The U.S. military expects a 50 percent spike this year in roadside and suicide bombings, which surpassed the number of similar strikes in Iraq during the spring. These types of bombs killed 172 coalition forces last year — and far more Afghan civilians — according to military figures.
"We don't hide the truth from them. We tell them if you are going to be killed or injured in Afghanistan, it is probably going to be by an IED," said Command Sgt. Maj. David Puig, 51, of Fort Lewis, Wash.
The dramatic rise in these attacks — and the insurgents' skill in placing and camouflaging the bombs — complicates the U.S. mission as the Obama administration searches for a fresh approach against the insurgency.
Troops who have served previous tours in Afghanistan, when the Taliban insurgency wasn't so violent, say they now confront far more improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Sabatke, part of the 10th Mountain Division, said his unit is "basically driving around playing minesweeper."
"This is my third tour here," said Sabatke, 32, of Merrill, Wis. "And we've had more IED strikes, or attempts, or found IEDs in the past three or four months than we had the previous two deployments combined. It sucks, to be blatantly honest. I'd rather have them try to shoot at us."
Roadside or suicide bombings are up 25 percent the first four months of 2009 compared with the same period last year, said Col. Jeffrey Jarkowsky, commander of Joint Task Force Paladin, the counter-IED unit at the main U.S. base at Bagram.
The task force predicts bomb attacks will rise 50 percent this year to 5,700 — up from 3,800 last year.
Attacks "will ramp up in the summer to where it will be an increase of maybe 60 percent one month and will average out to 50 percent," Jarkowsky told The Associated Press.