Iraq is one of the most severely mine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) afflicted nations in the world. Iraq’s landmine and UXO problem is a consequence of over three decades of conflict: the 1980–88 Iraq-Iran War, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the current Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign. The Iraq Landmine Impact Survey estimates that landmines cover an area of 727 square kilometers and UXO-contaminated areas cover an estimated 851 square kilometers. In addition, it is suspected that hundreds of cached and abandoned ordnance sites exist throughout the country, sites that not only pose an immediate humanitarian risk but also serve as a ready source of explosives for terrorists and insurgents.
In FY2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State invested over $21 million in humanitarian mine action and conventional weapons-destruction projects in Iraq. These funds were awarded to RON CO Consulting Corporation to provide technical assistance to the Iraq Mine & UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to fund a combination of minefield and battle-area clearance operations and explosive ordnance disposal/small arms and light weapons destruction missions. In addition, PM/WRA supported the Information Management and Mine Action Program in ERW/mine survey and data management operations as well as a pilot victim-assistance project in northern Iraq.
Furthermore, funds were provided to the Montgomery Village (Maryland) chapter of Rotary International for the Basra, Iraq Prosthetics Project and to the United Nations Development Programme–Iraq for its institutional development support. Similarly, donations were provided to the Marshall Legacy Institute to re-establish an indigenous mine-detection dog program in northern Iraq and to Spirit of Soccer for a mine-risk education project in Baghdad. These programs contribute to post-battle operations, improve the humanitarian environment for returning populations (especially children), and increase prospects for donor and Iraqi budget-funded economic development by clearing land for agricultural and other economic use.
In FY 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program provided MAG with excavator attachments and a front-loader attachment for operational field evaluations. The assistance, valued at $120,000, included support to repair and improve a vehicle-mounted portable sifting system.
A MAG deminer attaches a charger to a Valmara 69 mine, found commonly in northern Iraq.
A MAG deminer uncovers a mine in northern Iraq.
To provide mine-risk education (MRE) in Jordan, in FY2008 the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State granted $250,430 to the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) to continue its MRE project, which began in 2006. The key output of this project is a theatrical play that provides intensive MRE to a total of 100,000 at-risk people in northern Jordan.
Performance of “We Love Life” in Al Baej, Al-Mafraq governorate, Jordan.
MRE-themed murals on walls of the Jaber Center for Social Development in Al Baej.
Local boys paint murals in Al Baej, Al-Mafraq governorate, Jordan.
Much of Lebanon has been contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) since the beginning of its civil war in 1975 through the 2006 Israeli–Hezbollah conflict. South Lebanon is the most ERW-affected region in the country due to the 2006 conflict. In 2003, a Landmine Impact Survey estimated that 22 of 24 districts in Lebanon were affected by unexploded ordnance and landmines, spanning 150 square kilometers. A National Level II Technical Survey was scheduled to resume in 2008, with the goal of acquiring the most up-to-date picture of the landmine and ERW threat in Lebanon, and to provide essential data needed to remove the threat, but the survey was delayed due to poor weather conditions.
In FY2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State granted $3,137,262 to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to improve the livelihoods and physical security of 10 communities in South Lebanon affected by ERW. This was achieved through the continued deployment of nine fully equipped and accredited battle-area clearance (BAC) teams for the first seven months, with 11 teams working on 30 BAC tasks for the final three months.
DynCorp International was awarded $1,615,106 to continue to develop the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) to integrate all aspects of humanitarian mine action effectively, complete a Level II Technical Survey of all suspected minefields, mark all minefields found by the Level II Survey, and establish a quality assurance/quality control cell and a conventional weapons destruction team within the LMAC.
In addition, PM/WRA granted $59,049 to the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) to provide six trained mine-detection dogs by spring 2009 to replace retiring mine-detection dogs working for the LMAC. MLI was granted an additional $52,762 for its Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) in Lebanon. The primary goal of the CHAMPS grant is to connect students in America with like-minded students in Lebanon to promote awareness of the landmine/UXO issue and to generate funding.
In FY2008, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) granted $299,556 to Mercy Corps, in partnership with the Youth Association for the Blind in Lebanon and the Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union, to increase inclusion of persons with disabilities, including landmine survivors, in Lebanon’s social and economic development. Also in FY2008, USAID continued its support of Lebanon with an ongoing grant of $1,500,000 to the World Rehabilitation Fund.
Yemeni girl in the southern city of Aden selling homemade bracelets. Most of U.S. government demining efforts are concentrated in the Aden area.