Jihadist Terrorists Have Device for Blocking American IED Jammers and Sniffers

One of the riddles still unsolved after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington is the delay before US Air Force and intelligence electronic installations picked up signals of the hijacked airliners after their take-off from Boston’s Logan airport. The first word of the catastrophe came from cell phone calls from terrified passengers – and only then as the doomed planes lost height before impacting the World Trade Center.

None of the many inquiry commissions ever discovered how the hijackers overflying American air space evaded US airplane trackers, or how they penetrated White House radio frequencies, so setting the alarm for the Secret Service to order US president George W. Bush to stay airborne and send vice president Dick Cheney to the White House nuclear bomb shelter.

For six years, Al Qaeda never flexed its electronic muscles anywhere. American electronic experts were free to brush the unsolved riddles under the carpet as chance phenomena, which would not recur. The breaches in American electronic defenses were meanwhile repaired and the chances of al Qaeda breaking through again were judged nil.

But three weeks ago, in Iraq, al Qaeda once again displayed an almost forgotten capability, striking again at the most sensitive points of US and Western security, its electronic protection and attack capabilities.

In the last DEBKA-Net-Weekly of March 9, we reported: In the last two weeks, al Qaeda appears to have created an electronic circuit for disrupting the electronic devices fitted on American vehicles to jam enemy improvised explosive devices – IEDs.

US vehicles are equipped with two blocking systems, the most sophisticated counter-measures for roadside bombs in the American arsenal, in whose development the Pentagon sank $1.4 billion in 2006. One locates an IED from afar and sends a beam to detonate it; the second sniffs out the scent of the bombs in time to avoid them and blow them up.


An angry young Iraqi can collect $300 for laying an IED


Those jammers, by disabling the primary cause of US military deaths in Iraq have been a lifesaver. But when they saw the waning effectiveness of these counter-measures, American military and intelligence in Iraq began to speculate that al Qaeda had come up with a system capable of neutralizing or distorting them. Now it cannot be doubted; there is no accounting otherwise for the high rate of effective IED hits on American vehicles, including armored vehicles, and the resultant G.I. casualties.

Two weeks ago, on March 6, retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, head of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, talked about the IEDs as the main troop killers in Iraq, much like artillery and mortars in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Car bombs and IEDs are responsible for about 65% of the coalition casualties in Iraq, he said – at least 1,168 US troop deaths, according to Pentagon data, and probably more. The highest monthly death toll was 71 in December, 2006.

The general reported progress in the number of IEDs found and disarmed and the number which go off harmlessly. However, the level of Americans killed and wounded by these weapons has remained the same, although, he said “The enemy is putting out four to five times the number of bombs to cause one casualty, than they did three and a half years ago.”

He added: “It’s very easy for a young, unemployed, angry male to collect $300 for setting out an IED and (video) taping it.

Meigs would not get specific about offensive actions his organization is funding.” It’s the most sensitive part of what we do.”

debkafiles military sources note two problems in the general’s remarks.

1. By pointing to the increasing number of angry young Iraqis ready to plant bombs for a few hundred dollars, he implied the war against US troops in Iraq was expanding, not diminishing.

2. If the number of American casualties remains the same while the bombs multiply, this means the US army is not locating and detonating them in time. American counter-measures ought to work against these IED traps, whatever their number.

Clearly, between January and March, some factor stalled the progress in combating the deadly IEDS, i.e. the jammers which block the signals detonating them. It looks very much as though the American jammers are themselves being blocked.


Where do al Qaeda’s EW devices come from?


This development has implications that go beyond the current Iraq conflict and affect the global war on terror.

First: The Pentagon put to work America’s finest scientific and technological resources and brains for measures to disarm the IEDs, a network of laboratories and an army of specialists, engineers and technicians. But where does al Qaeda find comparable resources to develop an electronic warfare device capable of overriding US electronic jammers?

Their appliance is not a strategic theater weapon like the systems used by air forces or navies, but a field weapon capable of knocking out vehicles including tanks. But this device, by neutralizing a key American electronic defense-cum-attack capability, is determining the course of the war in Iraq.

Second: If al Qaeda purchased the device readymade, then which world power was anxious enough to defeat and remove the American army from Iraq to supply it? That question poses a major difficulty. The only other countries with the requisite level of EW technology are Russia and Israel, neither of which could have conceivably transferred it to the jihadists.

Third: Another possibility is that a private military or technological entity, unknown to the Americans, developed the blockers especially for al Qaeda and sold them for a king’s ransom running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Such an enterprise, headed by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, once ran a black market which illegally flogged nuclear wares to North Korea, Libya, Iran and China.

A fourth possibility – and the most disturbing – is that Osama bin Laden, whose followers celebrated his 50th birthday last Saturday, kept hidden in reserve the electronic technology he used on Sept. 11, 2001, and has disinterred it six years later as a doomsday weapon against the Americans to buy an al Qaeda victory in Iraq.

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