ISTANBUL, Turkey — The United States is considering a plan that would give NATO allies access to some of the equipment and expertise used by American troops to deter roadside bombs.
Much of the U.S. technology and know-how regarding improvised explosive devices — remotely detonated bombs that have plagued military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — has been highly classified.
But U.S. officials attending NATO meetings here this week said there is a bigger push now to share technology with allies, in part because NATO members are sending more of their troops to Afghanistan in coming months.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Defence Secretary Robert Gates wants to “push the system” to determine how much of the classified technology can be shared. Gates was expected to discuss the issue in more detail this week while attending NATO meetings here.
“He is very sensitive to the fact that our troops are not the only ones being targeted by an increase in IED attacks,” and “do all (he) can possibly do to share our expertise developed over the last eight hard-fought years with our friends and allies who have boots on the ground in Afghanistan,” Morrell said.
While the U.S. has not said what equipment could be shared, it has relied heavily on armoured Humvees and the mine-resistant, ambush-protective armoured vehicle, or MRAP, to protect its troops during patrols. Much of the bomb-resistant technology will follow U.S. troops from Iraq, where President Barack Obama has ordered a drawdown, to Afghanistan, where some 30,000 more troops are being deployed by fall.
Despite much money and attention directed at the problem of IEDs, the U.S. has been unable to make significant progress in protecting its troops. In 2009, U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan doubled compared to 2008.
U.S. officials say that the problem is even more acute among other NATO members, where a larger percentage of their forces are hurt by IEDs.