Contractors put the finishing touches on new armored vehicles last year before they were shipped to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect troops from roadside bombs. (NCT file photo)
Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz
The U.S. is preparing to shift the focus of the war on terror, and the bulk of its forces, from relatively stable Iraq to increasingly unstable Afghanistan, which has seen a surge in violence.
“As we push more forces there, there’s more opportunity for the enemy,” the three-star general said. “2009 is going to be a tough year in Afghanistan.”
Metz’s agency, which employs about 150 people and contracts with another 2,000, is close to being able to predict where the next roadside bomb attacks are likely to occur, he said.
Eliminating the bombs through early detection and detonation remains a challenge, even though substantial progress has been made in developing vehicle radar systems that can detect bombs beneath or beside the roadway.
Researchers also are close to deploying a system that can “see” the command wire used to trigger the bombs, Metz said.
But for troops in a Humvee cruising along at 40 mph, detecting a bomb and having enough time to stop before it explodes remains another part of the challenge confronting the military, Metz said.
“It’s a very hard physics problem,” he said. “I don’t have much confidence we will get a ray gun to defeat the IED —- there is no magic bullet out there.”
“This will remain a tough problem for years to come,” Metz said.
During a morning panel discussion, retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey called for a large increase in civilian workers to deploy to Afghanistan to take some of the load off the military.
An official in the Bush and Clinton administrations, McCaffrey said President Barack Obama is right to tamp down the expectations about Afghanistan.
“We can’t impose democracy on Islamic nations at the end of an Army bayonet,” McCaffrey said.
Another speaker, retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs said the upcoming increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is to be expected.
“It always takes more resources to hold onto an objective than to take it,” said Jacobs, a network news analyst and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars and three Bronze stars for heroic actions during the Vietnam War who went on to teach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
About 12,500 people registered to attend the 18th annual trade show, which features defense contractors showing off their latest wares in what is billed as the largest state-of-the-art technology defense exhibition.
The exhibition continues today and Friday with the public welcome to attend for free.
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or email@example.com.
February 11, 2009
President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan in the course of the next few days, this according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. See more DoD videos at http://dodvclips.mil