Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Assumptions about IEDs in Iraq

It's generally accepted in articles about improvised explosive devices (see "Blast From the Past") that they are easy to make, yet the technology to counter them is expensive. While the latter statement may be true, a recent research paper by a research intern at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy questions received wisdom about tools for terrorism being cheap (and therefore very difficult to fight).

In "Accounting for Terror: Debunking the Paradigm of Inexpensive Terrorism," Joshua Prober uses the example of the 1998 East African bombings, which he estimates might well have cost over $50,000, including travel costs for the bombers and Al Queda supervisors, rental costs for the bomb-making factory, communications equipment such as satellite phones, electronic surveillance equipment, the trucks and other materials used for the bombs, and more.

What then does this mean? The importance of technology for detecting bombs will still be important, of course, but the cost of producing and planting bombs indicates that targeting the finances of terrrorists remains key. Prober quotes a US treasury officer as noting, "The simple fact remains that the money trail generally does not lie."

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