When considering assets for application in the IED fight, attention tends to focus on the development and employment of sophisticated technologies. For any C-IED strategy, these are critical resources at the tactical level. However, though it is more difficult to consistently and effectively leverage the establishment and employment of local partners, they can have an even greater impact.
Whether focused on detection or supporting intelligence gathering, a significant portion of contemporary clearance technology has focused on providing operators with information to plan for, respond to, and assess aspects of a mission. The more information a unit has before, during, and after a clearance mission, the safer and more effective it is. But rather than overburdening personnel with expensive C-IED technology, they can gain a significant amount of information to shape how to apply technology effectively while on mission. By engaging with locals inhabiting the areas where C-IED efforts are occurring. There are numerous advantages to partnerships with these individuals.
Appreciate Regional Difference
Regardless of geographic region, IEDs can take a range of forms. However, contextual factors such as terrain, available materials, as well as experience and historically successful tactics of IED builders and emplacers all contribute to the diverse range of threats seen by clearance teams. And despite the significant advances in sophisticated C-IED technology for reducing these threats, the task is far too broad for clearance units to rely solely on technical solutions.
Because the IED threat can vary by region so dramatically, the most effective way to address regional uniqueness is by immersing planners in context. All pieces of the environment shape the threat. Beyond just terrain and vegetation, clearance efforts must consider environmental factors like regional history, economics, and social structure to ensure efficient application of resources. While it may seem obvious to suggest that C-IED strategies for Iraqi urban centers require a different approach than those in the Afghan mountains, it’s more important to recognize that clearance strategies may differ in neighboring villages of Afghanistan based on these deeper environmental considerations. To truly grasp these regional nuances, local insight must be incorporated early and often. Technology-based strategies can only take units so far.
Leverage Local Perspective
Whether they realize it or not, local populations have firsthand knowledge of the factors that impact emplacer behavior. It is up to clearance teams to collect, recognize, and respond to these human indicators. These populations understand the intricacies of their regions' environmental factors and are also keen observers of change. While this local perspective may not be as overt as a direct warning of enemy trends and emplacement strategies, a thoughtful clearance unit should be able to pull this detail from the local population indirectly.
When units take the time to build these relationships (and recognize these relationships are not the same thing as friendships), they gain access to a wealth of knowledge that will inform tactical clearance strategies and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their efforts.
Collaborate for Enduring Effect
Units that collaborate with local populations (both civilians and regional authorities), by leveraging and enabling their local resources and methods, not only gain important allies but also enhance the ability for enduring, independent prevention and clearance capability within those populations. Collaboration with local leaders and authorities can legitimize efforts and encourage cooperation from other locals, but it also broadens the reach of clearance effect and initiates an effective transition of responsibility.
Units that operate in a defensive bubble are missing a valuable opportunity to gain critical insight into the area within which they’re maneuvering. In addition to adding capability to planning efforts and resources to the tactical clearance itself, this interaction extends to ensure an enduring regional effect that must be established before C-IED efforts can be considered a success.