Addressing the threat posed by IEDs

Regional C-IED initiatives

Many terrorist groups, and particularly those who regularly use IEDs, are not confined to one country and spread across borders, like those already discussed, such as Boko Haram and IS. Hence, national C-IED efforts can be limited if there is not cooperation between states, especially those impacted by the same group. Like any C-IED initiatives, most regional efforts have a main focus, whether that is border security, intelligence or military operations. Other regional initiatives have stemmed from international approaches. These will be covered under the next section of the report.

Multinational Joint Task Force

An example of the benefits facilitated by regional cooperation is seen in the military and law enforcement C-IED cooperation to combat Boko Haram. Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroon have engaged in what is known as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). The MNJTF has seen these five states unify their efforts, to create a 9,000 strong force, with the specific aim of bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

Although relatively new (it was established in 2015) the MNJTF has had many successes, including the destruction of terrorist camps, the arrest or neutralisation of hundreds of terrorists, and the destruction of IED making factories and equipment. The MNJTF has in fact recaptured 80% of territory that had once been under Boko Haram’s control.

These successes come despite the lack of funding these nations receive and the comparative lack of C-IED expertise within the task force as a whole. It is worth noting that MNJTF, though, have received some training, equipment and funding from other nations and from the African Union Commission. However, the funds amounted to only a third of what was needed and dispersal has been slow. With greater international cooperation allowing the provision of more equipment, expertise or training it is easy to envision further success for the MNJTF.


Other regional military efforts include several projects initiated by the US, including such as United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and United States Pacific Command (USPACOM). These programmes have greatly aided partner nations’ C-IED capabilities, particularly through ‘train the trainer’ programs.

AFRICOM is one of six of the US Department of Defense’s geographical combatant commands, and is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organisations. The Command is responsible for all Department of Defense operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, and amongst many other things, is involved in providing C-IED training for some African militaries.

The Command, which began initial operations on 1 October 2007 and became an independent command on 1 October 2008, has a broad mission. It is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, with others assigned to AFRICOM units at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and RAF Molesworth, UK. The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is a good example of measures taken under AFRICOM to try to C-IEDs. CJTF-HOA originated under Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa as part of the US response to the September 11th attacks, and has its headquarters in the Republic of Djibouti. The Task Force works with countries, coalition forces, and international organisations to support partner nation military operations in East Africa to fight violent extremism, including by providing C-IED training.

AFRICOM has been involved in providing C-IED training in a number of African countries. Examples of such involvement includes a training programme in Kenya in 2011, where a team of US Army soldiers from CJTF-HOA spent a month teaming up with the Kenyan Army to develop a C-IED training programme from militaries in East Africa. This involved sharing information with classes of service members from countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda. Initially, the class was comprised of 20 Kenyan soldiers, with eight remaining at the facility to teach the curriculum to new students, in a Train the Trainer type of programme. US Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Moore considered the training thoroughly successful.

A more recent example, involved the training of the Burundi National Defense Force in best practice for C-IED detection. The US Marine Corps Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Africa (SPMAGTF), which is specifically trained to support US and partner interests throughout the US Africa Command area of responsibility, trained the National Defense Force for 10 weeks, ending in November 2014. The same group (SPMAGTF) worked with the Uganda People’s Defense Force, focusing solely on detection techniques and safety precautions when dealing with IEDs. This training began in October 2014 and ended in December the same year, and “covered the basics for what steps each UPDF soldier can take to keep themselves and their fellow soldiers safe if they encounter an IED”.

Such training is increasingly important in a region which is seeing more and more IED attacks. It is crucial that those likely to encounter IEDs, including police and military personnel, know how to safely clear an area and then defuse an IED. The practice of training a smaller number of personnel who can then use these skills to train others in their national armies or police forces is extremely important, and is an efficient means through which information can be quickly and accurately shared.


Other regional initiatives have also set in place a path for progress with regard to data collection and information sharing on IEDs. Organisations such as the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), and the European Bomb Data System (EBDS) all are leading data groups involved – at least in part – in cataloguing the harm wrought by IEDs. However, many of these efforts to record and share data are often limited in use as they are only available to the members of the organisation, or are not easily searchable.

Take for example the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). ACLED covers all African countries from 1997 to the present, and South and South-East Asia in real-time. It claims to be the “most comprehensive public collection of political violence and protest data for developing states”. It contains information on the specific dates and locations of political violence, the type of event, the groups involved, fatalities and changes in territorial control.

The database contains historic data from 1997, and is updated on a real-time basis. Over 100,000 incidents had been recorded as of early 2016. The aim of the project is for data to be able to be used for analysis and mapping of political violence across developing countries, as well as informing humanitarian and development work in crisis and conflict-affected areas through their real-time data updates and reports. The database can be downloaded for free by the public.

Although not aimed as a C-IED effort, IED incidents are captured by the database, but the type of weapon used in an incident is not specifically noted. Every ACLED incident requires at least one source, and the source is contained in the database. While the link to the source is not included, the publication details are, thus enabling the user to find the original source. Caitriona Dowd, Senior Researcher at ACLED, told AOAV that “for many events, a combination of sources is reviewed for information on a single event, with the intention of triangulating data from a variety of sources”. The data is collected by individual researchers, and inputted into the database manually.

The ACLED data is not coded by weapon type. The database is extremely comprehensive, but it is difficult to search it by incident caused by IEDs. The only way to do this is to manually search through the “notes” field, and identify individual incidents which have been caused by IEDs. With a database containing over 100,000 incidents, this is time-consuming and inefficient. However, it serves to show the possibility of C-IED data collection of this type and the potential impact of this type of record and intelligence.


Both the TSCTP and PREACT were established by the US. The TSCTP was established in 2005, in order to build regional counterterrorism capacity and aid in the cooperation between the member states. The activities engaged in have seen border movements strengthened and the improved monitoring of the financing of terrorism. TSCTP members include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. Many of these states have been significantly impacted by the IEDs used by extremist groups.

TSCTP has witnessed successes despite the unstable political climate. For example, cooperation between partners Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has seen them form a Multinational Joint Task Force to counter Boko Haram alongside Benin. This has allowed significant progress to be made, and though tensions remain, a cooperative effort like the MNJTF would have been less likely without the TSCTP. Responsibility for the programme was transferred from EUCOM and CENTCOM to AFRICOM in 2008. However, between 2009 and 2013, U.S. agencies allocated $288 million in funding and disbursed about half that amount.

PREACT was established was established four years later than the TSCTP, in 2009. Active PREACT partners include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Burundi, Comoros, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, and Sudan are also members of PREACT.PREACT sought to establish greater capacity of the East African nations in their response to counterterrorism. In order to achieve this the main focus was primarily on improving the cooperation between states main counterterrorism agencies, such as law enforcement, including police, border security, customs, military, and civilian actors. PREACT targeted the main networks that IEDs rely, including financing, border controls and community influence.

The initiative hopes to build the inter-agency cooperation between states through facilitating joint training exercises and seminars. PREACT has also seen the provision of communication equipment to aid state implementation.

Both PREACT and TSCTP have integrated countering violent extremism strategies into partner states. Such initiatives are aimed at challenging the root causes of radicalisation, such as unemployment and disenfranchisement. This has seen initiatives targeted at youth that seek to build skills and empower. At a community level outreach services may be provided as part of further community development.

TSCTP has been operating for over a decade and the situation in some of these regional countries, specifically Mali, has deteriorated. However, whilst the terrorist impacts in Mali increased during this time, what is also noticeable is the regional response and support as well as that from the international community. Whilst the initiatives have improved capacity of the nation states, more focus could be placed upon the cooperative efforts of the regional nations, particularly in the area of intelligence sharing.

To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.