War on Terror

Pentagon Not Sure How Long Undetonated IEDs Last

Don't know when they'll degrade or how long they remain a threat


Like all wars, the war in Afghanistan must someday end. But the end of its signature weapon may not arrive on the same schedule.

Insurgents' homemade bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, look increasingly like a lasting fixture on the early-21st century battlefield. The Pentagon's bomb squad warns that the cheap, easily fabricated family of explosives are spreading all around the world. But it doesn't know how long the devices themselves last.

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, JIEDDO, collects sheafs of data about the bombs. It knows what sorts of materials go into the bombs, where the materials come from, what countermeasures succeed at stopping the blasts (and which ones fail), and how many of them turn out to be duds. But to date, it hasn't acquired any data about the lifespan of an improvised explosive device. "There are no historical records or analysis documenting how effective emplaced and undetonated IEDs may become over time," David Small, JIEDDO's spokesman, tells Danger Room.