The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pentagon will provide new assistance to Iraq after Baghdad bombings

In this July 3, 2016 photo, Iraqi firefighters and civilians carry bodies of victims killed in a truck bomb in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter promised Iraqi officials new assistance Monday to stave off bombings by the Islamic State after the group carried out its most deadly attack ever on central Baghdad earlier this month.

The Pentagon chief said the United States would offer high-tech explosives detectors and a visit by the U.S. general running a Defense Department office aimed at combating improvised explosives.

The added support comes as Carter also announced Monday that 560 more U.S. troops will deploy to Iraq in coming weeks, primarily to reestablish an airfield seized Saturday by Iraqi security forces 40 miles south of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. Carter offered the assistance of Army Lt. Gen. Michael H. Shields, director of the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA), to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Iraqi leader accepted.

Pentagon will send hundreds more troops to Iraq following seizure of key airfield

“We did talk about detectors for the perimeter to provide security and detect explosives that are being introduced in Baghdad,” Carter told reporters. “We did talk about how to get them to detect the networks that build and deliver IEDs, and I offered him — and this is important — the help of the organization that we use and have used over the last years in both Iraq and Afghanistan to help U.S. forces to cope with the IED threat.”

Carter said that the commander of that effort — Shields, other defense officials confirmed — will soon travel to Baghdad to “bring to the Iraqi security forces that substantial experience and tradecraft that we learned by hard experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

JIDA was established in 2006 under the name Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). It includes not only military officials but also scientists and other specialists who look for innovative ways to detect and render harmless various bombs. The organization will take yet another name, Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO), in October as a result of language in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

Carter’s offer comes after a July 3 bombing in central Baghdad that killed at least 292 people, the biggest bombing attack ever by the Islamic State. Iraqi security forces had recently taken back from the Islamic State the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in part to stop a wave of earlier bombings in the Iraqi capital this year.

The militants claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they wanted to target Shiite Muslims who are at odds with them. U.S. intelligence officials have warned that the group will continue attacks abroad as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria, but the attacks also have repeatedly targeted Muslim civilians in the Middle East.

The bombings have put pressure on Abadi. Some Iraqis in Baghdad allege that corruption has played a role in vulnerabilities in the city’s security, citing fake bomb detectors that were used for years at checkpoints. Abadi recently ordered Iraqi forces to stop using them.

Carter did not provide additional specifics on what equipment the United States may provide to detect explosives. The United States uses a variety of means to do so, including radars, metal detectors and explosives-sniffing dogs. Many of the specifics are classified.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the organization sending help to Baghdad. It changed its name to the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA) in 2015.