The tactics and equipment that neutralized IED (Improvised Explosive Device, a roadside, or suicide car bomb) in Iraq, have arrived in Afghanistan. There are now 12,000 MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Afghanistan, and they have played a major part in reducing NATO casualties there. In Iraq, the use of a similar number of MRAPs, reduced casualties from IEDs by over 60 percent. In Afghanistan, the math is similar. While 80 percent of hummers or trucks hit with IEDs result in one or more passengers killed, that only happens in 15 percent of MRAPs hit with IEDs. A year ago, About two-thirds of all casualties in Afghanistan were from roadside bombs. Thus these vehicles reduced overall casualties by about a third, and now IEDs create less than half the casualties.
Over the last year, the U.S. has been hustling to get MRAP vehicles to Afghanistan. At times, over 500 a month were arriving. Most of those coming in are the M-ATV model, designed for use in Afghanistan. A B-747 freighter can carry five M-ATVs per trip, but larger An-124s are also being used. The vehicles are moved by ship to a European or Persian Gulf port, to shorten the flight time (and enable a fully loaded B-747 to make it in one jump from the Gulf.)
The M-ATVs are heavily modified based on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. The M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. Each M-ATV costs $446,000. MRAPs cost about five times more than armored hummers or trucks. These vehicles are more expensive to operate, and less flexible than the hummer. MRAPs use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components from mines and roadside bombs.
In addition to many more MRAPs going to Afghanistan, the supply of explosives (nitrate based fertilizer) has been reduced by mandating the use of non-explosive fertilizers in Afghanistan. The U.S. also transferred its bomb detection techniques, and equipment, to Afghanistan, along with its methods of identifying and hunting down the teams that manufacture and place the bombs. These tactics greatly reduced the number of bombs being placed, and the MRAPs made those that did get used, much less effective. In some parts of Afghanistan, the use of IEDs has already declined enormously. This is usually due to finding the specialists who build the IEDs (and killing or capturing them) and destroying the workshops and supplies of bomb components.
Thus combat deaths have declined, as a percentage of foreign troops in the country (a third more than last year) and in absolute terms. It's no accident, and commanders know exactly how it happened, and are determined to keep the trends going against the Taliban.