Vice Chairman Visits Troops in Afghanistan, Focuses on IED Issues
By Lt. Brenda Steele, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2006 Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Afghanistan earlier this month to meet with U.S. and coalition servicemembers and to assess the many challenges U.S. troops are facing with more sophisticated and increased improvised explosive device attacks.
Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, poses for a photo with a group of Afghan National Army soldiers in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sept. 16. Photo by Sgt. Carina M. Garcia, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The increase in frequency of IED attacks throughout the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan has the attention of senior leaders as the number of suicide bombers has risen recently during an overall uptick in violence in Afghanistan.
With the establishment of the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization, the admiral said he is seeing improvements when it comes to locating IEDs before they have a chance to detonate. Ordnance teams are then sent in to defuse and dismantle the devices.
The challenge now is to reduce the level of causalities, he said. “Now we must work harder every day towards reducing our numbers of causalities from these horrible attacks,” Giambastiani stressed.
The organization includes several IED experts who focus their efforts on IED trends, techniques, tactics and procedures. That information is shared throughout the area of operation to train and mentor servicemembers in the field who are in convoys and on foot patrols, during which they’re most likely to encounter IEDs.
In addition, Giambastiani explained, the Navy and Air Force have sent electronic warfare officers into Iraq and Afghanistan to work on counter-IED measures to stop the devices from detonating.
For added protection to U.S. forces, millions of dollars have been set aside to purchase route-clearing equipment such as heavy-duty tactical vehicles in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
The admiral pointed out that up-armored vehicles such as the Husky, the Buffalo and the Cougar help add an additional measure of safety for convoy groups.
Starting with a visit in December 2001 shortly after the Taliban were removed from power, Giambastiani has made numerous visits to view progress and development throughout the country. In his role as vice chairman, he also speaks to servicemen and women everywhere he goes.
“I have been wearing a military uniform for close to 40 years now, and I’ve never been more proud to be a part of today’s military,” Giambastiani said. “When I meet so many young people with such tremendous morale while deployed to Afghanistan, it really energizes me.”
The biggest challenge in Afghanistan at the moment, the admiral said, is how effectively to put the country’s population to work so they don’t become part of the criminal element or the drug trafficking community. He also stressed that the U.S. is definitely moving forward in several areas that support the government of Afghanistan, increase security, and rebuild and redevelop devastated areas.
“This country has been severely ravished by war over the past 30 years, and bringing stability along with a sense of calm to the Afghan people is essential in building a successful community throughout Afghanistan,” he said.
Before departing the country, Giambastiani spent time enjoying a meal with soldiers who are part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Jalalabad, a forward operating base near the Pakistan border. He told the soldiers he was impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm.
“I wish that all Americans could experience and feel the enthusiasm of our troops here every day,” the admiral said.
Recognizing that these men and women are in harm’s way, the admiral said he was proud of the fact that, despite the high risks, each individual still held firm to their commitment to serve.
“They all understand that they volunteered when they joined the military, and they’re prepared to work with coalition members from around the world to make Afghanistan a more secure and well-governed country,” Giambastiani said.
(Navy Lt. Brenda Steele is assigned to Combined Forces Command Afghanistan Public Affairs.)