Over a 25 month period from August 2010 through to August 2012, the US Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO) found that global Improvised Explosive Device (IED) casualties reached their peak in May 2012 with approximately 1800 people wounded and nearly 600 killed in that month alone.
In India, IED attacks have doubled since 2006 as it continues to fight alone, painfully slow, but a successful battle against terrorism. David Galula noted that “Low-intensity conflict has been more common throughout the history of warfare than has a conflict between nations represented by armies on a ‘conventional’ field of battle.”
A closer analysis would indicate that it is more accurate to speak of the spread or expansion of the sphere of the IED, rather than any dramatic ‘shift’. Indeed, as terrorists and their state sponsors secure even limited successes in one region, their methods are adopted in others, threatening an ever-widening spectrum of nations and cultures. It is, now, increasingly clear that no nation in the world is entirely free of the threat from attack from the IED.
IEDs and the changes
The Improvised Explosive Device is increasingly the weapon of choice for terrorists and criminals in India and is, therefore, becoming the domestic security challenge of the foreseeable future. This threat from homegrown extremism and outside forces has developed over time and now has reached a level of sophistication within India equals what has been witnessed globally. The use of increasingly sophisticated technologies and adaptive tactics, techniques and procedures provides these individuals and networks with an extremely cost-effective means to deliver with devastating effect. The IED will, therefore, remain a key element of the internal security environment.
Can a differing set of situations be examined to make useful recommendations for how India might seek some answers to support this Indian security challenge? The remainder of this article will explore this idea and make some suggestions. They are thoughts and ideas formulated by four years of working within the Counter IED(C-IED) ‘industry’ from which I have recently left. For the first time, I can express my thoughts without prejudice or commercial pressures and which are designed to generate discussion.
At the very outset, a health warning- Caution should be taken in directly exporting the innovations and lessons from the West’s war in Afghanistan into the Indian Homeland Security environment.
Firstly, the underlying security issues in India are not as similar to those in Afghanistan as the West’s Defence and Security Industry would like us to believe. In some ways, India’s challenges are more complex and difficult to define. One might argue that Afghanistan is more opaque than India. The Taliban are attacking the Western Infidel, however, in India, the causal factors of tension are far more nuanced and intermixed.
Secondly, the comparative sum of money that the West has spent against IEDs is huge. NATO has provided a substantial economic resource from the West’s combined ‘War Chest’ and made it available to buy the best new thinking and equipment. Most agree that this strategy has not worked. The Indian security organization is more diverse and until now lacked the funding to have any true impact on innovation.
Thirdly, the Indian challenge and that of Afghanistan differs by a cultural organization. Put bluntly, the type of person who you would employ for internal security is not the same as those ones would use for external security. While soldiers fight wars, the peace is kept by the police and the population. Soldiers and policemen think very differently about issues, and these cultural differences are often negated when integrating innovation from the battlefield into the streets.
The underlying security issues in India are not as similar to those in Afghanistan as the West’s Defence and Security Industry would like us to believe.
However, what is clear is that the IED’s; equipment, chemistry, tactics, procedures and initiation systems are coalescing globally. Disaffected actors seem to now use similar IED techniques. The best practice is rapidly communicated using the internet and modern communications. What has worked well on the battlefield has migrated on to the city streets. The recent attacks in Boston or Bangalore would have been finessed in Chechnya or Afghanistan. The IED threat is transforming but could this be an opportunity? Can India’s Homeland Security network learn some important lessons from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and leverage some of NATO’s experiences?
Can a sharing of ideas lead to an advantage over the insurgent and criminal? I believe this to be so and here are some of my thoughts.
The hardest won lesson by NATO has been that a dependency on equipment will not provide that ‘Silver Bullet” so often discussed. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Western defences initially dealt with the developing IED problem using a method that had worked well in previous (Cold War) conflicts; technological superiority. As an example, approximately 50% of the UK’s operational equipment budget (nearly £2 Billion) has been attributed to C-IED vehicles and equipment.
This initial rush to bring to bear new equipment is understandable. In terms of practicality, equipment induction is relatively easy to implement. Politically it demonstrates that decision-makers are taking it seriously by apportioning budget resources. Finally, as a placebo, it gave the user community a new weapon or tool to defeat the threat.
However, it has been suggested that initially, the Coalition was slow to follow up these new innovations with supporting training, tactics and education. Only once this was corrected did the casualty rates begun to decrease, as devices were increasingly detected and the perpetrators’ networks were diminished through increased intelligence and precision strikes.
Secondly, as soon as a successful CIED technology is fielded and is successful, the insurgent will change modus operandi and the years of investment and innovation will be made obsolete within weeks. So equipment is not the sole answer, we need to look at the entire C-IED capability Perhaps a far more effective means of increasing C-IED effectiveness is an investment in Tactics and Procedures. In essence, tactics and procedures are the ‘trellis’ on which junior commanders can innovate and deal with the wide-ranging issues associated with IEDs.
The West is actively seeking engagement and discussion with the international community and industry. The seeking and acceptance of assistance is not a weakness. Today, IEDs are a shared problem and it is in the interest of everyone to communicate.
At least 10% of any successful activity is due to luck. There are elements within the complex C-IED system that no one can predict or counter. The chance observation or anonymous tip-offs are an important factor that is uncontrollable. As previously mentioned, equipment or technology has been a prime focus and yet it is estimated that it accounts for approximately 30% of the overall effect.
And yet Tactics and Procedures (i.e. effective and proven doctrine, effective individual and collective training and good leadership) accounts for 60% of the impact. A simple review of the way in which the security infrastructure conducts its C-IED business may be a cost-effective means of significantly enhancing Indian counter-measures. Modifying a tactic or enhanced training may have an even greater effect. The lesson here is to focus on things that will make a demonstrable return on investment before the distraction of snake oil technologies. Prepare your organisation to meet a range of possible scenarios and ensure that they learn by making mistakes.
Society and security
Taking this even further, society is a key element of any security infrastructure. Not just society in general, the ordinary, individual citizen too must be acting in concert with the authorities.
The passenger who kicks up a fuss when he is frisked at an airport, the house-owner who insists that being advised to inform the neighbourhood police station about the new tenant is an intrusion into his private affairs – such individuals unwittingly help terrorism: on the one hand, the terrorist has an easier time establishing the safe-house from which he will carry out his next explosion; on the other, the average policeman is discouraged from doing his assigned duty. As we have recently witnessed in the US after the Boston attack, society can become an integral supporting ingredient in the post-attack
And finally, generate create your own self-forming networks of communities of interest. The terrorist is maximizing a network of focused individuals into collection action, why can we not do the same? The West is actively seeking engagement and discussion with the international community and industry. The seeking and acceptance of assistance is not a weakness. Today, IEDs are a shared problem and it is in the interest of everyone to communicate. Within the last 3 years, there has been a concerted effort by the West for increased international security cooperation and sharing of ideas. The increased frequency and popularity of international networking events such as Security Watch UK demonstrate this growing emphasis on international security cooperation.
One aspect is clear. India will shortly emerge as a significant international partner in the advancement of C-IED capabilities. India is increasing its spending on Homeland defence and CIED capabilities. India’s Homeland security market is expected to be worth around the US $16 Billion by 2018. Around 6% of global procurement in the field of homeland security is expected to come from India by 2020. It will, therefore, continue to develop its own C-IED strategy, bespoke innovation and responses and to engage with other international and industry partners to ensure that it is fully prepared for this expanding threat. I predict that India will be a key partner in the international campaign against IEDs in the future.
Alan Roan is a speaker at the forthcoming Securing Asia 2013 event. He is a former British Army Officer having served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since leaving the Armed Forces he has worked as a consultant to UK defence and counter terrorism capability development and experimentation. Most recently he has developed C-Improvised Explosive Device award winning technologies and training processes for a major defence contractor which have subsequently been procured by the United Kingdom, Australia and Afghanistan. He now runs a consultancy and manufacturing company; Cervus Defence and Security Limited (firstname.lastname@example.org), which specializes in innovative counter terrorism consultancy and capability development.