By Dan Dupont / June 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM has turned up an interesting document on IEDs. Its title, "Alternative Motivations for IED Use in Afghanistan," gets at the heart of the matter: Why are these things being used against U.S. and coalition troops?

If the answer seems obvious, consider these findings from the report, written by Marco Tomasi, a U.S. Central Command analyst (and labeled "for official use only"):

(U//FOUO) Possible alternative Motivating Operations (MOs) for IED use in Afghanistan include hunger, quality of life, economic development, and opium production.

That part about hunger is a key theme.

(U//FOUO) Anecdotal reports describe incidents in which assailants used IEDs to target caravans carrying humanitarian relief supplies, including food. The attackers then stole the food, and distributed it themselves. This in itself suggests three possible behavioral functions tied to the same MO. The first is to acquire food to eliminate or decrease hunger. This function is powerful, in that it can result in some of the most desperate and extreme behavioral topographiesiii. The second is to make a profit by selling the food to those in need. Given that perpetrators stole the food, they could even sell at below-market-values and still turn a profit. Overlap may exist between this and the third function: garnering attention. The distribution of food to those in need, especially if done independent of a profit motive, would result in attention/support from a population. To state this from a public relations perspective, a group may steal food in order to distribute it as charity in their own name, so that they may win hearts and minds of the people. In effect, gaining the support of the people is the motivation, or at least part of the motivation, behind USAIDs relief actions. The specific purposes to which the IED-related behaviors serve will greatly depend on the individuals or groups engaging in the attacks.


(U//FOUO) If the food security prediction for Afghanistan is correct, the likelihood of IED attacks directed at supply vehicles is likely to increase, especially throughout the mid-section of the country, as well as in the northern province of Badakhshan.

One more anecdote of note relayed in the report:

An IED was found on a road near a village in Afghanistan. It was rendered safe and the American forces went to the village to find out who was responsible. They found out that the IED was emplaced, at least in part, to attract attention to the village in the hope that some reconstruction projects would come their way.

We contacted the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization for comment on the paper, and received this reply:

As far as we are concerned, it is dated information, reflecting the opinion of one analyst.