The U.S. Army has provided more information about the cause of death of a soldier killed in Iraq by an I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) last week.
During a Pentagon press briefing, Major General Robert White, Commander of the Combine Joint Forces Land Component Command, confirmed that Specialist Missildine was killed and Sergeant First Class Mathis injured by an EFP (explosive formed penetrator) placed on MSR (main supply route) Tampa.
Tampa is one of the largest supply routes used by the military in Iraq, making it a target for various terrorist groups and insurgents since the wars in Iraq began in 2003. The major Iraqi expressway runs east from the Jordanian and Syrian borders toward Baghdad before veering southeast toward Basra and the Kuwaiti border.
The EFP explosive used on route Tampa should be one of concern for military leaders, as they were among the most lethal weapons faced by U.S. forces before the troop withdrawal in 2011.
“When fired, the semi-molten copper [or steel] disks struck with such violence that casualties tended to be higher and more gruesome than in other IED attacks,” the Washington Post reported in 2005.
“This was beyond the capability of anything in our arsenal,” an Army brigadier general said said in 2005. “And, by the way, you can’t armor your way out of this problem.” To combat EFPs, millions of dollars were invested in cell phone jamming devices, devices to deter the accuracy of infrared sensors, but casualties remained high during the height of “The Surge” campaign.
A former Army infantry soldier tells Popular Military that during his initial briefing upon entrance to Iraq in 2007, he was instructed that EFPs could penetrate every piece of armor the U.S. military owned, with the exception of the turret on the Abrams tank under certain circumstances.
According to data that was declassified in 2015, between November 2005 and December 2011, 1,526 EFPs killed a total of 196 U.S. troops and injured 861.
U.S. officials said at the beginning of the war in Iraq -when the EFPs first started to appear- they were being supplied by Iran with the help of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
When Maj. Gen. White was asked at this morning’s press briefing about the EFPs used during Operation Iraqi Freedom and their link to Iran, he seemed to dodge making any connection to Iran.
“It was a tragic event…that particular munition that you are referring to, explosively formed penetrator, has been used over the last 15 years or so in Iraq and other places in the world,” he said. “It is being employed in Syria right now. It is a dangerous battlefield out there…I’m not particularly sure how to answer your question other than saying the battlefield is a particularly dangerous place.”
The last time Iran’s alleged involvement in smuggling munitions into Iraq was addressed was when Sen. Ted Cruz brought up the issue in opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015.
“I understand that the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency has a classified list of roughly 500 American soldiers who were murdered by Iranian IEDs,” Cruz said at a July 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The Army’s investigation into the EFP attack on Oct. 1 determined the Army vehicle was struck with a steel EFP -known to be less effective as copper- at a “classic ambush spot” on route Tampa, according to Maj. Gen. White.
Their investigation has yet to be able to determine whether the attack was conducted by ISIS, an Iranian-backed militia, or another perpetrator.
The attack had “no real ties to other events,” the general said.
The Prime Minister of Iraq has ordered an independent investigation into the attack.
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