Building the C-IED enterprise to counter the IED system

 


By Paul Amoroso, an explosive hazards specialist at Assessed Mitigation Options (AMO) consultancy

INTRODUCTION

Previous articles by this author, in recent editions of The Counter-IED Report, on national and regional approaches to C-IED have spoken of national and regional C-IED enterprises. This article will examine what is meant by a national C-IED enterprise and how broader, less security centric only approaches, are preferential. It will then discuss how one may go about building such an enterprise with a particular examination of who may and should be part of such alternative whole of society C-IED enterprises. This article is based on the experience of the author from working on strategic C-IED initiatives over the past few years along with research conducted on the identification of strategic C-IED principles for East Africa. For any national C-IED enterprise to be effective it must first understand the problem it is trying to counter. In this case, a national C-IED enterprise is attempting to counter an IED system. We will start by first examining what do we mean by the term IED system.

DEFINING AN IED SYSTEM

If the starting point for contemporary C-IED is taken to emerge from Western efforts to counter their use in Iraq and Afghanistan,1 initial efforts were mostly military centric owing to the operational environment they were conducted in and those who were available and hence tasked to undertake various C-IED activities. These initial C-IED efforts were typically defeat the device activities and then expanded to include attack the network and prepare the force or variations of these lines of effort. These three lines of effort may be considered the traditional military paradigm of C-IED. Initial military led attack the network activities were often kinetic in character using C-IED exploitation to support targeting approaches employed against IED network personnel such as find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze and disseminate. It was common practice for these attack the network activities to focus on targeting IED network members involved in IED manufacture, their transport, or components thereof, their emplacement, or their use, including suicide bombers.

However, with time, as an appreciation of the wider network of personnel needed to support IED attacks emerged, it became apparent, that attack the network activities needed to consider all personnel involved in facilitating IED use. As such, IED network members who can be targeted, include all persons involved in any aspect of the illegal supply of components, manufacture, transport, storage, and placement or employment of IEDs. It can also extend to those involved in financing network activities, radicalizing, and indoctrinating its members, providing life support or sanctuary to network members, and publicising its activities or other related propaganda support. While attack the network activities, typically focused on targeting members of the IED network, efforts were also needed to target the processes and material supply that any IED system needs to operate. In terms of targeting the processes of an IED system, this can involve counter radicalisation or counter finance initiatives as well as population engagement in attempts to remove the sanctuary that IED networks may get from the population. It may also look towards the cyber domain to limit or restrict access to technical or tactical IED knowledge as well as violent extremist material. For the targeting of material supply, this can involve the security and control of explosives, border controls, control of IED precursors as well as regional and international cooperation efforts. This holistic approach of considering the network of personnel, as well as the processes and material supply needed to support IED use, leads us to the term, IED system. As such, an IED system is the combination of people, processes and material that go into planning, supporting, financing, procuring, manufacturing, transporting, targeting, preparing, emplacing, executing, and publicising any element of an IED incident, including the indoctrination, training and life support of the persons involved.

WHOLE OF SOCIETY APPROACH TO NATIONAL C-IED ENTERPRISES

As C-IED efforts progressed in various IED affected states and regions, a recurrent lesson has been identified, which is common in most security and counter terrorism initiatives, that prevention is better than cure. Preventative C-IED efforts are self-evident in that that they reduce the number of IED incidents and hence the need for responsive IED activities. However, practical implementation of C-IED preventative efforts is challenging for several reasons. Primarily preventative C-IED efforts can take considerable time to see impact and benefit in terms of reducing the number of IED incidents and increasing the safety and security of the State, its citizens, and interests against the IED system. An alternative way of seeing this challenge is that compared to responsive C-IED efforts, preventative C-IED efforts take time to see a return on investment. However, over the longer term, preventative C-IED efforts are deemed to be more effective than purely responsive ones. As attack the network efforts moved from a narrow focus to one that was more holistic in considering all personnel in an IED network along with the processes and materiel supply needed to support IED use, an increasingly widening C-IED aperture emerged which targeted all elements of the IED system. This has led to an overlap with many other defence, security, stabilization, and development initiatives such as humanitarian mine action, weapons and ammunition management, border control, countering violent extremism, population engagement, counter/ deradicalization programs, regional cooperation, counter-terrorist financing / anti-money laundering and broader counter terrorism activities. This expanded and broader approach to C-IED may be considered as a comprehensive approach. As this aperture of C-IED expands, so too does the number of stakeholders who need to be engaged. The author’s preferred term for all those who need to be involved in national C-IED efforts is a national C-IED stakeholder community.

A common theme when building a national C-IED enterprise is that the right stakeholders are not engaged from the start. So we may now ask, who needs to be part of a national C-IED stakeholder community? It is important to employ inclusive processes to include a wide stakeholder base, by looking at those who are impacted by IEDs, or who can play a role in countering their use. An initial process of stakeholder mapping can prove to be an effective means to identify potential members followed by their engagement. One means to undertake C-IED stakeholder mapping is to consider what C-IED efforts need to be invested in and what ‘good may look like’ to achieve a comprehensive national C-IED enterprise. The author proposes the following 15 elements2 that form the basis for a national C-IED enterprise.3 These 15 C-IED elements are grouped under those which are preventative, responsive, and cross-cutting in nature.

Preventative C-IED elements:

  • National policy, regulations, and legislation
  • Control and security of explosives
  • IED precursor controls
  • Border controls
  • Intelligence led operations

Responsive C-IED elements:

  • Defeat the device
  • Exploitation
  • Investigation
  • Judicial processes
  • Victim assistance

Cross-cutting C-IED elements:

  • Understanding
  • Preparation
  • Interagency and international cooperation
  • Information management
  • Adapting the C-IED enterprise

Taking these 15 elements of a comprehensive approach to a national C-IED enterprise and undertaking generic stakeholder mapping it is possible to identify potential members within a national C-IED stakeholder community as provided in Table 1.

Review of Table 1, identifies the following:

  • Internal stakeholders within the state;
  • External stakeholders supporting the state;
  • Security and defence elements;
  • Members from across government departments, ministries, offices, and agencies;
  • Civil society organisations;
  • Commercial and industry entities, including representative associations;
  • Regional organisations and international community organisations.

This wide array of potential C-IED stakeholders points toward a whole of society approach to C-IED. This may be considered to be a comprehensive approach to national C-IED and may include multiple elements of state security, defence, government departments, ministries, offices, and agencies along with civil society organisations, commercial and industry entities as well as international and regional organizations. Whole of society national C-IED approaches often have stakeholders with complex institutional structures and procedures requiring internal coherence, a cooperative culture and collaborative efforts between members within the enterprise to support effective C-IED efforts through a shared understanding of the IED threat faced.

Table 1. Potential members within a national C-IED stakeholder community

Now that a whole of society approach to national C-IED has been outlined and potential members of a C-IED stakeholder community have been identified, we will next consider what is meant by the term national C-IED enterprise. To define a national C-IED enterprise, it is informative to consider the C-IED efforts these stakeholders may be involved in. C-IED efforts is the collective term to refer to all initiatives, activities, assistance, capabilities, and capacities that C-IED stakeholders may be involved in delivering or supporting. It can include inter alia, training, mentoring, advising, accompanying, assisting, technology and equipment provision and intelligence support. As such, a national C-IED enterprise is the collective term to describe all C-IED efforts which stakeholders invest in, intended to at least match but ideally overmatch the threat posed by the use or threatened use of IEDs. A national C-IED enterprise can involve anything which is intended to predict discover or detect, prevent, protect against, respond to, or neutralize, recover from or exploit, mitigate against, or deter IED attacks.

BUILDING A NATIONAL C-IED ENTERPRISE

When building a national C-IED enterprise it is first necessary to understand the IED threat faced or the assessed threat that may emerge. Secondly, it is necessary to know existing state capabilities that will be needed to support the planned national C-IED enterprise. This second requirement in C-IED understanding is informed by a baseline assessment, which compares current C-IED capabilities to those required to achieve the planned C-IED enterprise. Such a baseline assessment can be facilitated by the UNIDIR C-IED CMM SAT or a modification thereof.

Ideally, a designated lead entity needs to be charged with responsibility for building the national C-IED enterprise. They will be required to undertake an iterative process of C-IED stakeholder analysis, mapping and subsequent outreach and engagement that best reflects the intended national C-IED enterprise intended to be established. The starting point in this process will be the need to identify who will be members of the C-IED stakeholder community. Table 1 may be used; however, the C-IED stakeholder community for a given State will be nuanced and needs to be chosen based on the threat, the enterprise to be developed and the resources that will be allocated. For example, the preventative C-IED element of security and control of explosives, in particular commercial explosives, requires that all entities involved in their handling and use, need to be included, possibly through representative associations. This may include those involved in regulated commercial as well as artisanal mining, quarrying and bore hole drilling. Similarly, inclusion of civil society organisations can be an asset in public IED awareness efforts to assist in community engagement and in influencing the public in terms of being part of the national enterprise. It may be challenging to get certain civil society organisations to buy-in and engage in a national C-IED enterprise as they often seek to remain independent of the State or to be perceived as impartial actors. As such the State can try, through appropriate engagement, to convince them of the merits of being part of a national C-IED enterprise or certain elements thereof. Citizens can be empowered to play a role in watching out for and reporting potential IED activity through IED risk education and public safety initiatives to raise wider public C-IED awareness.4 By making the C-IED enterprise a whole of society effort and encouraging social responsibility to report any suspicious activity can be significantly beneficial. It is important to appreciate that not all potential C-IED stakeholders may be attuned to what is needed within national C-IED or their role within it. This highlights the importance of outreach and engagement to communicate effectively with all potential C-IED stakeholders. Such outreach and engagement should ideally be undertaken prior to conducting a national C-IED baseline assessment.

STRATEGIC MINDSET THINKING

Investing in a national C-IED enterprise with an emphasis on preventative efforts are to be promoted. However, it is also acknowledged that compared to responsive C-IED efforts, preventative C-IED efforts typically take longer to see impact and benefit from, in protecting itself, its citizens, and its interests by reducing the number of IED incidents. This can be a significant challenge to justify, particularly politically, as return on investment is needed to show the State is taking impactful steps against the IED system. It is also challenging to secure buy-in from international donors and the wider international community when such investments need multiyear project / program planning to ensure they mature to being impactful. These challenges may be addressed when building a national C-IED enterprise by adapting what can be considered a strategic mindset or what Robert Greene, may consider to be grand strategy thinking and in military terms may be considered as campaign planning. For this article, the author uses the concept of strategic mindset thinking when it comes to developing a comprehensive national C-IED enterprise.

Human nature as a self-protection mechanism tends to focus on the most proximate threats and to act in a way that is deemed to most likely address or counter the threats faced in the near term. Such a mindset is common when having to address the use or threatened use of IEDs. A strategic mindset approach involves a broader way of thinking about a given problem or challenge being addressed. This requires looking beyond the immediate problem, to instead consider the context and wider factors that contribute or significantly influence it. A strategic mindset approach forces us to zoom out from the immediate and ongoing threat posed by IEDs, and instead to have a broader understanding of the contributing factors that facilitate their use. This involves looking beyond the immediate use of IEDs or what may be considered the technical and tactical issues related to their use. At a minimum this requires, in addition to an understanding of the technical and tactical issues, an examination of at least the three components of the IED system, namely the network of personnel involved, the processes they use and the supply chain of components and related materiel. Deeper strategic thinking when developing a national C-IED enterprise can involve gaining an understanding of why IEDs are in use in terms of the tactical intent, their operational objectives, and the strategic impact they are attempting to achieve. Strategic C-IED thinking can extend even further, to being even more comprehensive, by considering the wider historical, political, cultural, and socioeconomic context and wider contributing factors that facilitate or influence their use. This involves the examination of the broader causes and contributing factors to the insecurity and instability that create the environment that promotes the use of IEDs and other associated threats to security, stability, and development. With such a mindset when developing national C-IED enterprises it is possible to identify how the various elements which make up an IED system can be targeted and degraded to overmatch or at least match their impact in support of wider security, stabilization, development, and political initiatives.

However, strategic thinking when building a national C-IED enterprise does not address the issue of a state needing to show success against the IED system, in being able to protect its safety and security along with that of its citizens and interests. This challenge can be considered under two different scenarios. The first scenario involves an emerging non-established IED threat with the second being an established potentially growing IED threat. This first scenario lends itself to such strategic thinking when developing a national C-IED enterprise; however, it too has significant challenges associated with it. Firstly, a state can be reluctant to invest time, personnel, expertise, and finances in something that is not an existential threat. Secondly, since the threat is only assessed and potentially emerging, it is difficult to achieve the necessary understanding needed to inform the C-IED enterprise required. In such a scenario a state may wish to undertake a threat assessment based on regional IED threats and horizon scan for potential threat migration5 to inform them of the IED threat(s) which they will need to be able to counter. This can then inform the C-IED enterprise which the state wishes to establish and the associated resources which will be required. This will in turn inform the C-IED stakeholder community that needs to be engaged and nurtured to support the planned C-IED enterprise. In such a scenario, it is ideal for a state to be proactive in the development of a national C-IED enterprise with the appropriate balance between preventative and responsive C-IED efforts by establishing an appropriate framework of threat aligned, sustainable C-IED elements which reflect the state’s desired vision for the enterprise.

Unfortunately, in many cases the state will seek to establish a national C-IED enterprise in response to an established and potentially growing IED threat. Such a scenario is in many ways more challenging than the previous scenario considered. While the threat may be established, which can facilitate better understanding and hence informing the IED enterprise required, it is likely that the IED system owing to its dynamic and evolving nature will adapt to circumvent the C-IED efforts introduced against it. This challenge of trying to counter an adaptive IED system may be described as trying to build a plane while in flight and under attack. Secondly, the previously highlighted challenge of needing to show results in terms of the safety and security of the state, its citizens and interests typically results in the development of a C-IED enterprise which is response focused and even device centric with little or no initial investment in preventative C-IED efforts. Added to these issues, depending on the wider security environment, it is possible for there to be an initial military or security force centric C-IED stakeholder community, which is not what a comprehensive approach to C-IED seeks. In such necessarily reactive approaches to established IED threats, initial imbalances in the C-IED enterprise developed, can in time be addressed through the gradual but continual investment in appropriate and sustainable preventative C-IED efforts. It is again acknowledged that preventative C-IED efforts typically take longer to mature with the need for political understanding of their benefit followed by political backing of such comprehensive approaches to addressing the use of IEDs.

CONCLUSION

A definition of an IED system has been laid out to facilitate an effective understanding of the problem which C-IED efforts at a national level are required to address. The rationale for more comprehensive approaches to C-IED at the national level have been provided with the proposal that there is a need for a whole of society approach to effectively address their use. A comprehensive approach to national C-IED can be best summed up as a national C-IED enterprise. This is the collective term to describe all the C-IED efforts which stakeholders invest in, intended to at least match but ideally overmatch the threat posed by the use or threatened use of IEDs. A national C-IED enterprise can involve anything which is intended to predict discover or detect, prevent, protect against, respond to, or neutralize, recover from or exploit, mitigate against, or deter IED attacks. The stakeholder community involved in a C-IED enterprise may include multiple elements of state security, defence, government departments, ministries, offices, and agencies along with civil society organisations, commercial and industry entities as well as international and regional organizations. Such diverse stakeholders can have complex institutional structures and procedures requiring internal coherence, a cooperative culture and collaborative efforts between members within the enterprise to support effective C-IED efforts through a shared understanding of the assessed IED threat faced. When building a threat aligned national C-IED enterprise that reflects the State’s vision for it, a strategic mindset may assist in identifying an appropriate C-IED stakeholder community. Once a C-IED stakeholder community has been identified, outreach and engagement with those identified as potential members are needed to inform them of their role and importance. Once such efforts to build the C-IED enterprise to counter the IED system have been completed, it is necessary that it is legally empowered with a designated lead entity. This will be a topic of a subsequent article. ■

FOOTNOTES

  1. The author acknowledges that, before this response to IED use in Iraq and Afghanistan, other IED affected states had undertaken initiatives and collective efforts to counter their use but did not use the term C-IED. Examples include the UK, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Columbia. These collective practices referred to as C-IED continue to evolve
  2. These 15 C-IED elements are a synthesis of the UNIDIR C-IED CMM SAT, the IGAD regional C-IED strategy, the draft AU C-IED strategy and research conducted on C-IED for East Africa.
  3. It is acknowledged that other C-IED elements can be included or those listed expanded into sub-elements as suits the State needs for the C-IED enterprise they intend to establish and invest in.
  4. For example, a national ‘See Something, Say Something’ publicity campaign.
  5. Often referred to a ‘spillover’ of IED use from neighbouring or regional IED affected states.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Amoroso is an explosive hazards specialist and has extensive experience as an IED Threat Mitigation Policy Advisor working in East and West Africa. He served in the Irish Army as an IED Disposal and CBRNe officer, up to MNT level, and has extensive tactical, operational, and strategic experience in Peacekeeping Operations in Africa and the Middle East. He has experience in the development of doctrine and policy and was one of the key contributors to the United Nations Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Standards and the United Nations Explosive Ordnance Disposal Military Unit Manual. He works at present in the MENA region on SALW control as well as in wider Africa advising on national and regional C-IED strategies. He has a MSc in Explosive Ordnance Engineering and an MA in Strategic Studies. He runs a consultancy, Assessed Mitigation Options (AMO), which provides advice, support, and training delivery in EOD, C-IED, WAM as well as Personal Security Awareness Training (PSAT) and Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT). This article reflects his own views and not necessarily those of any organisation he has worked for or with in developing these ideas.
Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-amoroso-msc-ma-miexpe-60a63a42/


Download PDF: 15-22 Paul Amoroso article – BUILDING THE C-IED ENTERPRISE TO COUNTER THE IED SYSTEM – COUNTER-IED REPORT, Winter 2023-24


Counter-IED Report, Winter 2023/24


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