Counter- Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED).

Whether military, police forces or intelligence agency and whether you are on expeditionary operations or working in the homeland, a C-IED approach is now even more necessary since the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is an expected feature of future conflict and security operations and countering them, is a major feature of the stabilisation and counter-insurgency (COIN) operations that currently occupy police, intelligence and military forces worldwide.

Any C-IED approach is not an end in itself, but forms part of an inextricable relationship that exists between the C-IED approach, stabilisation of countries in conflict, failing states and counter insurgency/ counter terrorism operations (COIN/CT). The C-IED approach is a strand of activity that runs through the ‘rope’ of operations that are implemented to deliver security and stability within the wider aims of stabilisation and COIN/CT.

IEDs are now one of the weapons used by opponents who seek an asymmetric advantage to avoid fighting against security forces that possess greater conventional strengths such as kinetic effects forces (such as armoured forces), technologically advanced intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets and force protection technology. It’s not just the security forces and their ability to manoeuvre that the adversary will target with IED’s but also the local population to demonstrate a force’s and governments failings to deliver security. The use of IED’s as a standalone weapon or as part of complex attacks will leave the local population with widespread feelings of insecurity which has a debilitating effect on the population, potentially resulting in a loss of confidence and support for security force activity and government control. Casualties amongst both the population and the security forces also affect morale and consequently the cohesion and effectiveness of the force. At a strategic level, an expeditionary force’s national domestic support may also be eroded. Consequently, IEDs employed by an adversary as a tactical weapon can have strategic effect. A C-IED approach is just a strand of activity that will deny an adversary his intentions through the use of IEDs. Since the use of IED’s is usually part of an asymmetrical campaign much of the C-IED approach is a holistic approach that can also counter other asymmetric threats.

Future conflict and the C-IED approach will require co-operation between nations and within governments, it is a comprehensive approach that is joint, inter- agency and multinational. C-IED is not solely an activity within the land component, whether on the homeland or part of expeditionary operations, it also encompasses the threat to aircraft and the maritime component of any force.


To define the C-IED approach it is necessary to first define key terms. The following inter-related definitions are fundamental to understanding the C-IED approach.

The IED System. A system that comprises personnel, resources and activities and the linkages between them that are necessary to resource, plan, execute and exploit an IED attack.

The IED Event. An event that involves one or more of the following types of actions or activities in relation to IEDs: an explosion; an attack; an attempted attack; a find; a hoax; a false; or, a turn-in.

The C-IED principles. The collective efforts at all levels to defeat the IED System by attacking the networks, defeating the device and preparing the force.

Future Conflict

Most governments and their security forces are likely to be faced with the challenge of stabilization and Counter-insurgency (COIN) in failing and fragile states for the foreseeable future. The character of warfare will continue to change, and evolve, becoming more complex and asymmetric as adversaries are no longer well defined and seek to blend in. Adversaries could be a combination of conventional armed forces, irregulars, insurgents and criminal networks as well as non-state and proxy actors and other hostile international groups mixed in with the population. These adversaries are unlikely to seek to fight against security forces using conventional techniques alone and, will instead, aim to exploit our weaknesses using a variety of high-end and low-end asymmetric techniques. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can be simple to design and easy to make, and they can also be sophisticated with the incorporation of modern electronic components which are both inexpensive and yet widely available. IEDs enable the adversary to strike without being decisively engaged by forces with an asymmetrical technological advantage. The use of IEDs has become so widespread that they have become a global and enduring threat. Countering this threat is known as Countering-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED).

IEDs are tactical weapons that can have strategic effect. IEDs can be used to restrict freedom of manoeuvre and to attack any number of targets. The targets may include: the indigenous population; national government and security forces; other non-governmental organizations and agencies; symbolic structures and infrastructure; commercial institutions and economic nodes; and expeditionary forces. IEDs can also be used to attack networks, and the threat the IED creates can have profound psychological effects. Increasingly, IEDs are being incorporated into sophisticated complex attacks and there remains the risk that IEDs could be relatively easily combined with chemical, biological and radiological materials to create weapons of mass destruction. IEDs can demoralise the indigenous population by creating the impression of insecurity, thereby damaging the cohesion between the population and the legitimate government. The outcomes of IED Events can therefore reach beyond the battlefield and the indigenous population to affect domestic support for an operation and may even affect Alliance relationships at the political and strategic level.

The IED System

However, IEDs are one of a number of forms of asymmetric physical attack used by insurgents. This reinforces that C-IED activities are against adversaries and not only against IEDs. C-IED treats the IED as a systemic problem and aims to defeat the IED System.

All security forces need to both understand the adversary and his IED system in order to tackle the problem and additionally they need to embed a C-IED approach into the routine planning and execution of activities at all levels and across components. The constantly changing nature of the IED threat demands that security forces continue to evolve its C-IED doctrine, equipment procurement, training and TTP’s over time.

An adversary has to conduct a large number of activities supported by personnel and resources for an IED event to be executed. Collectively, these activities are linked by networks and are described in the concept known as the IED System.

It is important to recognise that an IED Attack is only a single activity within the overall IED System which is made up of networks of nodes and linkages. An IED System typically comprises of multiples of each of several elements but equally, it could consist of a few individuals filling multiple roles. However, any IED System will require multiple actions and resources in order to stage an IED Event. The IED System may be either hierarchical or non-hierarchical but it will contain nodes such as personnel, resources and other actions that are linked. The importance of these nodes and the linkages between them will vary and identifying the critical vulnerabilities within the IED System is an important C-IED activity.

The consequences of globalisation make purely localised conflict increasingly unlikely and the IED System may well incorporate international leadership and other support from outside of the Operational Area. Some IED Systems may be part of large, international terrorist organisations and some may be state sponsored. Some may work completely independently, whilst others may extend from theatre down to village level. This span of possibilities increases the complexity of security operations and requires a comprehensive approach to C-IED potentially involving close co-operation and co-ordination between the diplomatic, military, economic and the information shareholders of power.

The complexity of the IED System is increased since the internet and cell phone technology provide a low-cost and easily accessible medium for information sharing and the swift promulgation of tactical ideas and practises, thereby facilitating the efficient operation of these diverse systems. IED network members also have the ability to operate part-time and can blend back into the civilian population when their actions are completed. Such systems can be extremely resilient, invariably hard to target and are, therefore, survivable. Determining vulnerabilities within the IED System will be critical to effective C-IED and is a function of accurate analysis and evaluation. This will be a continuous and evolutionary process, reflecting the dynamic nature of the threat. It should be informed by an iterative assessment process, the purpose of which is to provide an appraisal for ongoing C-IED activity.

The attack cycle

The IED System can be further analysed by grouping adversary activities into 3 areas to help understand it. The areas are: resource and plan; execute; and exploit. The 3 groupings of adversary activities: resource and plan; execute; and exploit; will take place sequentially for any given single IED Event but are likely to be operating concurrently or simultaneously based on an adversary’s strategy and concept of operations:

Resourcing activities include obtaining technical and financial support, the recruiting of personnel, training and the provision of the materiel needed for IED production.

Research and development may also be conducted to create new types of IEDs and adversary Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). Many of these activities require both international and local support and the creation and maintenance of this support is an important function of the leadership alongside planning. Once the materiel has been obtained the IED must be constructed and stored and/or passed on to another part of the network.

Once the adversary plan has been made, surveillance may be conducted to permit target selection for the specific attack. Once the target has been chosen, a more detailed plan will be made and rehearsals may be conducted. The device will then be moved to the target area and emplaced. The adversary may choose to monitor the area to identify the optimum moment for detonation and create the greatest damage to the target. The emplacer will make their escape either before or after the detonation, depending on the device initiation type and other factors.

Adversary exploitation normally takes 2 forms:

Where possible, the adversary is likely to attempt to assess the results of the IED Event, by direct visual observation or other means. This allows him to achieve 2 objectives: It permits the technical success of the IED against the target to be measured and for lessons learned to be applied to the manufacture of subsequent devices. It allows the target’s responses to the IED to be observed and recorded. The adversary can then incorporate these responses into his training in order to be able to counter them more effectively in the future. It should be noted that the adversary might also use hoax devices or false alarms rather than actual IEDs to generate a response for this purpose.

IED Events are normally important elements of the adversary’s information strategy. It is likely that images and other details of successful IED Events will be recorded and released to target audiences. Insurgents may not be constrained by the need for truthful objectivity and may manipulate events to publicise their success.


Understanding the adversary’s aims and his TTPs combined with intelligence preparation of the environment may enable successful prediction of adversary activity and may subsequently confirm his areas of interest and security force vulnerabilities. In addition to the examples already given, targets can range from the specific such as host nation security force bases and recruiting events to the indiscriminate such as concentrations of people in public places. However, IEDs are not only found within the land environment and other targets might include maritime choke points and ships alongside, as well as aircraft in flight or on the ground.

Due to the robust nature of most IED Systems, attacks against only one node of the IED System will not impact decisively upon it, although short term gains may be achieved at a local level. However, IED Systems are vulnerable to systematic attack across the system. This will involve a combination of diplomatic, socio-economic, commercial and military actions. Based on this premise the IED System must be understood in its entirety to conduct activities across it. These activities should be based on a thorough analysis of the IED System’s critical vulnerabilities. Several recurring themes are worthy of consideration. Activities to defeat the IED System should:

Be intelligence-led and proactive. The aim will be to eventually overcome the enemy’s development and adaptive capability through effective interdiction and superior counter-measures.

Be applied simultaneously by civil and military instruments of power, along mutually supporting lines or activity, against the IED System’s critical vulnerabilities.

Encompass both offensive and defensive measures and should be underpinned by comprehensive influence activities.

Posted: 2 April 2013 by Optimal Risk Administrator | with 0 comments