For nearly a decade, U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered seemingly unending carnage from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). From the start of hostilities during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 until the final withdrawal of combat forces in August 2010, more than 4,450 Americans—nearly three-quarters of them in the U.S. Army—lost their lives, along with 316 coalition soldiers, of whom 179 were British. Of this horrific total, nearly 40 percent died in IED convoy and patrol ambushes, far more than from any other cause.
A humvee shows damage from a mine strike while on convoy in Iraq. The vehicle was in-tow when it struck the mine, and no injuries resulted from the incident. This HMMWV damaged by an IED ambush demonstrates the need for the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Rick Noble.)
In addition, more than 32,100 U.S. troops have been wounded, about one in five suffering serious brain or spinal injuries, and an overwhelming proportion in similar attacks. These appalling numbers do not include those suffering equally disabling psychological trauma.
In Afghanistan, IED attacks have increased by a factor of four since 2007, with a comparable rise in troop deaths. The number of soldiers wounded in IED ambushes has increased seven times. IEDs are the number one cause of death among NATO troops in the theater, and in the first quarter of 2011, 62 percent of all NATO combat deaths resulted from roadside IED ambushes against both convoys and infantry patrols.
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by Terrill Hoffman / Jan 1, 2012