Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Dan Carnahan writes:
To claim that Soleimani has killed hundreds of Americans that were killed by EFPs (explosively formed penetrator) is to conflate that every EFP was Shia, every Shia is Iranian, and every Iranian is Soleimani. The official narrative is that every EFP set off in Iraq came from Iran, and therefore Soleimani. This was not my experience.
My first deployment to Iraq began in 2005. I was stationed in eastern Baghdad, with an area of operation surrounding the infamous Sadr City. Though it had a diverse combatant list, our primary enemies were the Shia militias, including the Mehdi Militia and the Badr Brigade (So we were told, at least). The first day reaching our base after weeks spent transiting Kuwait and BIAP we were briefed on a new kind of IED called an EFP. This was surprising, since in all the training and hours upon hours of sitting through PowerPoint presentations, this was the first we’d heard of them. Apparently, they were cutting right through all of the new up-armored HMMVs we had. That turned out to be absolutely true. We would come to find out that not only were they penetrating HMMVs, they were taking out Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1 Abrams as well. The technology came from Hezbollah, we were told, and that they were being shipped in from Iran.
Curiously though, the briefing included general information on how one is made, and most importantly, the equipment needed to make them. The current media description of EFPs is that they are so high tech that they must’ve come from Iran because Iraqis lacked the means to produce them. But obviously from the briefing, the concern was that they were being made in Iraq, and these are the tools we need to keep our eyes out for. Compared to loading some old artillery shells into a car to be driven into a crowd, yes, they certainly are more sophisticated. However, information on their construction can easily be found online. To really drive home the idea that Iraqis could be making these, the presentation culminated with an American blacksmith being presented with one to replicate in his shop. By the end of the day he had a finished product.
That’s not to say tha varying level of quality had significant impact on the bomb’s lethality. Precision proved to be important. As with any weapon, especially improvised ones, trial and error leads to some duds and some improvement. In a short time, we were seeing EFP “arrays” where a dozen smaller EFPs were arranged to fire in multiple directions like a shotgun, or “super” EFPs that would create an especially larger projectile. It seems the EFPs were being adapted to new defense SOPs almost faster than we were implementing them. This should raise suspicion that they were all being shipped in. Our more internal opinion is that they were coming from the impenetrable Sadr City. They were incredibly deadly. Soldiers from my base were getting taken out almost daily at times. Some I knew personally, two were close friends. Our mechanics were constantly brainstorming new things to fabricate to the trucks to lessen the blow. I’m not sure anything was successful. Having a background in electrical work, I spent much of my free time researching if there was a way to combat the passive infrared sensors that were commonly used to trigger the explosives.
In what was probably 2006 by this point, we were on what was supposed to be a standard 4-hour patrol. Usually this involved going to a neighborhood and talking to the locals in an attempt to gain any kind of useable intel. Showing an interest in their problems and concerns was an effective way to build some trust. This particular mission we learned of a house that was expected to be making IEDs. The house was searched and what was found was a homemade EFP factory. This particular mission stood out for two reasons: 1) We had to stay there all day and night until the engineers figured out how to remove the large blacksmithing equipment from the house. I can still remember when dawn had finally arrived and I could see the silhouette of a rusty press being crane-loaded onto the back of a truck. And 2) The makers of these EFPs were Sunni. To be fair, the level of sophistication in what they were producing was far below what was coming from the Shia militias, showing that they were in the early stages of learning the technology. What it does show though, is that Iraqis were perfectly capable of making them, even Sunnis who very doubtfully had the support of Hezbollah or Iran.