The 1990-91 Persian Gulf War played directly into US military advantages, resulting in a quick and lopsided victory for the US and its allies, the 2003 Afghanistan and Iraq War has been a completely different type of war. Incorporating the lessons of the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi and foreign fighters adopted techniques that avoided American military strengths and directly targeted the centre of gravity and central vulnerability of the American war machine: American popular opinion. In order to turn the American public against the war, insurgents and foreign fighters needed a tactic and a weapon that would allow them to inexpensively and effectively inflict a steady stream of casualties on US forces. America's enemies in Iraq found such a tactic and weapon in the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) (John, 2005).
Utilizing a variety of widely available explosives and often low-tech, inexpensive triggering devices, Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists have inflicted devastating losses on the US utilizing the IED. As of September 2007, America's enemies in Iraq had conducted over 81,000 IED attacks, killing and wounding 21,200 Americans. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths up to that point in Iraq had been caused by IEDs. Despite spending nearly $10,000m. In the first four years of the war and a planned $4,500m. For fiscal year 2008, the US military had been unable to develop tactics or technology to significantly reduce the number of IED attacks against the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the early fall of 2003, insurgents and terrorists in Iraq were conducting 100 IED attacks per month. In contrast, by the first seven months of 2007, the number of IED attacks on average in Iraq had increased exponentially to one every 15 minutes (Dominic, 2004).
The use of IEDs against US forces has been tragic—especially for the US soldiers and family members who suffer from the life-ending or life-altering consequences of these IED attacks—the fact that the enemies of the US in Iraq have resorted to this tactic should not be surprising. (George, 2005) Before assuming command of all US military forces in Iraq, then LTG David Petraeus served as the principal author of the US Army manual on Counterinsurgency. This much-heralded and long overdue update to US military counter-insurgency strategy is replete with observations, lessons and strategies related to counter-insurgency—many of which General Petraeus attempted to implement in Iraq. As the manual states:
“The US possesses overwhelming conventional military superiority. This capability has pushed its enemies to fight US forces unconventionally, mixing modern technology with ancient techniques of insurgency and terrorism. Most enemies either do not try to defeat the United States with conventional operations or do not limit themselves to purely military means. They know that they cannot compete with US forces on those terms. Instead, they try to exhaust US national will, aiming to win by undermining and outlasting public ...