Wednesday, November 25, 2009

IED threat shadows Marines' every move

A long, dusty road under a bright blue Afghan sky. To the left, a stagnant irrigation canal; to the right, drying cornfields. Marines from Charlie Company walk slowly, eyes fixed on the dirt, the drainage culverts, the weeds, the mud houses.

Suddenly, at the front of the column, a metal detector in the hands of a young lance corporal begins to buzz.

Staff Sgt. Sam McDaniel moves quickly into place, gently probing the ground for evidence of a buried bomb, by far the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- and responsible for three of the four American deaths reported Sunday and Monday.

It is part of a cat-and-mouse game repeated countless times here in the insurgent stronghold of Helmand province and across the country. Route clearance teams, alert for constantly shifting tactics, comb the roads by day. Searches also uncover small stashes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the main bomb-making ingredient. At night, Marines using night-vision goggles and sniper rifles, and given shoot-to-kill orders, watch for insurgents burying the bombs.

For the full report click here for the LA Times

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