High-Tech Help for Clearing Afghan IEDS

CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy went along with bomb disposal crews in Helmand as they used remarkable equipment to find and destroy improvised explosive devices (IEDs.)

The "MICLIC" - the Mine Clearing Line Charge - is a bomb to fight all bombs. It's essentially a 100-meter-long flexible tube containing 1,750 pounds of C4 explosive that is shot out of a tub with a rocket and deposited in a straight line along the ground.

Special Section: Afghanistan | The Road Ahead

When it is detonated it is designed to clear a "breaching lane" of any mines or IEDs directly underneath it, providing a path through a minefield for advancing Marines. The Marines know that once the get inside the town - they face a whole new range of IEDs.

In Afghanistan, a Beautiful Desert Goes Boom

There are so many bombs buried in the desert outside Safar Bazaar that even with the MICLIC, it takes two days before the Marines can enter the town. From then on, progress is even slower.

Sergeant Matthew Jacksonis a bomb disposal expert from Calabasas, California. He knows how to deal with explosives - he even has their molecular structures tattooed on his arm: TNT, RDX, chlorates, ammonium nitrate.

Bomb Disposal Expert's Cheat Sheet Tattooed on His Arm

But finding the explosives means learning to think like the Taliban - and then finding ways to outsmart them. Jackson asks himself, "how would I get me?"

"Everything is a tool, there is no one solid remedy for it," Jackson said. "Dogs, robots, ropes - I mean it comes down to a lot of rope tricks."

But Jackson is in no hurry. "My main overlying goal is to get every single person home that I can," he said.

The deserted street of Safar is ghost town. But the Marines hope that once they have cleared it of bombs - and the Taliban - that it will quickly come back to life - just like the other towns further to the north that they have already secured.

The Marines want the market in Safar to look like Lakari market,just 10 miles to the north, which they cleared of the Taliban earlier this year. Now, business is thriving.

Sweet Surprise at Afghanistan's Lakari Bazaar

To keep it that way, Lieutenant Joe Moeller from Bisalia, California and his platoon of Marines spend almost all their time just patrolling this market, talking to the merchants, making sure the Taliban do not return.

"The people like the security it provides them, because they know everybody who comes into the bazaar is getting searched," Lt. Moeller said.

Back in Safar, the local people want to see the Taliban gone. But with Taliban spies among them, the locals are still too scared to tell the Marines where the bombs are.

The Marines' commander, Lt. Colonel Ben Watson, understands their fear. "The Taliban conducted a lot of illicit business here, drug trafficking, IED making. They intimidated the locals."

He and his men know they have a long task ahead - clearing the IEDs and winning over the people.

In the U.S. pressure is building for quick results in Afghanistan. On the ground, Marines know speed is dangerous, and everything they achieve - takes time.

More of Terry McCarthy's "Thundering Third" Blogs:
Bomb Disposal Expert's Cheat Sheet Tattooed on His Arm
In Afghanistan, a Beautiful Desert Goes Boom
A Day in the Life: Wardak, Afghanistan
Preaching to the Corps
Bedtime Stories From Marines to Children Back Home
Sweet Surprise at Afghanistan's Lakari Bazaar

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