Insurgents Using U.S. Techniques

By Bradley Graham and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- In 1965, the U.S. Army published a detailed manual on how to build and hide booby traps, complete with detailed diagrams illustrating various means of wiring detonators to explosives, and advising on the best locations for concealing the deadly bombs along roadways and elsewhere.

Two decades later, the Iraqi military issued its troops an Arabic version of the same manual, copying not only the wording but also many of the drawings. Dated March 1987 and stamped "confidential," the manual includes a message from Saddam Hussein, then Iraq's supreme ruler, underscoring the importance of perpetual learning.

The existence of the Iraqi copy highlights the degree to which U.S. military techniques and technology found their way into Hussein's military even as relations between the Iraqi leader and Washington eventually deteriorated into all-out war. With members of Hussein's former military and security groups now powering much of the insurgency in Iraq, U.S. forces find themselves confronting an enemy trained, at least in part, in U.S. military methods.

Concern that Iraqi rebels may be drawing on U.S. bombmaking tactics prompted investigators last year to "pull off the shelves" for review all the manuals that the Iraqis may have had access to, according to a colonel in Washington familiar with the effort.

A common connection could be turned into a U.S. advantage, said electronics and weapons specialists at this New Jersey base, where much of the Army's intensified research on countering roadside bombs is located.

"The upside is, if you know what their training manual is, then you know what you're up against," said one senior civilian official here. "Having them use our tactics, techniques and procedures isn't necessarily a bad thing."

The official, who first studied the U.S. bombmaking manual as a young Army recruit in the Vietnam War era, said it has limited application in the current conflict in Iraq. He said Iraqi insurgents are employing more modern methods, particularly in their choice of electronic detonators that enable the remote triggering of explosives.

Still, he estimated that 10 percent of the bombs planted in Iraq use the pressure-detonation techniques detailed in the U.S.-conceived document.

The Army stopped issuing the 1965 manual in 1986, said a spokesman for the Army Training and Doctrine Command. But the document, titled "Boobytraps" and designated Field Manual 5-31, remains easily available through commercial outlets.

W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency expert on the Middle East, said the existence of the Iraqi version is not surprising.

"I'll tell you how they got it," he said. "They had students in our military service schools until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and they'd just take the manuals with them."

In the 1980s, when Iraq was battling Iran in a long war, the United States provided Iraq with limited assistance in the form of satellite imagery showing the location of Iranian forces. But Lang, who met with Iraqi officers periodically during that time, said he frequently heard them express a high regard for U.S. military techniques and technologies.

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