2014 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Middle East and North Africa
A mine detection dog (MDD) “Barrett” and his handler Abass, take a break from training activities in Iraq. MDD “Barrett” is named after a fallen U.S. soldier and is sponsored by Robbie Goodman and the Gleneig Country School. [Photo courtesy of Damir Jamakovic]
In the Middle East and North Africa, citizen movements have toppled multiple regimes since the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring. Other countries in the region continue to struggle with internal security issues and regional instability. Ongoing violence in countries like Libya and Syria is linked to the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Additionally, explosive remnants of war (ERW) from past and ongoing conflicts plague the lives of many of the regions’ inhabitants. Since the March 2011 uprising began, Syria has witnessed a growing number of deaths and injuries caused by ERW and landmines. The humanitarian impact of the civil war in Syria has not been restricted to the country’s borders. According to recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2.6 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries—Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Assistance to weapons destruction programs will remain critical to regional stability and prosperity. This assistance has led to successful outcomes in recent years: In April 2012, with support from the United States and the international community, Jordan became the first country in the Middle East to declare itself free from the impact of known minefields. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $390 million in conventional weapons destruction funding, an essential component to building stable societies, to the Middle East and North Africa.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) present daily hazards to the Iraqi civilian population. Two Landmine Impact Surveys from 2006 and 2011 reported that an estimated 1,513,000,000 square meters (584 square miles) of land in Iraq contain as many as 20 million landmines and millions more pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO). As many as 1,430 Iraqi cities, towns and villages remain at risk from explosive hazards. Agricultural land is particularly affected by landmines and UXO, which makes clearance an economic necessity for communities intent on regaining their livelihoods. Large stocks of abandoned ordnance and unstable, poorly secured munitions stockpiles also threaten Iraq’s population by providing a supply of explosive materials for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Since FY2003, the United States has invested more than $258.9 million in Iraq for the clearance and disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess conventional weapons and munitions.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided more than $23.7 million in support of Iraq for programs that cleared landmines and UXO and provided mine risk education (MRE) and victim assistance as follows:
• Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP) delivered six workshops and 13 training courses and trained 128 students in information management, data collection, and mapping. In addition, iMMAP trained 50 rehabilitation technicians to treat thousands of landmine, UXO, and IED survivors.
• Iraq Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) engaged four technical advisers and provided landmine and UXO clearance remediation in central and southern Iraq. Since May 2012, IMCO returned more than 3.3 million square meters (815 acres) of land to communities through quality control checks and clearance methodologies. In addition, IMCO conducted technical and nontechnical surveys of over 1.8 million square meters (445 acres) of land, and located and handed over almost 2,000 landmines and pieces of UXO to the Iraq Ministry of Defense for destruction.
• Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University, working with relevant partners, received a grant to implement arts-based MRE and train-the-trainer programs for Syrian refugees who have migrated to northern Iraq during the recent conflict.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) cleared minefields and performed battle area clearance. MAG returned more than two million square meters (494 acres) of land to local communities for agriculture and economic development in northern and central Iraq.
• Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) provided four new, fully-trained and certified mine detection dogs to IMCO for in-country clearance teams. MLI also linked three American schools to three Iraqi schools through Children Against Mines Programs to promote MRE in the schools and provide medical assistance to young survivors in Basra and the surrounding area.
• Norwegian People’s Aid assisted the Regional Mine Action Center-South (RMAC-S) in fulfilling its role as a regulatory body able to coordinate and monitor mine action activities by providing technical advisers to RMAC-S. The project enabled RMAC-S to implement non-technical surveys designed to provide a more accurate picture of the mine and ERW situation in southern Iraq.
• Spirit of Soccer started innovative projects using soccer as a means to promote education and outreach to children about risks from landmines and UXO.
Also in FY2013, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program provided $160,000 in funds and new technology to support mine action assistance in Iraq. Iraq continued operations in FY2013 with previously provided technology valued at $300,000.
In FY2013, in partnership with MAG, HD R&D continued evaluations of several excavator sifting attachments, a stand-alone orbital sifter, and a commercial front-loader attachment. These technologies were used to clear villages and agricultural areas that have been mine-affected for more than 20 years. To date, the equipment has sifted 147,000 cubic meters (192,267 cubic yards) of contaminated soil and uncovered or destroyed 2,000 mines and pieces of UXO. This equipment consistently locates mines where manual clearance or mine detection dogs are not feasible, and MAG would be unable to complete and hand over many of the sites without it.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate Jordan from the 1948 partition of Palestine, the 1967–1969 Arab-Israeli conflict, the 1970 civil war, and the 1975 conflict with Syria. Military records indicate as many as 305,000 mines were laid in 60 million square meters (more than 23 square miles) in Jordan. The country also faces a significant problem from buried or hidden caches of weapons, munitions, and other ordnance left from the 1970 conflict between the Jordanian Armed Forces and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Syrian refugees in Irbid, Jordan, participate in the PM/WRA-funded Spirit of Soccer and mine risk education (MRE) clinic at a local school. Each child receives a posted and school notebook that features internationally recognized soccer stars reinforcing the MRE message. [Photo courtesy of Spirit of Soccer]
In the late 1990s, Jordan began a serious effort to rid itself of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). With support from the United States and the international community, Jordan became the first country in the region to declare itself free from the impact of known minefields. The country also faces substantial challenges related to an influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. While official refugee camps are concentrated along the northern border, many refugees have taken up residence in cities and communities throughout Jordan.
Since 1993, United States funding to Jordan has exceeded $26.8 million. Projects receiving these funds have assisted in the clearance of landmines and UXO, provided explosive risk education and victim assistance, secured or destroyed surplus or obsolete munitions, and supported survey and verification of suspected hazardous areas.
In FY2013, work continued on several projects funded in FY2012. Additionally, PM/WRA provided $1.2 million for support to Jordan for the following:
• Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University received a grant to provide landmine and explosive risk education for displaced Syrians living in Jordanian communities. The program, which will be implemented in 2014, includes art projects and other expressive methods of educating the population about risks they may encounter upon return to communities in Syria.
• National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation received funding to provide quality management support to verification and survey activities along the northern border and in the Jordan River Valley. This project was a continuation of a FY2012 project with no additional FY2013 funding.
• NATO Support Agency, in cooperation with the Jordanian Armed Forces, continued a program in Jordan for the demilitarization and destruction of surplus, unserviceable, and obsolete man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and other advanced conventional weapons. This project was a continuation of a FY2012 project with no additional FY2013 funding.
• Norwegian People’s Aid continued mine clearance in the northern border area and, following deterioration in security along the border, in the Jordan River Valley. This project was a continuation of a FY2012 project with no additional FY2013 funding.
• Spirit of Soccer continued mine and explosive risk education through soccer and sport activities for displaced Syrians in northern Jordan, anticipating the return of civilians to Syria.
• The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development provided prosthetics and rehabilitation services for landmine and ERW survivors at four centers in Jordan.
Various types of explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate Lebanon from the 1975–1991 civil war and the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict of 2006. Over 112 million square meters (43 square miles) of territory remained contaminated at the end of 2011 according to the Lebanese Mine Action Center. Since 1975, landmines and ERW have killed an estimated 900 people and injured thousands more.
Since 1993, U.S. funding to Lebanon has exceeded $52.1 million, including $10 million in emergency assistance provided in response to the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. The threat from ERW in southern Lebanon had a particularly large impact on the socioeconomic development of that region, and clearance remains a priority in communities and around vital infrastructure. The influx of refugees from Syria has impacted this development, drawing on important resources and swelling communities living near contaminated areas.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $2.5 million to Lebanon for programs that cleared landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and provided risk education and victim assistance to at-risk populations as follows:
• DanChurchAid assisted with clearance activities in southern Lebanon.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) continued clearance activities in contaminated former battle areas.
• Handicap International assisted with clearance priorities and provided risk education in communities in northern Lebanon.
• Marshall Legacy Institute provided mine detection dogs (MDD) and MDD support to clearance activities as well as victim assistance to survivors.
Also in FY2013, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program provided $80,000 to support mine action assistance in Lebanon. Lebanon continued using previously provided technology valued at $540,000.
HD R&D continued multiple technology evaluations in Lebanon with MAG in FY2013. MAG is evaluating several soil excavation, sifting, and grinding attachments on its own armored excavators. In addition, the Terrapin small excavator is speeding manual clearance by cutting and removing thick vegetation and excavating rocky areas to expose ordnance. Together the technologies have cleared 108,000 square meters (26.7 acres) and found 1,577 mines and items of UXO.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contaminate Libya from conflicts dating back to World War II. More recently, the 2011 revolution resulted in the loss of control of stockpiles of Qadhafi-era arms and munitions. Additionally, NATO bombing during Operation Unified Protector damaged numerous ammunition storage areas (ASA), scattering explosive remnants of war (ERW) in surrounding areas. The majority of ASAs are outside the control of the Libyan government, complicating efforts to compile comprehensive stockpile records. The survey and assessment of Libyan arms and ammunition remains a priority in identifying the full magnitude of weapons proliferation within the region.
Since May 2011, the United States has coordinated with the Libyan government to conduct conventional weapons destruction (CWD) with a focus on man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) as well as landmine and ERW removal. In 2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) awarded $5.75 million to provide rapid assessment of the amount of ordnance in Libya during and after the revolution. In FY2012, the DOS Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation’s (ISN) Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) assigned $17.8 million for methodical inventory and destruction of MANPADS. However, Libya’s interim government was unable to determine who had authority over the numerous ASAs and therefore unable to provide access.
In the first quarter of FY2013, PM/WRA closed $4 million in contracts funded by ISN/NDF with Sterling Global, which supported rapid assessments and the establishment and development of the Libyan Mine Action Center (LMAC). PM/WRA estimates that final funding for these contracts totaled nearly $10 million, of which $8.5 million ($6 million of donor funding from allied nations, $2.5 from ISN/NDF) was granted in FY2012 and $1.5 million from ISN/NDF in FY2013.
In addition, PM/WRA granted more than $1.7 million from ISN/ NDF funding to support the work of the following organizations in Libya in FY2013:
• Fondation Suisse de Deminagé (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD) technical advisers and local teams surveyed, inventoried, and disposed of weapons and munitions at designated ASAs in Waddan and western Libya.
• ITF Enhancing Human Security continued its efforts to build the capacity of LMAC through training of LMAC personnel in CWD, mine and UXO clearance, technical assistance, and management best practices.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) technical advisers and local teams surveyed, inventoried, and disposed of weapons and munitions in ASAs in Garyan, Misratah, and Zintan. They also cleared ERW and provided stockpile management in the al-Jufrah region.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate Yemen as a result of various conflicts since 1962 including a civil war in 1994 and the intermittent Huthi rebellion in the northern governorate of Sa’dah. The armed conflict between Islamic Ansar Al-Sharee’ah insurgents and government troops began in 2009 and erupted into high-intensity conflict during mid-2011. This al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) affiliated organization left behind improvised explosive devices interspersed with older unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines when it withdrew from southern Yemen in 2012. ERW remain a threat to the local civilian population and Yemen’s stabilization efforts. The prevalence of extremist groups, proximity to the Horn of Africa, and fragile government structure complicated the country’s peace-building efforts.
From FY1993 through FY2013, the United States invested more than $23.2 million in conventional weapons disposal (CWD) and humanitarian mine action in Yemen. As of December 2010, clearance was complete in all 14 Yemeni communities that were highly affected by landmines and ERW, except for three minefields subject to permanent marking. Clearance was also completed in 81 of the 86 medium-affected communities. Additionally, 89,201 anti-personnel mines, 716 anti-tank mines, and 190,564 items of UXO were cleared from 783 square kilometers (302 square miles) of land.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $2 million to Yemen for the following programs:
• United Nations Development Programme built the capacity of the existing Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) with equipment, training, and management support. Funds also provided medical care, mine/ERW clearance, mine risk education (MRE), and reintegration support and facilities for landmine/UXO survivors.
• Marshall Legacy Institute received funding for the Children Against Mines Program, the Mine Detection Dog Partnership Program, and victim assistance programs. These programs partnered with the Yemeni Association of Landmine Survivors and YEMAC to provide MRE, medical assistance, and rehabilitative care to landmine survivors.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate the Palestinian Territories after decades of conflict that first began in 1948. The landmine and ERW threat has increased steadily throughout the various conflicts and now includes some 90 minefields identified in a 2012 survey of the West Bank, although the exact amount of contamination is unknown. The Jordanian military laid landmines from 1948 to 1967 and the Israeli military laid landmines following the 1967 war. Today, the Israel Defense Force conducts training exercises in parts of the West Bank and the local population often discovers new ERW contamination while farming or herding.
A deminer works in a gravel field adjoining cultivated land in the West Bank. [Photo courtesy of HALO]
Following a series of grants to The HALO Trust (HALO) from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA), HALO initiated clearance efforts in April 2014. As clearance progresses, PM/WRA anticipates supplementing resources to address this pressing humanitarian and security problem.
Since 2011, the United States has provided more than $1.4 million to various programs to advance peace and human security in the West Bank through efficient, neutral, and needs-focused risk education, outreach, and mine action.
In FY2013, PM/WRA granted more than $500,000 to programs that provided clearance and presented risk education and community outreach to at-risk populations as follows:
• HALO prepared for clearance activities and promoted risk education in affected communities.
In FY2013, PM/WRA provided $55,000 to support the Iraq-Syria Planning Conference. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining hosted the three-day workshop which convened implementing partners, international donors, local nongovernmental organizations, and Iraqi government officials to discuss conventional weapons destruction activities and planning in Iraq and Syria.