General says attacks on US convoys in Iraq doubled

by Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of roadside bomb attacks by insurgents against U.S. military supply convoys in Iraq has doubled in the past year, the general in charge of logistics for American military forces in Iraq said on Friday.

 

Army Brig. Gen. Yves Fontaine, commander of the 1st Corps Support Command, said U.S. military convoys carrying fuel, food, water, arms and equipment face 30 attacks weekly involving so-called improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Speaking to reporters at the

Pentagon from a U.S. base at Balad north of Baghdad, Fontaine said U.S.

casualties from these attacks have actually declined thanks to increased armor on vehicles such as Humvees, tractor trailers and cargo trucks.

"As a matter of fact, we have seen an increase in the use of IEDs on our convoys. And our main threat is the IED for the logistics convoys coming from Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey, and then going to the Baghdad area. So the increase has been to about 30 a week," Fontaine said.

"Because we've up-armored our vehicles, the casualties have decreased significantly, even though the IED attacks have increased significantly. So now our soldiers are safe in their Humvees and their trucks, and they walk out of the incidents when the incident occurs," Fontaine added.

He did not provide casualty numbers.

Fontaine said the attacks on convoys are centered in the so-called Sunni Muslim Triangle north and west of the capital.

His comments come as U.S. military leaders continue to describe the insurgency as relatively static.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday of the insurgency: "The overall capacity of what they're able to do on any given day is about the same" as a year ago. Army Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on July 27 that "this insurgency is not progressing."

Insurgents long have viewed U.S. supply convoys and military patrols as vulnerable to bombs embedded in roads. These attacks account for a large number of the U.S. military deaths in the war, and commanders have said at least some of the bombs being used by the rebels now are more powerful than in the past.

For example, 14 U.S. Marines died in one incident on August 3 south of Haditha in western Iraq, when their Amphibious Assault Vehicle was blown up by an bomb made from three land mines put together.

Some U.S. troops have complained in the past that too few vehicles in convoys have adequate armor. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was questioned by a soldier in Kuwait on December 8 who asked: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles, and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?"

Fontaine said 2,000 vehicles have been provided with additional armor, and he has not sent an unarmored vehicle outside a secure base since he arrived late last year. He said there are more than 150 convoys per day, with more than 2,500 vehicles on the roads every day.

Fontaine commands 18,500 troops -- 60 percent of whom are reservists -- based in five logistics hubs.