WASHINGTON — U.S. troops in Afghanistan have quietly achieved one small but important victory over the past year: They are finding and avoiding more improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, than a year ago.

That’s thanks to a surge in training, equipment and intelligence.

Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero is director of the Pentagon’s effort to defeat the bombs. Barbero says half as many bombs hit their mark from January through March as during the same time last year.

Bomb-planters have picked up the pace again during the summer months, planting explosives along roadsides or footpaths.

But new figures released to The Associated Press show a slow, steady decline over the past three years in the effectiveness of IEDs, which had been the leading cause of death and injury in Afghanistan.