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Diplomacy in Action

2010 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Asia


Report
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
July 1, 2010

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Asia is the largest continent and home to 60 percent of the world’s population. Each war-affected country has a slightly different story about how it came to be contaminated by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, but the results are the same—people continue to be injured or killed long after the conflict ends, leaving a large population of survivors who require substantial support and assistance.

Afghanistan

Date: 10/2008 Description: Afghanistan: As a result of a mine-risk education class, these girls from Samangan province now know to avoid explosive remnants of war and to report them to the proper authorities to prevent injuries, October 2008.  © Heather Fassio
AFGHANISTAN: As a result of a mine-risk education class, these girls from Samangan province now know to avoid explosive remnants of war and to report them to the proper authorities to prevent injuries. October 2008. [© Heather Fassio]
Afghanistan has endured conflict since 1979 and remains severely affected by landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and other loosely secured or illicit conventional weapons and munitions. The widespread, indiscriminate use of mines during more than 30 years of conflict has turned Afghanistan into one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Insurgent elements in the South continue to use landmines and explosive remnants of war (ER W) as improvised devices to target civilians and shape battlefield movements. The threats remain: An average of 50 civilian casualties occurs each month and mine-action implementing partners are often attacked by insurgents in the South, West, and East. Although the Mine Action Program in Afghanistan has cleared almost two-thirds of all suspected hazardous areas to date, vast amounts of land remain contaminated due to lack of capacity, ongoing conflict, and inaccessibility due to difficult terrain and deteriorating infrastructure.

Date: 2010 Description: Women teachers participate in an awareness training session in Kabul, Afghanistan. © UNICEF, Shehzad Noorani
Women teachers participate in an awareness training session in Kabul, AFGHANISTAN. [UNICEF, Shehzad Noorani]
Despite the challenges, a positive development in U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has been the creation of community-based demining initiatives. Unlike most mine-action projects in Afghanistan where trained deminers come from elsewhere to remove landmines and UXO, community-based demining utilizes a local workforce that is recruited, trained, and employed by Afghan nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), in close partnership with community leaders, to survey and clear explosives. These projects can last for several months, providing income and economic opportunity to hundreds of families. When this community-based demining project ends, follow-on agricultural and vocational training, as well as immediate development projects, can commence, allowing locals to capitalize on their cleared land and an available labor force with new job skills. Since these demining projects are planned, coordinated, and run in conjunction with local tribal leadership from the beginning, community priorities are taken into account before a project is initiated.

In FY2009, funding to Afghanistan by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) totaled nearly $27.85 million. This funding supported the following:

Date: 10/2008 Description: Personal protection vest worn by a deminer in Afghanistan, October 2008.  © Heather Fassio Personal protection vest worn by a deminer in AFGHANISTAN. October 2008. [© Heather Fassio]

• $15.45 million to five Afghan NGOs—Afghan Technical Consultants, Mine Clearance Planning Agency, Demining Agency for Afghanistan, Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation, and the Mine Detection Center—to conduct sustained clearance operations, develop host-nation management and technical capacity, provide vocational training, and develop new community-based demining initiatives that partner with village elders and employ local staff in some of the most difficult and dangerous environments in Afghanistan.

• Nearly $7.2 million to DynCorp International to assist with the operation of seven Afghan Conventional Weapons Destruction teams, technical assistance, and host-nation management and technical capacity development.

• $3.89 million to international NGOs, including The HALO Trust (HALO), NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, the Information Management Mine Action Program, and the Marshall Legacy Institute, to continue their work in Afghanistan.

• $1.31 million to Clear Path International (CPI) to implement a victim-assistance (VA) and community-based physical and socioeconomic rehabilitation program for ERW accident survivors and persons with disabilities. CPI partners with more than six Afghan NGOs that work in the disability and VA sectors.

In FY2009, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program, in partnership with HALO, continued evaluations of equipment valued at $520,000. The equipment includes the Orbit Screen, which sifts mine-contaminated soil, several sifting excavator attachments, and the Mantis, an armored area-preparation and mine-clearance tractor. The Mantis system includes a suite of tools for breaking up soil, reducing metal clutter, sifting soil, and rolling suspect areas. More than 20,000 mines have been recovered or destroyed in operations supported by the Mantis. The sifting technologies continue to clear mines in high-priority tasks in villages and agricultural areas throughout Afghanistan.

Cambodia

Date: 2010 Description: This is the prototype mold that will be used to see if molding explosives can be a viable option to create explosive charges. The mold cuts down on production costs and time as it preforms the end product into its exact size and weight required by the deminers, instead of the current method which involves pouring the explosives into a pan and cutting them into 'brownies.'  © Golden West Humanitarian Foundation Date: 2010 Description: This is the first test run of the new explosive molding system using inert resin as a casting agent instead of live explosives. Initial tests showed good results as the charges were released from the mold easily and still retained a lot of the detail within the mold and its engravings.  © Golden West Humanitarian Foundation LEFT: This is the prototype mold that will be used to see if molding explosives can be a viable option to create explosive charges. The mold cuts down on production costs and time as it preforms the end product into its exact size and weight required by the deminers, instead of the current method which involves pouring the explosives into a pan and cutting them into “brownies.” RIGHT: This is the first test run of the new explosive molding system using inert resin as a casting agent instead of live explosives. Initial tests showed good results as the charges were released from the mold easily and still retained a lot of the detail within the mold and its engravings. [Golden West Humanitarian Foundation]
As a result of nearly three decades of conflict, Cambodia continues to be one of the most severely landmine- and explosive remnants-of-war (ER W) affected countries in the world. Heavy mine contamination began during the 1960s when civil war broke out between the government and the Khmer Rouge, and continued until the latter’s victory in 1975. During the Vietnam War, American forces added to the contamination during the course of extensive air and ground combat operations in the eastern regions of Cambodia. In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge forces back to the Thai-Cambodian border, and in an effort to prevent the return of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian government created the K-5 mine belt, a densely mined barrier along the Thai border. Despite those efforts, Khmer Rouge guerrilla groups continued operations in Cambodia until their surrender in 1997, adding their own unmapped minefields for short-term defensive purposes.

As a consequence of the mine and ERW contamination, Cambodia has seen high civilian casualty rates despite the cessation of conflict. Casualty rates have come down sharply in recent years as a result of the gradual deterioration of some types of mines, as well as the intense clearance operations funded by the United States and other donors in Cambodia.

In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) supported a range of mine-action and ERW projects, including:

• DynCorp International: a $2,180,160 contract to manage, disburse, and monitor U.S. financial support for the operations of Demining Unit No. 3 of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), as well as to administer training, equipment, and advice to the unit’s multiple teams. The contract also provides for developmental support and advisory services to the Cambodian demining and unexploded ordnance (UXO) authorities.

• The HALO Trust (HALO): $1,100,000 in grants for support and provision of advanced Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS) detectors to manual demining teams, and support to additional explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), survey, mine-risk education (MRE), and mechanical teams for continued work along the K-5 mine belt.

• HALO: $45,000 grant to match contributions from Rotary International for the fielding and equipping of an additional demining team.

• MAG (Mines Advisory Group): $1,088,000 grant to support clearance operations conducted by manual deminers, mechanical vegetation cutters, Bozena and Tempest flails, community liaison teams, and mobile EOD teams.

• MAG: a $500,000 grant to obtain HSTAMIDS detectors.

• Landmine Relief Fund: $100,000 in an initial grant to support the clearance operations of an indigenous nongovernmental organization, Cambodian Self- Help Demining.

• Golden West Humanitarian Foundation: $300,000 in continued funding for its Explosive Harvesting Program, in which explosives are removed from locally-obtained munitions and packaged into charges for use by demining and UXO operators.

• Spirit of Soccer: $80,000 grant to continue its youth MRE program, linking awareness education with soccer skills and sports role models.

• Michigan State University: $77,788 grant to develop an MRE game.

• Clear Path International: $50,000 victims’ assistance grant to operate a survivors’ co-op rice mill.

Date: 2010 Description: A Cambodian landmine survivor's feet next to an inert landmine. © Wendell Phillips/CIDA
A CAMBODIAN landmine survivor’s feet next to an inert landmine. [Wendell Phillips/CIDA]
Also in FY2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) continued to support Veterans International’s efforts to manage three previously established, full-service rehabilitation clinics and community follow-up work generated by these clinics.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program has worked for many years in Cambodia, providing technologies valued at more than $2.5 million for operational field evaluations with the CMAC, HALO, MAG, and the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation.

• Since 2006, HALO, MAG, and beginning in FY2009, CMAC, have integrated the dual-sensor HSTAMIDS in their manual, anti-personnel (AP) mine-clearance operations of densely cluttered minefields. In total, the HSTAMIDS operations have cleared 1.6 million square meters of minefields and recovered 12,400 AP mines.

• In FY2009, the HD R&D Program provided hand-held, power tools to augment the speed of the HSTAMIDS preparatory and clutter investigation processes.

Also during FY2009, the HD R&D Program initiated the evaluation of STORM, an area-preparation and mine-clearance excavator capable of operating on steep slopes and rough terrain. The HD R&D Program continued operational field evaluations of the Tempest vegetation cutting flail, excavator soil-sifting attachments, the MAXX+, a remote-controlled mini-excavator, and the innovative Explosive Harvesting System.

Laos

The majority of Laos’ extensive explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination and its smaller landmine presence stems from the Vietnam War era. During the prolonged U.S. air campaign against the North Vietnamese forces operating in Laos, the U.S. military dropped over two million tons of bombs; up to 30 percent of some types of these aerial munitions failed to detonate on impact. Large land battles were also fought inside Laos, adding artillery, grenade, and other types of weaponry to the complex mix of ERW contamination. Additional contamination also occurred during Laos’ civil war from 1962 to 1975.

Human presence is increasing in ERW-contaminated areas due to post-war population growth and other socioeconomic factors. Besides posing a threat to the Laotian people in the affected areas, ERW limits their access to agricultural land, disturbs traditional land-use patterns, and impedes other economic development. In 1996 the government established UXO Lao as the national organization to systematically address the ERW problem, and in 2006, the government created the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) as the policy-level body for all aspects of that effort. Since clearance operations began, at least 186 types of munitions from all former combatants have been located, highlighting the complexity of the operational challenges.

In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) supported a wide range of clearance, mine-risk education, and victims’ assistance projects in Laos, including:

• ArmorGroup North America: $253,815 in funding under a continuing contract to develop the capacity of the NRA through management and financial training, and to provide for the operating costs of UXO Lao in conducting clearance, technical survey, and community-awareness programs in several provinces.

• MAG (Mines Advisory Group): $850,000 in grants in support of its operations, which included training and managing teams to conduct unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance, technical survey, and community liaison.

Fondation Suisse de Deminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD): $348,900 grant to establish improved quality assurance capabilities for the Lao national mine/UXO action sector, and to provide advanced explosive ordnance disposal training to technicians from UXO Lao.

• Norwegian People’s Aid: $400,000 grant to conduct UXO survey and clearance operations in Sekong province.

• World Education, Inc.: two grants totaling $400,000 to support an extensive risk-education program, and provide for survivors’ medical, economic, and technical assistance. The latter program is designed to improve the living situation of ER W survivors and their families, as well as provide training for health, agricultural, and vocational training officials to enable them to better serve the needs of ER W survivors.

Also in FY2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) continued to support Catholic Relief Services in Laos as part of a three-year grant which began in 2006. The project was designed to work in three districts in Laos to improve and expand education and community support systems to assist in providing educational opportunities for disabled children. LWVF also awarded another $280,000 three-year grant in January 2009 to Handicap International to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities, their families, and communities, and continued to support the efforts of World Education to train medical personnel to address the legacy of war injuries in Chamassak and Suvanakhet provinces.

Philippines

In FY2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund continued to support a two-year grant to Handicap International in the Philippines that began in 2008. The grant was designed to support the integration of persons with disabilities into the socioeconomic life of their communities by improving their mobility and providing them with access to development opportunities.

Sri Lanka

Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) extensively contaminate Sri Lanka as a result of more than two decades of armed conflict between the government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an organization which has sought a separate homeland in the north and east. Due to a collapse of the 2002 cease-fire agreement in mid-2006, conflict intensified, resulting in additional and unsurveyed mine/ER W contamination by the time the war ended in 2009, with the northern Jaffna region most severely affected. Today, this contamination continues to pose a challenge for economic reconstruction and the resettlement of people displaced by the conflict.

In 2009, the LTTE was defeated by the GSL following a major military campaign. As of March 12, 2010, it is estimated that nearly 94,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still reside in camps located in the Vavuniya and Jaffna districts. There remains an urgent need to resettle thousands of IDPs and release agricultural land for planting seasonal crops. These and other humanitarian and stabilization activities are hindered by the presence of ERW.

In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided grants to four organizations to conduct surveys and clearance operations in order to support the quick and safe resettlement of IDPs as follows:

• $1.6 million to Fondation Suisse de Déminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD)

• $1.3 million to Danish Demining Group

• $2.5 million to The HALO Trust

• $1.2 million to MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

In addition, explosive ordnance disposal personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) United States Pacific Command conducted a 10-day humanitarian mine action management and instructor refresher course for 26 officers of the Sri Lankan Army. DOD also provided demining equipment valued at more than $90,000.

Tajikistan

Date: 2010 Description: This young boy found a cluster bomb in the ground close to his village in Tajikistan while playing with his friends. © Tajikistan Mine Action Centre/Shahrinisso Davlyatova
This young boy found a cluster bomb in the ground close to his village in TAJIKISTAN while playing with his friends. [Tajikistan Mine Action Centre/Shahrinisso Davlyatova]
Ninety-three percent of Tajikistan is mountainous terrain with only seven percent viable for agriculture production. The mine threat in Tajikistan is not only a threat to human life but further limits already scarce agricultural land, thus negatively affecting the social and economic development of the country. According to the United Nations website, mines and ERW continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of local populations; to date, there have been 793 mine accidents, including 352 fatalities. The affected areas can be categorized into four regions: north and west along the Tajik-Uzbek border; south and east along the Tajik-Afghan border; the Garm Central Valley Region; and the Tajik-Chinese border in some locations.

In FY2009 no direct funding was provided to Tajikistan. However, in coordination with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office in Tajikistan, the Tajikistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a regional conference, the Facilitation of Central Asian Regional Cooperation in Mine Action conference, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The OSCE Office in Tajikistan and the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance supported and organized the conference as part of an initiative to facilitate regional cooperation in mine action in Central Asia. The purpose of the conference was to elicit consultations with relevant OSCE participating states in Central Asia and Afghanistan to achieve consensus in supporting the establishment of a regional mine-action cooperative mechanism between the states. Representatives of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan participated in the conference. Others attending the conference were the European Commission, France, Germany, Russia, Slovenia, and the United States.

The ability of the U.S. to support a much more robust and long-term demining program in Tajikistan changed significantly in FY2009 despite the lack of funding. First, Tajikistan requested use of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funding to purchase a mechanical demining machine. Second, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program (HD R&D) agreed to provide a mechanical demining machine in FY2010 to Tajikistan for field evaluations at almost no cost while the FMF purchase is coordinated. Additionally, Tajikistan requested assistance for mine-risk education, training and management of minefield operations. The U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) is planning a four-phase HMA Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Aid project to support this request. Finally, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defense established humanitarian demining as a strategic goal during the 2009 Consultative Staff Talks, the joint U.S.-Tajik Security Cooperation Forum and Plan Development workshop.

Since December 2004, to actively support the U.S. CENTCOM security cooperation and nonproliferation objectives, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Small Arms and Light Weapons (SA/LW) branch conducted three assessments and three seminars in support of the OSCE ’s SA/LW and conventional ammunitions program in Tajikistan. In addition, as part of DTRA’s ongoing support to Tajikistan and the OSCE , the DTRA SA/LW Branch led an international team to Dushanbe in 2009 to conduct a technical level physical stockpile and security management (PSSM) seminar. This seminar on the OSCE ’s Best Practices on munitions storage safety and security was provided to 24 junior officers and noncommissioned officers that handle and maintain arms and ammunition on a daily basis. DTRA expanded its long-established relationship supporting the OSCE by also inviting PSSM experts from the Austrian, Belgian, French, German, Spanish, and Swiss Arms Control offices.

Thailand

Date: 2010 Description: Thailand's borders are all contaminated with landmines as a result of previous conflicts. Forests along the borders pose the greatest dangers, but croplands, pastures and water sources are also affected. © iStockphoto.com/chictype
THAILAND's borders are all contaminated with landmines as a result of previous conflicts. Forests along the borders pose the greatest dangers, but croplands, pastures and water sources are also affected. [© iStockphoto.com/chictype]
In FY2009, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program partnered with the Thai authorities to continue operational field evaluations of several mechanical technologies in Thailand. The technologies include the small remote-controlled Peco, Beaver, and Tempest, and the large-class Severe Duty Tractor and Tools and Uni- Disk excavators. Valued at $1.5 million, the technologies are used for vegetation clearance and area preparation. Since 2001, the machines have collectively cleared vegetation from more than 6.1 million square meters of suspect land. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s HD R&D Program, visit www.humanitariandemining.org.

Vietnam

A series of conflicts involving France, Japan, and the United States from World War II through the early 1970s led to Vietnam’s heavy contamination by explosive remnants of war (ER W). Landmines were also laid, especially during periods of military struggle in the 1970s with neighboring Cambodia and China. The areas of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, and Quang Tri are the most ER W-affected provinces. ER W also affects Vietnam’s border region with Laos, an area the U.S. intensively bombed in an effort to interdict North Vietnamese troops and supplies.

Date: 2010 Description: Children at a school near Khe Sanh in Central Vietnam receive mine-risk education as part of PeaceTrees Vietnam's program designed to reach ethnic minorities.   © Quang D. Le/PM/WRA
 Children at a school near Khe Sanh in Central Vietnam receive mine-risk education as part of PeaceTrees VIETNAM's program designed to reach ethnic minorities. [Quang D. Le / PM/WRA]
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has encouraged mine-action organizations to use the findings of the PM/WRA-funded Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) in Vietnam by mandating that its grantees in Vietnam seek survey results. The final report of the six-province LIS was released in July 2009 and provides Vietnam and the donor community with vital information regarding the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance upon communities.

On April 29, 2008, the Vietnamese government decided to establish the Vietnam Bomb and Mine Action Centre (VBMAC), which was launched on February 23, 2009, under direct responsibility of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs. VBMAC is the national coordinator for clearance operations, victim-assistance projects, and mine-risk education (MRE). VBMAC continues to develop its organizational and staffing structure; among its first priorities are the development of a strategic plan and the setting of national standard operating procedures (SOPs) in alignment with international mine-action standards. Both the strategic plan and SOPs will help prioritize clearance activities and coordinate funding streams to effectively address Vietnam’s contamination problem.

In FY2009, PM/WRA contributed $2,120,000 for humanitarian mine action in Vietnam, including:

• Vietnam’s Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal (BOMICEN): $253,815 through a contract with DynCorp for advanced diving equipment for ERW clearance of river and coastal waters as part of PM/WRA’s program to help BOMICEN develop national capacity to clear the full range of the country’s ERW contamination

• International Center/Veterans for America (still identified in Vietnam as the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation): $94,631 grant to provide technical assistance to BOMICEN explosive-ordnance disposal (EOD) teams in Nghe An province

• MAG (Mines Advisory Group): $1,100,000 grant for mine/UXO clearance to conduct EOD rapid-response and static-site clearance in Quang Binh province

• PeaceTrees Vietnam: $259,017 grant to field EOD response teams in Quang Tri province

PM/WRA also allocated $409,965 in FY2009 to several organizations for MRE and victim-assistance programs:

• The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Project RENEW: $43,000 grant to provide integrated humanitarian mine-action assistance to several districts of Quang Tri province through support for Golden West Humanitarian Foundation

• Catholic Relief Services: $172,567 grant to deploy mobile Community Outreach Teams to provide MRE on both sides of the old Demilitarized Zone

• Clear Path International: $127,000 grant to provide emergency and ongoing medical and other assistance to ERW survivors and their families

• PeaceTrees Vietnam: $67,398 grant to conduct mobile MRE activities in Quang Tri province

Also in FY2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) and the USAID/Vietnam Mission continued to provide support to Vietnam through five multi-year, ongoing grants as follows:

• Viet-Nam Assistance for the Handicapped (2005–11): to work for the rights of people with disabilities

• Catholic Relief Services (2005–10): to develop a comprehensive model of education and vocational training for children and youth with disabilities, as well as support for information technology training for Vietnamese with disabilities at schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh

• East Meets West Foundation, Save the Children, and Viet-Nam Assistance for the Handicapped (2008-11): $300,000 to each organization ($900,000 in FY2009 funding) to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services and livelihood assistance to people with disabilities in Danang City



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