control. The manpower deployed on approximately 820 posts established by the Pakistan Army/FC along the international border are being trained to monitor the movement of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN),” said an official document available with The Express Tribune.
CAN and Ammonium Nitrate (AN) are used to manufacture fertilisers but simultaneously function as key ingredients in making homemade mines called IEDs.
The FC has trained their personnel in basic Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) to undertake search and disposal operations, while specialised police units have been established to undertake EOD tasks which will be used not only on border points but during raids on IED manufacturing sites on its side of the border.
While last year’s Nato attack brought Pak-US relations to a new low, military cooperation and intelligence sharing between the two countries continues at certain levels.
The US had been pressing Pakistan to take measures to ensure control of the cross-border movement of IED material. Islamabad, on the other hand, says that a regional approach will be required to check the smuggling as a number of other countries neighbouring Afghanistan also produce CAN and AN.
‘Afghan cooperation needed’
During recent interactions with US security officials, the Pakistani army told the United States and NATO forces that such efforts would only yield positive results if both sides of the border were manned in coordination with each other, according to the policy document.
“Having identified certain deficiencies in the search aspect of Counter-IEDs, the Pakistan Army is in the process of reorganising and re-equipping certain engineer units to improve this capacity ... As part of the army’s efforts to prevent/minimise the possibility of cross-border smuggling of CAN, army/FC troops manning border posts are being educated to prevent cross border movement of CAN. The same kind of arrangement, suitably coordinated, should however be undertaken on the Afghan side of the border as well,” read the paper.
The document further said that the Pakistan Army has developed the capacity to undertake C-IED operations as 730 personnel have been trained in C-IED over the last five years.
IEDs hampering Nato
IEDs have caused over 13,918 (civilian and military) casualties, which is 47% of the total casualties suffered by Pakistan over the past four years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa alone.
The use of Taliban homemade landmines and roadside bombs against Nato forces has reached record levels according to a Pentagon task force.
IEDs are the number one cause of casualties for International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf), newly trained Afghan National Security Forces (NSF) troops and civilians.
The US has devoted huge resources to defeating the IED threat over the years but with little success. The US Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) alone has an annual budget of over $3 billion, and since 2006, $20 billion have been spent on C-IED efforts.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.