EU creates an anti-IED laboratory

Defence Council

France takes lead role in roadside bomb project

By Paul Ames | Monday 26 April 2010

France has agreed to take the lead role in a groundbreaking initiative for the European Union to purchase and deploy a mobile forensic laboratory to help counter roadside bombs, which have been used to deadly effect by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The project, approved by the EU's defence ministers on 26 April, will see the European Defence Agency (EDA) buy the lab using money from its own operating budget - a first for the EU body - while France and other participating member states will take on responsibility for operating the high-tech facility.

Meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers also agreed to strengthen their own role with more meetings and more autonomy, albeit within the framework of the Foreign Affairs Council, as a reflection of the EU’s enhanced security role under the Lisbon Treaty.

Ministers stressed the need to persuade East African nations to take in more piracy suspects detained by the EU’s maritime mission off the Horn of Africa so they can face trial and eventual imprisonment. EU foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to travel to the region next month in an effort to secure more help in prosecuting pirates. The EU wants to expand existing judicial agreements with Kenya and the Seychelles and strike new deals with other nations in the region. “The Council strongly encourages ongoing work on the critical need to expand the international community’s capacity for the prosecution of suspected pirates,” said a statement from the ministers. It recalls its authorisation of negotiations for transfer agreements between the EU and further regional countries, namely Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Ministers are concerned that a lack of capacity to hold and prosecute pirates means many are simply being let go after their boats and weapons have been destroyed. Roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), have become the weapon of choice of the Taliban. Over 700 were defused or exploded in February alone, killing almost 30 allied soldiers.

“IEDs are a number one threat not only in Afghanistan but in other scenarios,” said Alexander Weis, chief executive of the EDA. “Technology is not going to solve this problem, but intelligence does,” Weis told reporters, pointing out that the deployable lab would fill an important gap in European resources by allowing the forensic study of debris from IEDS that would help trace people behind the bombs.

Poland announced it would join France in developing the project, and other nations expressed support, although they did not immediately announce their participation in the project, which should be ready for deployment in about a year.

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Good idea, of course not on the scale of similar US projects but good idea all the same.

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