DOD, State discuss 'framework of cooperation' with Pakistan on roadside bombs

This so-called framework of cooperation to combat the import and use of roadside bombs in both countries has been a main topic of discussion between Washington and Islamabad, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, head of DOD's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), said. 


“We have had discussions, and we had several exchanges, we've had two groups of Pakistani military visit [our] headquarters and some of our training facilities. And I've been [to Pakistan] twice to meet with . . . partners to talk about this," the three-star general said during a speech at the Atlantic Council. 

Most recently, informal talks on this framework were hashed out when Pakistani military officials attended a State Department-led counterterrorism working group in Washington last month, according to Barbero. 

Some American equipment designed to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has already been handed over to Islamabad with the possibility of further exchanges with the U.S., he said. 

"I believe we can contribute with training, we can contribute with some equipment. I know there has been some equipment that has been transferred," according to Barbero. 

These homemade and relatively cheap explosive devices have been the weapon of choice for insurgent forces and terror groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

But aside from U.S. and coalition targets in Afghanistan, Pakistani military forces face the biggest threat from IEDs, according to Barbero. 

"This is an area where we both agree where we need to cooperate. We need to move from discussing cooperation to active cooperation," he added. 

That mutual response included cooperation from Islamabad to clamp down on critical bomb-making materials coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan. 

At the top of that material list is calcium ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound found in fertilizers supplied by Pakistan to Afghan farmers in the eastern part of the country. A volatile substance on its own, once mixed and processed with gasoline and other chemicals, bomb-makers can produce a distilled version of ammonium nitrate from the fertilizer mixture. 

This highly combustible, fertilizer-based compound has been the key ingredient in thousands of IEDs in eastern and southern Afghanistan, Barbero said. 

That said, Pakistan's Ministry of Interior has drafted a "national strategy" to regulate fertilizer shipments in the country, labeling each bag with a numeric code to track where the material moves in the country. 

But Barbero expressed doubt on whether Islamabad will put the resources behind that new strategy, noting the needed shift from strategy and rhetoric to tangible action on Pakistan's part was not guaranteed. 

The three-star general's comments come shortly after DOD announced more IED incidents took place in June than in any other month during the Afghan war. Many of incidents took place along in the eastern and southern parts of the country. 

Barbero noted that disheartening statistic did not indicate a failure of counter IED operations by American and NATO forces in country. 

Rather, the increase was another example of the overall increase in violence in Afghanistan as U.S. forces prepare to leave the country over the next two years. 

--this story was updated at 3:09pm