U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: Europe

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Mine Action
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
June 2006


Flag of AlbaniaAlthough landmines have been used in Albania since World War I, the most problematic mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) became a factor during the civil unrest of 1997 and in the Kosovo crisis of 1999. Albanian districts bordering Kosovo and Montenegro are highly affected by the presence of minefields and UXO. Preliminary data from a formal Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) completed in 2003 indicated that up to 17 square kilometers of productive land were infested by mines and UXO.


Thanks to the efforts of the United States and other donors, the level of infestation has been reduced to an estimated 3 square kilometers. This problem remains compounded by the existence of some 200,000 tons of aging, abandoned ordnance at former military storage depots. The United States provides humanitarian mine action (HMA) assistance to Albania primarily through the International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance located in Slovenia. In FY04, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $1,750,000 to Albania through the ITF. In FY05, the United States provided another $1.07 million to support continuing mine action programs there. Funding for HMA capacity-building supported the technical operations staff, some of whom were trained by the U.S. European Command, and the integration of up to 20 mine detecting dogs (MDDs) into mine clearance teams. U.S. contributions to the ITF also supported HMA activities of non-governmental organizations, such as Danish Church Aid for mine clearance efforts in northeast Albania, and the Kukesi Mine and Weapons Victims Association for mine risk education and survivors assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund granted $387,950 for a three-year project implemented by the Albanian Disability Rights Foundation to improve mobility and access to 108,000 people who are wheelchair-bound, and to train 240 specialists in the treatment and care for wheelchair users and their families. With increased operational capacity that includes 61 manual deminers, 20 MDDs, 14 UXO operators, and eight paramedics, the Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE) has made significant progress in the last few years to build a national HMA capability. AMAE is using the 2003 LIS to develop a more comprehensive national HMA plan so that demining may continue with greater efficiency in reclaiming the land most impacted by mines and UXO. AMAE calculates that Albania will be free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impact-free") by 2014.


Flag of ArmeniaIn FY05, the U.S. European Command provided $100,000 worth of equipment to the Armenian Humanitarian Demining Center.



This freshly planted wheat field on Azerbaijan's verdant plains was once infested with landmines. Thanks to the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, it is productive again. Hayden Roberts, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.Flag of AzerbaijanThe 1988-1994 conflict with Armenia, and the presence of dilapidated former Soviet bases, left Azerbaijan with a landmine, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and abandoned ordnance problem. The Survey Action Center's Landmine Impact Survey reported in 2003 that 643 communities, mostly in the west near major battlefields, were affected by landmines and/or UXO. The Azerbaijan Agency for National MineAction (ANAMA) stated that since the first year of war, landmines alone had caused 1,400 casualties, including more than 300 fatalities.

In FY04, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) contributed $2,772,190 for mine action to Azerbaijan. In FY05, PM/WRA provided another $3,500,000. Of these funds, $2,468,000 was used to continue to develop ANAMA's organization and operational capabilities. ANAMA currently has 61 manual deminers, 16 mine detecting dog (MDD) teams, 14 UXO disposal operators, and eight paramedics.

ANAMA deminers return from another productive day of demining.  With U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program assistance, ANAMA was established and it has subsequently matured into a highly effective organization, a model worthy of emulation. Hayden Roberts, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.U.S. assistance helped improve ANAMA's operational explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capabilities, resulting in twice as much land being cleared in 2003 as was cleared in 2002. With funding from the European Commission, the Governments of Azerbaijan and Italy, and the UN Development Program, ANAMA was able to procure a Bozena-4 fl ail, and U.S. technical and financial support began integrating mechanical clearance systems into ANAMA's demining teams. In addition, based on the recommendations of the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), PM/WRA supported inclusion of mine risk education (MRE) into school curricula and began community based MRE in 2003. USEUCOM continued additional MRE and EOD training in 2004, including an MRE 'Train-the-Trainer' course at the Khanlar Regional HMA facility constructed with support from the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State. In FY05, the United States provided another $3,500,000 in mine action aid. Of this amount, $275,000 went towards training additional MDDs and $250,000 toward the integration of mechanical demining systems. USEUCOM HMA efforts in FY05 and FY06 continue to focus on developing ANAMA's EOD capacity and technical survey capability. Training 35 new UXO specialists with USEUCOM training support in 2005-2006 is giving ANAMA a dedicated capability to address the NATO Partnership for Peace-funded Explosive Remnant of War (ERW) clearance project at Saloglu. This $1.3 million project received a $300,000 U.S. contribution as well as USEUCOM training support. USEUCOM and the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency combined to provide ANAMA technical training and $137,000 worth of equipment to improve accuracy during the survey process. Additionally, over $200,000 worth of commercial satellite imagery of mineaffected areas will assist in prioritizing future demining efforts. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Humanitarian Demining Research and Development program has contributed the Rhino Earth tilling system to the ANAMA mechanical clearance program for a 16-month operational field evaluation. The Rhino Earth tilling system, training, and support represent a $2.3 million investment in terms of equipment, logistics, and operating costs and will augment ANAMA's existing mechanical capability. Also, DoD recently provided a remote controlled EODBOT to assist UXO specialists working at Saloglu to remove dangerous ERW without endangering human lives. This equipment will undergo a one-year operational field evaluation in Azerbaijan. In FY05, PM/WRA contributed $400,000 to a $1.3 million NATO Partnership-for-Peace Trust Fund project led by Turkey to clean up hazardous UXO around the former military base at Sologlu and the nearby towns of Agstafa and Poylu. This multilateral effort will allow civilians to reclaim the area for productive use.

Substantial U.S. government aid since late 2001 has added stability to ANAMA's HMA program, enhanced overall donor confidence, and improved the Agency's operational and management capabilities. Direct benefits to national reconstruction include clearance of water pipe and power line routes in the Fizuli District, enabling resettlement of at least 200 internally displaced families. EOD work in Agjabedi allowed 400 people to farm the land again safely. In conclusion, ANAMA has a detailed plan for eliminating the humanitarian impact of landmines and UXO from accessible regions of the country by 2008.


At the edge of a town, Bosnian deminers carefully check lanes in a forested area near a slope littered with debris. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.Flag of Bosnia-HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina has a substantial landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem, the result of 1992-1995 intrastate ethnic strife. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) has recorded more than 18,000 minefields, and believes that 670,000 landmines and 650,000 UXO items contaminate more than 2,000 square kilometers of land. A 2002-2003 Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) conducted by Handicap International France and funded by the United States, Canada, and the European Commission, revealed that 1,366 of 2,935 municipalities were affected by minefields and UXO to some degree; 154 municipalities were classified as "high impact," meaning daily life and reconstruction were significantly restricted by landmines. Refugees from the village of Saobracajni Fakultet in Vogosca Municipality, for example, were unable to return to their homes, because landmines not only impeded repatriation, but also prevented workers from entering the fields to farm or to repair power lines to restore electricity to the area. From November to December 2003, the village was demined with U.S. and local community funding, allowing refugees to return safely for the first time since the war.

The United States has supported humanitarian mine action (HMA) in Bosnia and Herzegovina since FY96. U.S. funding for HMA in the Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, shifted to the Slovenia-based International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance since the end of 1998. In FY04, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) allocated over $3.4 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina through the ITF and $500,000 was provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The United States invested $3.83 million more in FY05, including $3,000,000 from the ITF, and $500,000 from the CDC. The ITF finances various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in HMA activities, and Bosnian government efforts under the direction of BHMAC. Some NGO projects funded by PM/WRA through the ITF include the Landmine Survivors Network's survivors assistance and peer advocacy programs, Spirit of Soccer's mine risk education, and diverse mine clearance operations identified and prioritized by BHMAC. CDC contributions were applied to social reintegration of landmine survivors.

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina initiated funding for BHMAC in 2004, paying $240,000 for overhead and maintenance. This demonstrated the Bosnian government's commitment to HMA and reinforced donor confidence. The United States and private and public donors have sustained the Bosnian HMA program, which is scheduled to enable the country to be free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impact-free") by 2010. Significant progress has been made towards this end, with the LIS enhancing BHMAC's ability to develop very effective mine action plans. In addition, the Mine Detection Dog Center for South East Europe (see page 46), established in cooperation with the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina with PM/WRA funding, is now self-sustainable and can train new mine detecting dogs for deployment throughout the region.


Flag of CroatiaCroatia has a serious landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem stemming from its 1991- 1995 war with the former Yugoslavia. The Croatian Mine Action Center (CROMAC), Croatia's central mine action coordinating agency, originally estimated that minefields covered approximately 1,355 square kilometers of land in 14 of Croatia's 21 counties. Thanks to the efforts of the United States and other donors, as well as the Government of Croatia's own considerable contributions, mine contamination was reduced to 1,174 square kilometers in 2005. Since late 1998, the U.S. Department of State has contributed to humanitarian mine action in the Balkans region, including Croatia, through the International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance based in Slovenia. InFY04, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) allocated $2 million in ITF funds to Croatia to support mine action. In FY05, PM/WRA contributed $2.3 million more. Examples of clearance operations are reclamation of 180,500 square meters of farmland around Donje Komarevo, and 34,530 square meters of land surrounding an elementary school in Gorice in the Municipality of Dragalic´┐Ż. In 2004, CROMAC completed an assessment of landmines and UXO. The report's findings will update the Center's database of information on minefields provided by the former parties to the 1991-1995 conflict. The new data will be incorporated into Croatia's developing national mine action strategy, which previously aimed for "mine free" status (cleared of every landmine) by 2010. In 2004, with U.S. support, national and private donors (such as Adopt-A-Minefield and Roots of Peace), and the contributions of many non-governmental organizations, commercial operators, and Croatian civilian and military deminers, the Government of Croatia declares Bilogorska as mine impact-free, the first of Croatia's 14 mine-affected counties to achieve this status.


This SETCO hard tire, used by The HALO Trust in Georgia, Sri Lanka, and other mine-affected countries, has a  unique series of openings that help these tires withstand repeated blasts from anti-personnel landmines before they must be replaced. These tough tires are among the many devices that the U.S. Department of Defense's Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program has either modified from commercial use or prototyped and then offered for no-cost field testing. The HALO Trust.Flag of GeorgiaA July 2004 Advanced Survey Mission conducted by the Survey Action Center and funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) determined that the vast majority of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Georgia are in Abkhazia, a region affected by separatist activities since the 1992-1993 civil conflict. Substantial minefields also exist along portions of Georgia's borders and in the Pankisi Gorge, a valley to the north of Tbilisi. Former Soviet military installations are also contaminated by mines, UXO and abandoned ordnance (AO). The absence of a formal resolution to the Abkhaz conflict impedes humanitarian mine action (HMA) activities, while mines, UXO and AO hinder national reconstruction and development efforts.

In FY04, PM/WRA and the U.S. Department of Defense provided $1,504,000 in HMA funding to address the landmine and UXO problem in Abkhazia. The HALO Trust received $1,500,000 from PM/WRA to support four additional manual clearance teams (for a total of nine teams), a minefield marking/ survey team, an explosive ordnance disposal team, a mine risk education team, and the maintenance of six armored tractors. The HALO Trust continues demining operations in Abkhazia and has undertaken the task of clearing high-priority areas. The U.S. military, in coordination with The HALO Trust, is currently completing field evaluations of SETCO "hard" tires that are used with mechanical clearance equipment. In FY05, the United States provided $3,000,000 to The HALO Trust to conduct further mine action in Georgia. The funds enabled HALO's operational capacity to increase from nine to 30 manual demining teams in addition to supporting nine mechanical clearance units.

Persistent landmines, booby traps, and improvised explosive devices from past conflicts can also be a problem in urban areas, often rendering valuable infrastructure unusable. For example, portions of the Babushara Airport in Georgia were infested with landmines and had to be cleared by The HALO Trust under a PM/WRA grant. The HALO Trust.

Since 1997, PM/WRA support for demining, executed by The HALO Trust, has gone far to reopen roads to local commerce and to restore access to lands for farming and grazing. From 2001 to July 2004, The HALO Trust cleared a total of 6,892,235 square meters of land in high-impact areas and offered mine risk education materials to more than 46,000 people. Due in part to comprehensive HMA efforts by The HALO Trust and other organizations, casualties from mine accidents in Abkhazia decreased from an estimated 50 to 60 in 1994 to five in 2003. The U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Research and Development Program provided HALO Trust with $40,000 for the field evaluations of SETCO "hard" tires, used for mechanical clearance equipment. Abkhazia is projected to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines and UXO ("impact free") in 2007.

The HALO Trust uses an armored vehicle with a heavy roller attachment to perform 'area reduction' in Georgia. A PMN-2 anti-personnel landmine, visible in the foreground, was destroyed less than a minute after this photo was taken. The HALO Trust. 

A mobile crushing machine crushes and processes earth contaminated with landmines and then deposits clean soil at the end of the conveyer belt. In the background, an armored tractor travels to a nearby location to scoop more topsoil and have it similarly processed. The HALO Trust operates both pieces of equipment in Georgia. The HALO Trust.


Flag of KazakhstanKazakhstan inherited a large stockpile of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) from the Soviet military with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan found that its arsenals were filled with weapons that would never be used for a war that would not be fought. In 2005, the government of Kazakhstan determined several thousand SA/LW to be in excess of its defense needs and requested assistance, through the NATO Partnership-for-Peace Trust Fund, for destruction of more than 26,000 weapons, from AK-47s to shoulder-fired missiles. The United States agreed to take on lead-nation responsibility and provided $295,000 in FY05 funds. As of this printing, NATO has accomplished a feasibility study, and the Netherlands has agreed to become a donor nation.


Flag of Serbia and MontenegroThis sea (anti-ship) mine from a past conflict, discovered off the coast of Montenegro by special divers from the RCUD, is carefully brought to the surface for safe disposal. Humanitarian mine action normally focuses on persistent landmines and other explosive remnants of war found on land.  However, sea mines and UXO, such as bombs that remain in rivers, lakes and littoral zones, also pose a threat to commercial shipping, fishing, yachting, and recreational use, and must be removed and rendered safe or destroyed as well. Regional Center for Underwater Demining.Serbia and Montenegro are affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines, which also contaminate key waterways, mostly as a result of the 1991-1995 civil war following the breakup of Yugoslavia. The presence of these deadly remnants of war has markedly hindered the post-conflict reconstruction efforts of Serbia and Montenegro and international agencies, while small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) accumulated during the war may now pose a threat to public safety.

In FY04, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) contributed $1,021,000 in humanitarian mine action to Serbia and Montenegro through the Slovenian International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance. This funding focused mainly on UXO clearance operations in Belgrade and on the Montenegrin coast. The Regional Center for Underwater Demining (RCUD) (see page 47) in Bijela, Herceg Novi, Montenegro, plays a critical role in reducing the UXO threat to commercial fishing, tourism, and maritime commerce. The State Department has also provided $1,792,000 since FY01 in assistance to help Serbia and Montenegro reduce excess SA/LW stockpiles remaining from the conflict. In FY05, PM/WRA provided $1,000,000 more to continue the implementation of these programs.

Neither the Mine Action Center for Serbia and Montenegro (SMAC) nor the RCUD has conducted a general survey or a formal Landmine Impact Survey, but they envision removing most UXO and landmines from the country by 2014. The recent establishment of SMAC and a draft multi-year mine action plan should lead to increased synchronization, management, and oversight of clearance operations. The RCUD has rapidly developed into not only an underwater demining training center for Serbia and Montenegro, but also a source of expertise and training for the entire Balkans region. It is estimated that mine action efforts will be completed in Montenegro by 2010 and in Serbia by 2014.