U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: The Middle East
World War II and three decades of conflict have left Iraq with a significant landmine, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and abandoned ordnance (AO) problem. Following the initial military phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Department of State's Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF), RONCO Consulting Corporation (a U.S. contractor), and a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Norwegian People's Aid, and others rapidly began clearing landmines and UXO throughout Iraq.
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 $61,164,852 to Iraq in humanitarian mine action (HMA) assistance: $44 million funded RONCO explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations supporting the former Coalition Provision Authority, and $10,769,380 went to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for mine clearance in northern and southern Iraq. In addition, PM/WRA granted $3,064,627 for a joint project by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and MAG to undertake a mine impact survey and assess the effects of landmines on the lives of the Iraqi people. In order to enhance an indigenous demining capability, another grant of $345,812 went to Cranfield University (U.K.) to provide mid-level management training for Iraqi Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officers. Finally, PM/WRA provided 47 technical advisors to the newly established Iraq National Mine Action Agency and the Iraq Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO), a local demining , non-governmental organization (NGO) that has cleared mines and UXO around Baghdad, Najaf, and Basra. In FY05, the United States allocated another $2,840,000 to fund continuing programs in HMA. To date, the U.S. Department of Defense has supplemented PM/WRA funding with more than $1.6 million for EOD training of Iraqi National Guard personnel.
The aforementioned projects followed similar, previous U.S. efforts to help Iraq overcome its legacy of landmines, UXO and AO. The QRDF cleared land surrounding downed power lines, enabling Iraqi crews to repair the electrical grid and restore power to more than three million Iraqis living in Baghdad. These urgent reconstruction projects were paired with longer-term capacity building programs that trained Iraqi EOD teams with a full complement of demining equipment and mine detecting dogs; established the first National Mine Action Authority and Regional Mine Action Centers in Iraq's history; and helped establish IMCO, Iraq's first mine action NGO. Iraqi capacity was further enhanced with the complete transfer of UN mine action assets in northern Iraq to Iraqi control in November 2003. The Government of Iraq faces further challenges in dealing with mines and UXO, particularly with insurgent use of improvised explosive devices against its own forces and civilians, and Coalition personnel. The U.S. remains committed to provide the requisite assistance to eliminate the humanitarian impact of landmines and UXO on the lives of the people of Iraq.
According to Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) engineers, nearly 310,000 landmines, most dating from the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, were emplaced in an area of 100 square kilometers. Although the landmine problem is not as extensive in Jordan as it is in some other countries in the Middle East, the landmine threat has been exacerbated by 30 years of erosion, shifting sands, and other environmental factors. After creating a national demining program on its own initiative in 1993, Jordan cleared and destroyed more than 99,800 landmines and reclaimed nearly 12.4 square kilometers of arable land. JAF engineers have focused much of their energy and attention on the fertile Jordan River valley so that farmers can safely return to their fields.
In FY04, Jordan received $1,350,000 from the United States, including $950,000 from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) for the purchase of demining equipment provided by RONCO Consulting Corporation, a PM/WRA U.S. contractor, and $400,000 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mine survivors assistance, such as the peer support activities of the Landmine Survivors Network (LSN). LSN, a non-governmental organization co-sponsored by Queen Noor, is a PM/WRA Public-Private Partner in mine action. The U.S. believes that Jordan can achieve the goal of becoming free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impactfree") by 2010. Given Jordan's proven effectiveness and its rate of progress in mine action, the U.S. completed its mine action capacity building aid there at the end of 2005.
The threat of improvised explosive devices, as well as persistent landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), has left Lebanon with an unusually diverse and complex problem. Moreover, dangerous areas continue to be discovered and tasked for clearance, as demining progresses throughout the country. In FY04, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund (USAID/LWVF) provided a total of $2,816,000 for humanitarian mine action (HMA) in Lebanon.
In addition to purchasing equipment and spare parts for mechanized demining, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) supported the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in clearing 161,810 square meters of land and restoring access to roads, water, power lines, and farms. Furthermore, PM/WRA gave a $61,300 grant to the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation to assist Lebanon's National Demining Office in establishing a planning and prioritization process for its humanitarian mine action program. In FY05, the United States funded $2,300,000 more in mine action aid. Of this amount, $700,000 went towards the purchase of vehicles for the Lebanese program. In addition, $800,000 was allocated to conduct a technical survey of the entire country and properly mark minefields.
The U.S. Department of Defense's U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) also contributed to HMA in Lebanon by deploying U.S. Army personnel to train and equip 50 LAF manual deminers. The U.S. provided the demining unit with personal protective equipment, mine detectors, and communications gear. Furthermore, U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Technicians trained nearly 60 LAF UXO disposal specialists, while the U.S. Army 4th Psychological Operations Group trained 300 Lebanese public school teachers in mine risk education. The U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) assumed the Lebanon HMA mission in March 2005; U.S. Navy SCUBA trainers and EOD technicians established a $520,000 program for the LAF, training 23 personnel in basic SCUBA, advanced dive medicine, dive supervisor, and underwater UXO disposal during the summer and fall. The underwater UXO program included the purchase of $300,000 worth of new basic SCUBA equipment which was procured for the LAF trainers.
Finally, with USAID support, the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF) manages the "Expanding Economic Opportunities for Survivors of Landmines in the District of Jizzine in South Lebanon" program, designed to foster economic inclusion of war-affected individuals. Through this initiative, landmine survivors engage in income-generating activities such as egg production, bee keeping, honey processing, and other competitive agricultural enterprises. Beneficiaries are involved as stakeholders in a legal resource cooperative that provides employment opportunities and management, marketing, and product processing services. In FY05, USAID provided the WRF with $830,000 in additional assistance.
The Lebanese government has further developed its HMA strategy, and has successfully obtained international assistance from more than 20 donors, in addition to UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. With sustained U.S. and international support, it is estimated that Lebanon will soon have its own independent demining capability.
Armed factions in Yemen's three civil wars between 1962 and 1994 mined large tracts of borderland and city outskirts. Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have caused more than 5,000 casualties in the past decade and have significantly impacted the country's agricultural industry, the primary source of income for more than half the population. UXO could be a double threat, if terrorists recover and reuse them.
In FY04, Yemen received approximately $773,000 from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) to purchase demining equipment, $550,000 of which was used to purchase locally-manufactured equipment. PM/WRA is also supporting the country's humanitarian demining efforts by procuring equipment and vehicles for eight companies of Yemeni deminers. In addition, PM/WRA and the U.S. Navy have planned the renovation of a regional mine action branch office in Mukallah. As demining teams move east along the coastline and farther from Aden, the Mukallah branch office will be able to keep the deminers continuously equipped and supplied. In FY05, PM/WRA provided $750,000 to purchase additional equipment and supplies for Yemen's mine action program. U.S. Central Command's Yemen HMA program is managed by U.S. Navy personnel. In FY05 U.S. Navy medics provided mine survivor assistance medical upgrade training to 20 members of Yemen's 8th Demining Company.
The Yemeni mine action program has been enormously successful since its inception in 2001, removing more than 182,000 UXO and landmines, and reclaiming more than two million square meters of land. Yemen's National Mine Action Center has cleared all the communities considered "high impact," and one-third of the medium-impact areas, having removed landmines that significantly altered daily activities. Given the Yemeni program's clear and realistic vision, which was enabled by a landmark national Landmine Impact Survey supported in part by the United States, the U.S. believes that the country may become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impact-free") by 2009.