L-156 The Counter-IED Efforts of the Dutch Forces – A Review of the IED Counter-measures Implemented by the Dutch Forces

June 2009
Paul van der Veer (Sub-Lieutenant of the Engineers, RNLMA)


In December 2001, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) launched the operation of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan in order to support the set-up of a new government structure. Since August 2006 Dutch forces are responsible for the ISAF-operation in a southern province called Uruzgan. From the beginning of this operation the troops have been heavily confronted with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that have caused nine deaths (fifty percent of all Dutch casualties in Uruzgan) and many injuries among the Dutch soldiers. To counter these devices the troops have implemented several counter-measures.

This report gives an evaluation of the main IED counter-measures applied by the Dutch forces. Its aim is to inform troops and defence officials involved with the C-IED threat and countering it, about the Dutch C-IED strategy and its effectiveness.

To compile this report a literature study was carried out. The information thus collected was further reinforced by ten interviews by the author with selected individuals from the Dutch defence community.

The organisation that is responsible for the implementation of the Dutch Counter-IED strategy is the Joint Task Force Counter-IED (JTF C-IED), which has been fully operational since the beginning of 2008. Under the auspices of this organisation the Dutch forces have implemented counter-measures to reduce the threat of an IED incident. Despite these counter-measures the number of IED-incidents has not decreased significantly.

First, the Dutch forces must prioritise the improvement of the "IED-awareness" and the level of training of their soldiers and the Afghan National Army. As training and education are influencing the majority of the factors, this should be considered as the most important aspect of fighting the IED-threat.

Second, the fight against IEDs is characterised by reacting and responding to changes in enemy tactics. In order to keep the threat as low as possible, the Dutch forces must continue analysing IED attacks and possible solutions, and keep repeating this "cycle" for as long as IEDs are used against them.

Third, it is crucial that the equipment and concepts are developed by testing them in Afghanistan and adapting them in accordance to the findings. These lessons learned should be shared with the JTF C-IED and the training facilities on a regular basis. Furthermore, this information should be stored in a database, accessible for instructors.

Finally, the Dutch forces should apply new technologies and stimulate their development in order to further decrease the IED-threat.

Regarding the Dutch Forces’ impact on the hard and soft factors that influence the IED-threat it can be concluded that troops are influencing mainly the hard factors. Soft factors

are influenced considerably less. The most important soft factor that must be influenced more is convincing the locals to support ISAF. This would contribute to the coalition forces’ efforts in supporting the establishment of a steady government. Furthermore, a lot of information can be extracted from local resources.

As a result of the counter-measures taken by the Dutch forces the find: strike rate of IEDs improved from 51: 49 in 2007 to 63: 37 in 2008. However, due to the fact that the emplaced IEDs increased by 62% (from 100 in 2007 to 162 in 2008), the total number of exploded IEDs increased from 49 to 60 (22%). In short, the Dutch forces are improving in discovering IEDs, however; the OMF is planting a lot more of them. That is why it is necessary to constantly improve the counter-IED operations in all aspects including, for example, observation technologies. It is necessary to reduce the large threat in Uruzgan because it is likely that these devices will be encountered in future conflicts.