Just about the single biggest threat our troops face in Afghanistan is Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs. Much like in Iraq, these roadside bombs and mines cause causalities and provide a spectacular information weapon for our enemies.
Strategy Page has an interesting article showing how the counter-IED effort in Iraq has been adapted to Afghanistan.
The U.S. Army is applying the same aggressive approach to IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device, a roadside, or suicide car bombs) in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq, and the Taliban are having a hard time adjusting to it. One of the more disturbing American tactics is to aggressively fight the bombers for control of key roads. This means that the army engineers are out on heavily mined roads every day in their specially equipped MRAPs, looking for IEDs to clear. It also means UAVs often patrol the road at night, using their night vision cams to spot Taliban teams burying a roadside bomb. This usually ends badly for the Taliban, as the UAV fires a Hellfire missile, or a nearby helicopter gunship comes over to kill the team. Sometimes there is a nearby rapid reaction team, that goes out and kills or, more importantly, captures members of the team. Dead or alive, the Taliban caught in these situations are valuable sources of information. And information is one thing that is being fought over. U.S. counter-IED tactics concentrate on discovering who is organizing the IED effort, and then going after the key members of that organization. This is done using a combination of powerful computer software, and traditional detective and military intelligence methods.
This is the kind of thing our intelligence and operations staff do well. It is quantifiable and methodical. Our investment in technology, science, and operations research can be leveraged to counter the threat.
We’re still doing research, but we hope to address one of the shortcomings of our intel soon, namely, the disappointing results in trying to provide working level information on political/cultural/demographic terrain in theater.