Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter offered JIDA’s assistance during a July 11 visit to Baghdad, and said that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi discussed using detectors on the perimeter of the city to find explosives, and how to locate the network of people who build and use the bombs.
Carter said JIDA’s involvement would “bring to the Iraqi security forces that substantial experience and tradecraft that we learned by hard experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan.” But U.S. military officials said Friday that there are additional steps to be taken before JIDA can help.
Army Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said that Shields will soon return to the United States, and then examine what options his agency can offer to the Iraqis.
“Remember, in the end, the Iraqis have to agree to whatever support we offer,” Garver said. “Even if we come up with potential solutions to help with the bomber network issue here in Baghdad, the Iraqis have to agree with it. So, there’s going to be some negotiations along the way.”
David Small, a JIDA spokesman, said that Shields’s mission in Baghdad this week is “fact-finding” in nature and will allow him to assess the improvised explosive device threat there and get “a thorough understanding of Iraqi counter-IED capabilities.”
“JIDA will apply its tradecraft based on the information Lt. Gen. Shields brings back,” Small said in an email. “There is nothing that will quickly or easily solve the IED problem in Baghdad.”
Shields was not available for comment Friday.
Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi drew attention to Shields’s visit Thursday, tweeting a photograph of the general meeting with Abadi. Carter disclosed Shields was in Baghdad on Wednesday at a news conference.
Lukman Faily, the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States, also drew attention to the July 3 bombings on Friday, tweeting photographs from where they occurred. The images showed charred buildings draped in banners hung in memory of those lost.
JIDA — previously known as JIEDDO, short for Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization — has on staff not only U.S. troops, but also scientists and other technical experts. It was formed in 2006 as U.S. troops faced a wave of attacks in Iraq using makeshift bombs.
JIDA is much smaller than it was in its heyday, however. As JIEDDO in 2008, it had a budget of about $3.9 billion and about 4,000 employees. Its budget this year is $408 million, and there are now about 1,000 people on staff, including civilian employees, U.S. troops and contractors.
The reductions came after some critics, including members of Congress, raised questions about whether JIEDDO was effective. It will change names again this fall, becoming the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) as a result of language in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.