Countering IEDs: Stop flow of explosive fertilizer, Pakistan told

Published: December 15, 2012
US official says the manufacturers of calcium ammonium nitrate in the country have been ‘less than cooperative’. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

US official says the manufacturers of calcium ammonium nitrate in the country have been ‘less than cooperative’. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


While the director of the US Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO) is encouraged by Islamabad’s assurances on stopping the flow of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he believes Pakistan can and must do more.

In a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs regarding IEDs and terrorist networks in Pakistan, JIEDDO Director Lieutenant General Micheal Barbero said that Pakistani producers of calcium ammonium nitrate – an agricultural fertiliser used to make explosives – have been “less than cooperative” in discussions with the US. He maintained that while they have made minor packaging and tracking changes, they still have to implement any effective product security. He said he believed these producers must also do more.

Micheal Barbero

“Despite a ban on calcium ammonium nitrate by Kabul, the fertiliser has been used in more than 70% of roadside bombs used against coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Lt Gen Barbero told the subcommittee. According to him, the amount of IED materials seized in Afghanistan has increased from 30 tons in 2009 to 444 tons currently in 2012.

The JIEDDO Director told the hearing that Pakistan’s national counter-IED strategy had not been fully implemented either and legislation pertaining to the matter had yet to be passed by the Parliament.

“In July, the Government of Pakistan committed to a military-to-military counter-IED cooperation framework. To date, despite our input, this document remains in its original draft form with no progress.”

Lt Gen maintained that a strong US-Pakistan partnership was required to tackle IED networks on both sides of the border and that both countries need to move beyond discussing cooperation to actual cooperation.


Meanwhile, subcommittee chairman Senator Bob Casey who convened the meeting, said he received a letter from US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Wednesday which highlighted the casualty toll in Pakistan from IED attacks. Around 2,395 people had been killed in such attacks in the past year, he maintained citing figures compiled by the US embassy in Pakistan.

“Each of these deaths is a tragedy,” said Senator Casey, adding that the US honours the sacrifices Pakistanis have made in the struggle against violent extremists. He too, however, underscored the need to do more on Pakistan’s part.

“While I’m pleased that Pakistan has developed a very detailed and comprehensive set of plans to counter IEDs, let me be clear … it’s time to fully implement these plans,” he said.

“The current pace of activity by the Pakistani government is not acceptable… IED incidents have risen in Afghanistan. The flow of chemicals coming from across the border has not diminished,” the Senator added. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (4)

  • S K Afridi
    Dec 15, 2012 - 2:37PM

    US with all its high tech resources has not been able to check the inflow of fertilizer into Afghanistan but expects Pakistan to do the same with its over stretched meager resources. Does not make any sense except that “Might is right”.


  • Dec 15, 2012 - 6:29PM

    As The united States drive the allegation that the militant has a experience to use the material in making bombs used in road side attack which has taken huge amount of lives of American and Afghan forces is smuggled from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

    The arguement,addressed by him has no force.first of all.they should check the border security laps from Afghan side,then rais reservation or objection if any.

    When they demand for action stopping the illegal incoming chemicals with which bombs are made and then used in road side targeting Afghan and Nato forces looks very strang.

    There are American armed forces,there are Nato combating forces,there are well armed Afghan troops but they are talking about in the tone as they are all helpless and facing total failure.

    Do more, please.


  • Dec 15, 2012 - 7:01PM

    U.S. officials said the numbers are slightly lower this year, but Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, speaking to a Senate subcommittee Thursday, said he is concerned the threat of IEDs will increase next year as international troops begin the process of leaving their bases and pulling out of the country.

    Having considered whole the scenario,
    they come to the conclusion that if flow of chemical being used in making bombs remained continue there are deadly threat to the lives of combating forces more than previous year.

    Time of leaving bases and pulling out in December is a head but their reservation are increasing with the moving of hand of the clock.

    No doubt,
    a gap is expected with the withdrawal so would have to set some extra arrangements

    Pakistan army is consisting on beloved sons not scapegoats.


  • Dec 15, 2012 - 10:06PM

    While the number of IED related deaths number in hundreds, there are 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones. The latest example is the massacre of 26 people including 20 children at an elementary school in the US state of Connecticut

    Given the Congressional inaction on gun control in the United States, the demands made on Pakistan are just hypocritical. Such demands and threat of punitive action against Pakistan will only worsen the US-Pakistan relations and damage the US efforts in the region.


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